Buff Mittens

Object Name or Title:Buff Mittens
Object Number:2000.32.1
Artifact Type:Object
Date:ca. 1915
Artist/Author/Maker/Photographer:Mrs. Claude Shore
Associated Place Name:Osceola, New York
Credit:Mark Halstead, in memory of Earl Halstead
clothing accessory, fiber arts, logging, lumbering, winter


Pair of buff mittens made by Mrs. Claude Shore of Osceola. They were used by Jay Halstead of Osceola for working outdoors in the cold Adirondack winters. Grey mitten body with red "H" on the backs, a red spot at the tip of the fingers and the base of the thumb, and maroon at the tip of the thumb. The wrist cuff is knit with brown and ivory wool.

Because of the region's cold winters, many Adirondack residents kept sheep for wool well into the twentieth century. Woolen mittens, socks, and sweaters provided warm clothing for the household, and could also be sold to supplement the family income. A well-made pair of mittens was particularly prized among men who worked outside.

Many men whose work didn't require much manual dexterity, like lumberjacks and teamsters, often wore buff mittens—mittens covered with a thick woolen pile. Also called shag, fringe or latch-hook mittens, buff mittens were worn in Canada, New England, and the Adirondacks. Because they were made from wool, the mittens kept hands warm even when wet. The Adirondack Museum has in its collection many pairs of buff mittens. They are usually knitted of natural, undyed yarn (called "buff"), which is why they are called buff mittens. The pile is more than 1/2 inch thick.

The bright color accents on this pair of buff mittens may have made the snow-covered mittens more visible, thus protecting the wearer's hands during dangerous activities such as logging.