Fur Trade History of America

Fur Trade History of America

Trading Posts were one of the cornerstones that drove the fur trade and subsequent exploration of North America by Europeans.

Early in the 16th Century English and French fishermen were making staggering hauls of cod, off the coast of Newfoundland. To survive the return journey the fishermen had to smoke the fish before they returned across the Atlantic.

Fur Trade History of North America

Local Indian Tribes, eager to acquire metal goods; Knives, axes, pots, pans, and the such, initiated trade with the fishermen. Their chief product to trade was furs, which the fishermen eagerly brought back to France and England.

The fishermen sold the furs quickly, and when the wide-brimmed felt hat came into fashion, the demand for beaver pelts increased dramatically.

The competition between the French and English, for control of the fur trade, drove the exploration of North America, and was the impetuous for early colonization by Europeans.

Beaver pelt.

The best material for the felt hats was the fur of the beaver, which has fish hook like barbs that mat together tightly.

By the early 17th century, the French had established trading posts in several areas of Quebec, and the fur trade grew exponentially, every year.

It’s ironic that the dominant economic and political force of the north half of North America, for almost 300 years, was an English company, founded by 2 Frenchmen.

Des Groseilliers, and Radisson were disillusioned by the tight control of  trading rights, and the corruption of the local officials of New France (Quebec).

Having been rebuffed in their attempt to get a fur trading licence from French officials, they turned to the English. The Company of Adventurers of Hudson’s Bay,  was granted a Royal English Charter on May 2, 1670.

In 1670, The Hudson’s Bay Company was given political and economic control of all the lands “drained by Hudson’s Bay”.

Many of the early North American explorers were in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and over the centuries those companies the HBC didn’t drive out of business, they bought out.

Today, The Hudson’s Bay Company stands as the oldest incorporated joint-stock merchandising company in the English-speaking World.  And all because of the industrious saw-toothed little beaver.

Fur Trade History of America