History of the Fur Trade

Crystal Fox Fur BlanketThe fur trade was one of North America’s most important and earliest industries, and for more than 300  years, played a big role in the development of Canada and the United States.  In year 1500, fur trade began as an exchange trade between the Europeans and the Indians.  Tools, weapons and other goods were given in exchange for beaver furs.  These valuable fur and other types of furs were used in Europe in making felt hats.

The French fishermen and explorers were the first fur traders.  Canadian fur trade started when Samuel de Chaplain, a French explorer, established a post in Quebec, Canada, which later became the fur trading center.  Eventually these French explorers controlled most of the trade; then goods like kettles, gifts and knives were offered to Indians as a gesture of friendly relations.  The Indians gave them pelts in return.

The fur trade continued to develop and prosper and many companies competed for this Canadian  fur trade heavily. Companies hired white frontiersmen to obtain pelts, because most Indians were not very interested in the industry.  These frontiersmen searched for fur and roamed the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.  They hunted beaver, wolf, mink, marten, lynx,  fox, and other fur bearing animals.  The went up mountains and over the great lakes, and into the Canadian plains.

Fur during those times was in great demand.  Fine ladies needed them for coats and gentlemen used fur for their hats.  Fur is used to trim coats of all working men and also their families, and also for mufflers for young kids and blankets for babies. To this day, “rendezvous” are held annually.  This is a meeting by trappers, aiming to continue giving us the most accurate information about the fur trade.  All of us share in the history which is rich and varied, and the tradition of wearing and using fur. Many fur products such as fur coats, fur hats, fur jackets, and fur earmuffs are still worn to this day.

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1 Response to History of the Fur Trade

  1. The fur trade began in the 1500’s as an exchange between Indians and Europeans. The Indians traded furs for such goods as tools and weapons. Beaver fur, which was used in Europe to make felt hats, became the most valuable of these furs. The fur trade prospered until the mid-1800’s, when fur-bearing animals became scarce and silk hats became more popular than felt hats made with beaver. Today, almost all trappers sell their pelts. Eskimo and Indian trappers in Canada still trade their furs to fur companies for various goods.

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