That beaver populations along the Eastern seaboard regions of North America were depleted as the fur trade advanced is widely accepted. For example during the height of the Great Plains trade (1815-1830), an Indian agent reported selling 25,000 beaver pelts each year - totalling 375,000 beavers. Real Beaver Fur Pelts and Hides For Sale. At the same time, the American beaver population, besieged by some 60 years of overhunting, began to dwindle. Although many of the pelts were shipped to Russia for initial processing, the growth of the beaver market in England and France led to the development of local technologies, and more knowledge of the art of combing. 2 (June 1912), pp. Most importantly, the fur trade connected Natives to Europeans in ways that affected how and how much they chose to work, where they chose to live, and how they exploited the resources on which the trade and their survival was based. For mountain men, the intense labor, stiff competition and fickle fashion proved too much.
Although widely cited, this argument does not stand up.
Thanks very much for typing this up, RD. There were extraordinary returns in 1730 and 1731, when the average was 55,600 skins, but beaver receipts then stabilized at about 31,000 over the remainder of the decade.
These hunts were a team effort - and an Indian one, as one 1634 New England colonist noted: "The [beavers'] wisdom secures them from the English, who seldom or never kill any, being not patient to lay a long siege or to be so often deceived by their cunning evasions.".
On the animal these hairs were naturally covered with keratin to prevent the barbs from opening, thus to make felt, the keratin had to be stripped from at least some of the hairs. Drawn from the accounts of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Table 1 presents some eighteenth century prices of parchment and coat beaver pelts. It was, according to University of Missouri-St. Louis history professor Fred Fausz, a "noisy, smelly, violent and raucous place.". Beaver prices plummeted: A pelt worth $5 on the 1829 London market sold for 85 cents in 1846.
One take-away is that none of these trades indicate that the monetary equivalent of the Made Beaver in the Indian Trade Shop was nearly as much as the 120 pence (10 shillings, or half a pound sterling) HBC would pay to a free trapper for one prime beaver pelt in 1837 (. Laclede's 14-year-old stepson, Auguste Chouteau, supervised construction of the first St. Louis homes. As well the records tell us how income from the trade was being allocated. Before 1840, the value of a marten pelt was one-half of a beaver pelt, but by the late 1850s and 1860s, a marten pelt was worth twice as much. In addition to the final product, England exported the raw material, beaver pelts. This exhibit was created by a USU student. Until the 1720s, beaver felt was produced with relatively fixed proportions of coat and parchment skins, which led to periodic shortages of one or the other type of pelt. Fausz pulls out something that looks, to modern eyes, like a mini-axe. It was the Village of St. Louis, or, as the Osage Indians called it, Chouteau's Town. Handbook of North American Indians 6, Subarctic. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1956. Evidence of felted beaver hats in western Europe can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, written in the late 14 th century: "A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard / In motley, and high on his horse he sat, / Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat." Cloth, including baize, duffel, flannel, and gartering, was by far the largest class, but they also purchased beads, combs, looking glasses, rings, shirts, and vermillion among a much longer list. However, Pierre Laclede's grandsons - Chouteau's nephews - continued their family's tradition. “Property Rights, Competition and Depletion in the Eighteenth-Century Canadian Fur Trade: The Role of the European Market.” Canadian Journal of Economics 32, no.
The fur business thrived in the New World from the 1600s to the 1800s, starting in New England and spreading west. Native Americans prized guns and metal tools the most.
It is important to recognize, however, that although the European goods were new to aboriginals, the concept of exchange was not. The Ecological Indian: Myth and History. Average returns over the rest of the decade were 25,000; the average during the 1750s was 18,000, and just 15,500 in the 1760s. Only in the nineteenth century did silk replace beaver in high-fashion men’s hats.
The extraordinary records of the Hudson’s Bay Company allow us to form a clear picture of what Indians were buying.
