Researching the history of mushing has been a longtime pursuit of mine, and has led me down many interesting paths and to some lifelong friendships. One recent discovery involves an image I first came across in 2008, and have been intrigued by ever since. Titled ‘Last Dog Train Leaving Fort Garry, 1909’ the painting was commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay Company for their 1931 annual calendar.
The artist was Charles Fraser Comfort, who would play a large role in Canadian art, becoming Director of the National Gallery of Canada in 1960. Upon finding this artwork in 2008, I used it in promotional materials for the first Mushing History Conference I coordinated with Tim White, in 2009.
While researching the Canadian fur trade for my book on the history of sled dogs in North America, I came across a photograph of a monotone hooked rug depicting Comfort’s painting on the blog of hooked rug artisan Saundra Porter. Fascinated, I contacted Saundra about using the photo, she replied that she’d found it at an auction site for such antiquities, but she has since been trying to help me track down the original source; this morning she sent me this link to her latest post.
I know there’s a thin chance we’ll find the owner of the rug and/or the person who took the photograph, but this kind of needle-in-the-haystack exploration is part of what makes researching history fun and endlessly interesting!