Beyond Boundaries: The World of the Capote


Beyond Boundaries: The World of the Capote Features Rare Blanket Coat

An early blanket coat, or capote, is the featured piece in a temporary exhibit Beyond Boundaries: The World of the Capote. The exhibit will be open through September 30, 2017.

The capote, pictured at right and dating from around 1842, was most likely made by a Maliseet woman. This garment, which includes moccasins and matching leggings, symbolizes a region of northern Maine and nearby Canada where a rich blend of French and Native American culture persisted for over 200 years.

"Capotes were the usual man's winter coat among the Natives of the Maine and Maritimes region and so were once common," according to the exhibit's curator Bruce Bourque. "But, as pieces of basically utilitarian clothing, they were not preserved when worn out and are now of exceptional rarity. The museum was very fortunate to acquire this capote and its accessories a few years ago at a local auction. It is one of only two known surviving Native American examples of this type of garment in North America. After careful conservation and study, it is now being exhibited to the public for the first time."

An important feature of the capote is its decoration, which helps identify it as Maliseet. In particular, porcupine quill embroidery and small tinkling cones holding bunches of dyed moose hair are similar to other Maliseet-made clothing of the time. The capote's decorative elements, materials, and origins are illustrated in the exhibit, as are other artifacts associated with life in the borderlands during the 1800s.

"This remarkable capote also reminds us of a time, some 200 years ago, when Maine's northern boundary was so open and undefined that Native tribes, French Canadians, Acadians, and Americans lived peacefully next to each other and interacted in an area that was beyond any real political ownership or any government's effective control," added Museum Director Bernard Fishman. "Surrounded by a variety of objects meant for woodland use and never displayed in the museum before, the capote is an almost unique survivor from a way of life that is nearly unimaginable today."