last updated July 3, 2023 by Sheila Schmutz, Saskatoon. [email protected]
Former Furriers in Western Canada
& Vintage Fur Coats
There were several furriers in business formerly. They were highly skilled craftspeople who had spent years fashioning fur coats and other garments. This page is a tribute to their work, as part of the "Wear Our Heritage" series of webpages.
Many people speak about the vintage fur coat their Mother or Grandmother had. Fewer mention that she also had a matching fur hat! Most of the hats made in past decades were designed to sit on top of a ladies' hairdo. They were worn as part of a fashion statement, rather than to keep their head warm on cold days.
If you are not into the vintage look yourself, you may want to restyle such a hat. It's not a difficult project for most people who have a few sewing skills. This illustrated pdf shows how to update a vintage mink hat. Every style of vintage fur hat will be different, of course. With some, you may want to add leather or wool coating for the crown and use the fur for a brim around the head.
If you wanted to try to stretch a vintage fur hat a bit, see The Best Way to Stretch A Fur or Leather Hat .
Furs by Cecil Corrigal
The late Cec Corrigal had a fur salon at 12 -12th St. E. in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The ad at the right appeared in an old issue of the Prince Albert newspaper that is available online. This suggests the store was previously called Renfrew Furs.
The fur coat in the photo at the right was designed by Cec Carrigal. It is a very intricate chevron design of two shades of muskrat on the body, with a fox collar and skirting. It was an extra small or girl's size.
I restyled it into an adult woman's vest. The collar and fur border were removed. The sleeves were removed and used to add to the width of the garment, with under arm insets. New lining was made and hand sewn in place.
This muskrat jacket had its lining ripped out and the collar removed. To restore it I used the collar above and relined it. Many vintage pieces have wear around the pockets and sleeve edges, as did this one. But with a bit of repair they can look very nice again and provide more years of wear.
The pelts used for this jacket were simply cut in rectangles and assembled together. This type of pelt use was very common for muskrat. There was no label left, since the lining was missing so I don't know the furrier who made or sold this jacket.
Bent Mogens Sorenson was a furrier in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He learned furrier skills in his native Denmark. He immigrated to Canada in 1965 and worked for Quality Furs in Lloydminster, SK. He moved to Prince Albert in 1970 and worked for American Furs until 1975 when he set up his store, Benís Furs. It closed in 1987. He taught a class on preparing, cutting, sewing fur garments and hats from fur in Pelican Narrows, SK in 1988.
Photo taken in 1975 at Ben's wedding
Folk's Finer Furs
Folk's Finer Furs was located in Saskatoon. The photo at the right is from the Saskatoon Public Library's collection in the Local History Room. It was a family business that opened in 1947 in the Empire Hotel, then moved to this location in 1952 and closed March 31, 2009. The last owner was Merv Fok, shown at the left. His father Alex Folk had opened the store.
Grant Furs Ltd
Grant Furs Ltd was located at 742 2nd Ave. in Saskatoon and then later at 242 3rd Ave. South. George Grant moved to Saskatoon in 1966, after living previously in Regina and Winnipeg. He immigrated to Canada from Hungary. The fur store was also called Fashion Furs at one time. He died on February 6, 2012 but the fur store had closed some time before 2009.
Gursteins was a furrier in Saskatoon, based on the label in the fur coat at the right. It was located in the 100 block 2nd Ave North. The photo at the left is in the Saskatoon Public Library collection, taken in the 1990s. The fur store closed some time before 2009.
"Once upon a time" there were Eaton's stores across Canada and an Eaton's catalog was a staple in every household. The fur coat at the left bears an Eaton's label. This only means that the coat was made for Eaton's but it does not reveal which furrier made it. The Eaton stores closed in 1999, but the first store was opened by Timothy Eaton in 1869 in Toronto.
Steen and Wright
Steen and Wright was located at 145-147 3rd Avenue North in Saskatoon according to material in the Saskatoon Pubic History Room. The dates of operation are not known at this time, but certainly already in the 1940s. The natural colored mink coat at the right was custom made by Steen & Wright in 1971. I suspect it is farmed mink, not wild mink.
Perry's Ladies Wear and Furs
This store is sometimes referred to as Perry's Furs. The store was in the 100 block of 2nd Ave South in Saskatoon. William George Perry owned and operated it from about 1920 to 1940. It was then taken over by his son-in-law Clare Needham until 1953. The photo, taken in the 1940s, shows the building.
