Fancy dinnerware is probably not the first thing to come to mind in regard to the fur trade, but this set was proudly used in the 1830s at Norway House (on the Nelson River, north of Lake Winnipeg) by chief factor Donald Ross and his wife, Mary McBeath. She had come with her parents in 1815 to the Red River Settlement established by Lord Selkirk.
After some items were lost or broken, the set now consists of sixty-four pieces, including plates of varying sizes, bowls, serving dishes, gravy boats, and a large tureen.
Made in Staffordshire from Mason’s Ironstone — a durable and much cheaper alternative to porcelain — this set was hand-painted and then sold by retailer Thomas & Higginbotham in Dublin, Ireland. The dishes would have been shipped via a Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship to York Factory, and then down to Norway House by York boat!
The set was passed along to Donald and Mary’s daughter Christina when she married HBC employee Bernard Rogan Ross; after that, their daughter Minnie passed it along to a good friend; and it remained in the family until it was donated to the collection in 2014.