Keeping Warm

This week, van der Meer tells the story of his collection of White Pass and stagecoach foot warmers. As the winter months are fast approaching, he digs out his collection of three foot warmers.

As seen in the image, the foot warmers are rectangular-shaped objects that are covered in a felt-like material.

Van der Meer says the “foot warmers were used in White Pass sleighs and stage coaches in the Yukon from 1898 to the early 1900s. They’re used on the trails to keep passengers’ feet warm in the winter months. Everybody who bought a ticket was able to use the foot warmers.”

Van der Meer continued, “People put hot coals in them; some had bricks like this one.”

He grabs the foot warmer and reveals a compartment hidden inside. “There’s a brick in here that you warm up and put inside the container. This is how they heat up and keep people’s feet warm.”

Pointing at the foot warmer, he explains “The brick inside can become very hot, that’s why there’s vents on the back.”

Van der Meer discovers other foot warmers lying around. He makes a pile on a wooden table by his vintage stove.

“You would cover up yourself and the foot warmer with a robe, bison skin or whatever you had. It would keep you warm for 20 miles or so until you changed stations. They helped people keep warm while they travelled from Whitehorse to Dawson during the gold rush days.”

Although he did not experience the gold rush himself, van der Meer has extensive knowledge on the subject and continues his story about the foot warmers in his collection.

“They were very popular at the time; you could find them at every stage coach stop… They were also used in old cars before there were heaters.”

The gold rush-era foot warmers can be seen in the “Living Quarters” themed room at Sid’s Bordertown Museum in Beaver Creek, Yukon.

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