There was a Saks Fur Store in Saskatoon and Swift Current. The label in the fur coat at the left has both locations so it's not possible to determine which furrier made or sold it. According to photographs from the Star Phoenix in the Saskatchewan Archives the Saskatoon store was in operation in 1980.
It is mouton, which was very common at one time. Mouton is sheepskin, usually dyed dark brown, but sometimes black. It was designed to resemble beaver.
Baker's Fine Furs
Baker's Fine Furs was located in North Battleford at 9800 Territorial Dr. Suite 8. The fur coat at the right was custom made there in 1966, based on the label in the breast pocket. The collar is mink. The body of the coat is probably mouton (sheared lamb/sheep). It has been dyed a dark brown, which is apparently typical for mouton.
Western Furs Inc
Western Furs Inc was located at 1759 Hamilton St. in Regina, SK. It shut in 2006, after 92 years in business, according to the Regina Leader Post. The last owner was Robert Seitz who referred to it as a "coat store" when it closed.
Yaegers Furs Inc was located in Regina and Prince Albert, SK, according to the label in the Persian lamb coat at the left. It has a mink collar. Persian lamb has been popular for many years. It is most often black, but sometimes gray.
The coat at the right is sheared muskrat and also from Yaegers Furs. The full sleeves are rather unusual but very comfortable to wear. Shearing furs is currently a popular part of "restyling" furs. It makes them lighter, but also masks wear. However, this coat was already sheared originally.
In February 2023, I restyled this coat into a jacket with a hood. Basically I cut off the bottom 15 inches of the coat and re-hemmed it shorter. I used the fur and lining to make a hood which I attached to the base of the stand up collar. This more sporty style will fit the casual, and often rural lifestyle, of women in Saskatchewan today much better.
Grills & Company Furriers was located in Regina. It was originally located on the 1800 block of Scarth Street in 1908, and then relocated to 1735 Scarth Street, where it remained until approx 1938.J ohn Edward Grills immigrated from Cornwall,England in 1894 at 16. He learned furrier skills in Montreal and Winnipeg before settling in Regina. He skinned, tanned, cut, designed, constructed and stored furs. The ad is from the Regina Leader Post on November 13, 1919.
Reiss Furs was located at 275 McDermot Avenue in Winnipeg. It closed in 2009 when their main furrier retired. They made fur coats and also cloth coats trimmed in fur, such as the Linda Lundstrom "parka" style coats.
From the 1940s through 1970s, fur pieces were very popular. They were worn by women with suits, in warmer climates, or at warmer times of year. The martin fur piece at the right was made for my grandmother in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the late 1960s. This was the end of the time that style was in fashion. Entire animals were used in the construction, complete with feet and tails and the fur bellies on the inside. The heads were reconstructed on forms with glass eyes.
The mink boa at the right belonged to my mother. It was made for her by Allen Furs in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in the early 1970s. It was the more "modern" style with fur only, lined in velvet to better stay in place.
Restyling Vintage Furs
The raccoon jacket at the right has been relined and the original labels removed. It could be a man's or woman's jacket. It may have originally been longer. It's been "tipped" or lightly dyed I've been told by an expert in Winnipeg.
If you decide you want to wear a vintage fur that you inherited, or found in a thrift store, enjoy it!
There are web resources that help you try to identify the type of fur and the era:
There is also a video on how to clean a vintage fur coat yourself.
If your fur coat or jacket doesn't fit you and/or you want it restyled, there are several furriers who will take in a fur coat that is in good condition in the spring or summer and have it back to you by the following fall. Currently many older furs are sheared and made into reversible coats with water repellent taffeta on one side. There are also artisans that specialize in using recylced fur to make "memory bears". Several fur pillows or cushions can also be easily made from "grandma's fur coat" and given to her grandchildren as keepsakes.
Although this video "Vintage Furs" from Saga Furs is in Finnish, it gives you many ideas on how you might want to restyle a fur coat, or have it restyled. Shortening a long coat to a jacket or car coat length is quite simple. More major restyling can be more challenging, and is probably best left to an experienced furrier.
If you decide you'd like to try to remake or repair an old fur coat, there are some webpages that provide some instructions or tips - either to try yourself or to use when working with a furrier.
Sometimes a man wants to wear fur and more power to him! This is a wonderful article on how to make a vintage fur coat, worn by his grandmother, into a large fur scarf and how to wear it.
Identifying Vintage Furs and Estimating Age
Purchasing Vintage Furs in Saskatoon
Besides your nearest Value Village or the Salvation Army store, there are some vintage clothing stores and antique shops that carry a selection of fur coats, and some fur pieces or hats. Here are a few examples in Saskatoon: