Field Barometer

Barometers are used to measure air pressure and help forecast weather changes.

Written by Amelia Fay

Posted November 12, 2020

Barometers are used to measure air pressure and thereby help to forecast short-term weather changes. A small pocket or field barometer like this would have been very useful for Hudson’s Bay Company employees stationed at remote trading posts. Weather changes greatly affected the hunters and trappers who traded at the posts, so having a sense of upcoming weather would have been an asset.

This barometer belonged to chief trader Keith McKenzie. He first entered service with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1864 as a clerk and spent his career in the Ungava region of Nunavik (in what is now northern Quebec) and in Nunatsiavut (in present-day northern Labrador).

McKenzie died in 1890, and his personal effects made their way into the HBC Historical Exhibit at the main Winnipeg store. This barometer would have been one of the first artifacts acquired for the HBC Museum Collection that was initiated in 1920 to celebrate the company’s 250th anniversary.

Amelia Fay is the curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the December 2020-January 2021 issue of Canada’s History magazine.

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