Grenfell Missionary Rug, ca. 1915

Value (2010) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Insurance

My dad was a career military officer, and he was stationed in either Goose Bay, Labrador, or Newfoundland. I think it was Goose Bay, though. And my mother bought this piece from the Eskimos north of that location. And so it's been in our family for about 70 years. And I loved it so much over the years, my mother gave it to me, and I was always enchanted with this piece. My mother mentioned to me one time, she thought that they used stockings to make this. But I don't know how true that is. It was just a comment.

This is called a Grenfell missionary rug. There was a guy named Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, G-R-E-N-F-E-L-L, who was a British physician that came there on a mission to Newfoundland in the late 19th century. The main reason he came at that point was because the natives were having horrible health problems, especially in the wintertime, and he was trying to help with that. But also a lot of them were in abject poverty. They had no way to make money, especially in the wintertime. And he looked in their houses, and he saw these real finely woven rugs. Now, the ones they had there were more traditional designs. These were English and Scottish settlers. And he came up with the idea that they could weave these really fine rugs like this. But he came up with the idea to use designs, like that depicted what was going on in their villages.

Their life.

And this one has everything-- ships, the compass, it's got a house, got a couple of native figures. And as they went along, progressing with the production of these, they would actually have kits they would give the villagers so they could put them together. And the stocking idea comes from the fact that they didn't have that many scraps of fabric lying around. And supposedly a lot of people sent their stockings there, and that's what they used for the white.

So it is stockings.

Yeah, well, part of it. They had a saying that "If your stocking runs, let it run to Labrador."


Because that way they could use them to produce these rugs. They made lots of different designs, different sizes. In 1930 a rug like this would have sold for about maybe four dollars to as much as eight dollars.


I did some research online, and I checked with a couple of my colleagues at the table, and this is one of the more desirable patterns, because it has so much going on in it.


And we felt like the value on this probably would be in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $6,000.


And that would be the high end of that would be, like, an insurance value.


And there have been others that have sold at auction for as much as $4,000. So that kind of gives you a range.

Okay, wow. Well, that is amazing. I'll treasure it even more now. (laughing)

Appraisal Details

Ken Farmer & Associates
Charlottesville, VA
Appraised value (2010)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Insurance
Billings, MT (June 26, 2010)
20th Century
October 31, 2011: A viewer's recent email regarding an appraisal of an Inupiaq cribbage board prompted us to review past appraisals that mentioned Eskimo culture.

It is ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's intention to use culturally respectful terms when discussing the history of items being appraised on the show. We acknowledge that terms that describe a person or group’s identity regarding race, ethnicity, religion, etc., can change over time or have different meaning to different people. "Eskimo" is a word that has different connotations depending on where you live in the Northern Hemisphere.

In Canada and Greenland, "Eskimo" has negative connotations and is no longer an accepted term. "Inuit" is preferred, but that term is not commonly used in the United States. In the U.S., "Eskimo" is not considered to be derogatory and is in common usage. "Eskimo" is used when speaking of two main indigenous cultural groups collectively: "Yupik" (a culture group from Western Alaska) and "Inupiat" (a culture group from Northern Alaska and St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea). When one of these groups is being referenced, "Yupik" or "Inupiat" is favored over "Eskimo" by Alaskan Natives.

The term "Alaskan Natives" includes all indigenous peoples of Alaska: Eskimo, Unangan (Aleut), and American Indian, and is also considered broadly acceptable.

Shortly after this appraisal aired in April 2011, a couple of viewers wrote in to correct Ken Farmer's classification of the Grenfell missionary rug as "woven." The rug is actually a "hooked" rug, meaning that it was made by pulling loops of fabric through a stiff woven base using a rug hook, rather than being woven on a loom. Another viewer also pointed out that the ca. 1915 date Ken gave in the appraisal was inaccurate, because the particular pattern of the rug appraised was not produced until the mid 1930s. We consulted with Ken, who agreed he misstated the approximate date of the rug's production.

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