At the far north, operating out of Hudson Bay, was the Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670. Between, there are a range of property rights regimes with access controlled by a community or a government, and where individual members of the group do not necessarily have private property rights. At York Factory, the jump in price came in 1738, which was the year la Vérendrye set up a trading post in the York Factory hinterland. Wool felt was used for over two centuries to make high-fashion hats. beaver pelt worth?” This is even more important if we consider that in trade The value of the goods listed in Table 2 is expressed in terms of the unit of account, the made beaver, which the Hudson’s Bay Company used to record its transactions and determine the rate of exchange between furs and European goods. The trader said “You’re in luck. Composition - Kevin Binkley More than twice this amount was spent on tobacco in that year, nearly five times was spent on firearms, twice was spent on cloth, and more was spent on blankets and kettles than on alcohol. Their primary use is for Stetson hats. Furs have long been classified as either fancy or staple. Then in 1670, a charter was granted by the British crown to the Hudson’s Bay Company, which began operating from posts along the coast of Hudson Bay (see Figure 1). Although beaver was quite coveted by traders, Europe also had a market for lynx and marten furs as well as feathers of Canadian ducks, geese, and swans. For a thorough discussion of HBC trading practices and Standards of Trade in the first century or so of operations in north America, up to the end of the Seven Years War (known as the French & Indian War in US history), see Arthur Ray and Donald Freeman. Muskrat: $2.65 Otter: $21.34 Mink: $7.95 Coyote: $6 – $68 (Eastern $30, Western $68) Raccoon: $2 – $6 (no, that’s not a typo!) Proudly powered by Omeka. “The North American Fur Trade: Bargaining to a Joint Profit Maximum under Incomplete Information, 1804-1821.” Journal of Economic History 46, no. These furs – mink, fox, otter – are fashioned by furriers into garments or robes. The leasing and licensing arrangements of the French made monitoring unnecessary, but led to a system where the center had little influence over the conduct of the trade. Gift-giving was an important part of the process. Crean, J. F. “Hats and the Fur Trade.” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 28, no. A commercial fur trade in North America grew out of the early contact between Indians and European fisherman who were netting cod on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and on the Bay of Gaspé near Quebec. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974. “An Economic Analysis of Indian Behavior in the North American Fur Trade.” Journal of Economic History 32, no.1 (1972): 36-53. Americans Indians faced thousands of settlers carrying new diseases and a desire for land. Although the aggressive trapping nearly caused the extinction of the beaver , Mountain Men were very mindful of preventing food waste. Circulation - Bertha Bainer.
But, within a decade, the Montreal trade was reorganized into partnerships between merchants in Montreal and traders who wintered in the interior. The Company’s role in the northwest changed again with the Canadian Confederation in 1867. London: Studio Editions, 1990. Types of Pelts. Ginsburg Madeleine. There is another important result of these comparisons: The trade value of a Made Beaver, when expressed in monetary equivalents, varied quite a bit depending on the particular trade item in question. Leghorn hats, … There are inflation calculators online to do the heavy Central to answering this question is how Native groups responded to the price of furs, which began rising in the 1730s. Corner, David.
And so the St. Louis fur trade began.
Perhaps surprising, given the emphasis that has been placed on it in the historical literature, was the comparatively small role of alcohol in the trade. Parchment beaver were from freshly caught animals, whose skins were simply dried before being presented for trade. Illustrating their arduous line of work, an 1822 Missouri Gazette newspaper ad called for "100 men to ascend the Missouri River to its source, there to be employed for one, two or three years.".
With similar diplomacy, Chouteau defended his fur monopoly from waves of Spanish, English and French officials vying for profit and territory. “Selling Beaver Skins in North America and Europe, 1720-1760: The Uses of Fur-Trade Imperialism.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New Series 1 (1990): 293-317.
Surprisingly perhaps, given the increased competition, trade in beaver pelts at the Hudson’s Bay Company post increased to an average of 34,300, this over the period 1740 to 1743. Photographer - Cliff White the invoice cost. (6) For the other items listed the comparison is more straightforward: When trading for a 2 1/2-point blanket each Made Beaver was worth 86 pence; when trading for a pair of men's pants one Made Beaver was worth 96 pence; when trading for two shirts a Made Beaver was worth 63 pence . One can classify property rights along a spectrum with, at one end, open access, where anyone can hunt or fish, and at the other, complete private property, where a sole owner has full control over the resource. In 1829, Auguste Chouteau, the "patriarch of St. Louis," died. The French and English were distinguished as well by how they interacted with the Natives. ", Fausz retrieves a metal cup. The years 1746 to 1763 saw another big increase to over 12 shillings per pelt. Innis, Harold.
These characteristics made felt the prime material for hatters especially when fashion called for hats with large brims. Although many hunted into old age, their sons did not follow suit. each fort and employee had a certain amount of discretion that they could use in order to drive a hard bargain as they saw fit. Hats. The beaver was blessed - or, more accurately, cursed - with a heavy coat of rare beauty and unique usefulness.". Why the beaver were over-harvested was closely related to the prices Natives were receiving, but important as well was the nature of Native property rights to the resource. Exact figures are not available, but the traditional sectors; hunting, gathering, food preparation and, to some extent, agriculture must have accounted for at least 75 to 80 percent of Native labor during these decades. Beaver pelts could be made into either full-fur or felted-fur hats. Your email address will not be published. ‘Columbia district’ is ten shillings, $2, payable in goods at 50 per cent on
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