previous next


While the English-American colonies remained dependents of Great Britain, they derived very little advantage from the extensive fur-trade with the Indians, for the Hudson Bay Company absorbed nearly the whole of the traffic. It was contention between the French and English colonists for the control of this trade that was a powerful element among the causes that brought on the French and Indian War (q. v.). In 1762 a fur company was organized in New Orleans for carrying on the fur-trade extensively with the Western Indians. It was started by the director-general of Louisiana. A trading expedition was fitted out, and under the direction of Pierre Ligueste Laclede, the principal projector of the enterprise, it went to the Missouri region, and established its chief depot on the site of the city of St. Louis, which name was then given to that locality. There furs were gathered from the regions extending eastward to Mackinaw, and westward to the Rocky Mountains. Their treasures went in boats down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and thence to Europe; or up the Illinois River, across a portage to Lake Michigan, and by way of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence to Montreal and Quebec.

Early in the nineteenth century, furtrading posts had been established on the Columbia River and other waters that empty into the Pacific Ocean. In 1784 John Jacob Astor (q. v.), an enterprising young German merchant of New York, embarked in the fur-trade. He purchased furs in Montreal and sold them in England; after the treaty of 1795 he shipped them to different European ports. In this trade, chiefly, he amassed a fortune of $250,000, when he embarked in a scheme for making a great fur depot on the Pacific coast. He was then competing with the great fur companies of the Northwest, under a charter in the name of the American Fur Company, for which he furnished the entire capital. Mr. Astor made an earnest effort to carry on the business between the Pacific coast of America and China, founding the town of Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. Through the bad faith of a business partner in 1813, that establishment was sold for a nominal sum and placed under British control. After that Mr. Astor carried on his operations in the region of the Rocky Mountains, with his chief post at Mackinaw. Alaska, acquired in 1867 by purchase, opened a new field for the American fur-trade. The furs from that region are mainly those of the fur-seal; there are also those of the beaver, ermine, fox, otter, marten, and other animals. From 1870 to 1890 the monopoly of the trade was in the hands of the Alaska Commercial Company of San Francisco, Cal. In the latter year the government granted the right of [492] taking fur-seals to the North American Commercial Company for a yearly rental of $60,000 and $7.62 1/2 for each seal-skin. Canadian sealing-vessels were, for several years, illegally engaged in the indiscriminate slaughter of the seals, threatening their extinction. In 1889 some of these vessels were seized by United States revenue cutters, thus giving rise to the Bering Sea controversy with Great Britain. See Alaska; Anglo-American commission; fisheries.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Jacob Astor (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1890 AD (1)
1889 AD (1)
1870 AD (1)
1867 AD (1)
1813 AD (1)
1795 AD (1)
1784 AD (1)
1762 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: