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The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age

The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 283
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  • Book Info
    The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age
    Book Description:

    Ray's study is the first to make extensive use of the Hudson's Bay Company archives dealing with the period between 1870 and 1945. These and other documents reveal a great deal about the decline of the company, and thus about a key element in the history of the modern Canadian fur trade.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5740-3
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures and tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 Does the fur trade have a future?
    (pp. 3-29)

    In a series of crucial meetings held on 28 and 29 June and 12 July 1871 Hudson’s Bay Company stockholders hotly debated the company’s future. Opinions were sharply divided over the central question of whether the company should abandon its traditional fur trade roots and concentrate all its resources on new business ventures. The London directors (called the governor and committee) provoked the dispute by presenting their blueprint for the company’s future at the 28 June meeting. They wanted to build a diversified organization from its fur trade base. The assembled stockholders were unreceptive to this idea. Most of them...

  7. 2 Laying the groundwork for government involvement, 1870–1885
    (pp. 30-49)

    Once the Canadian government had obtained Old Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, it faced the task of extinguishing aboriginal title to those territories needed for agriculture development and for telegraph and transportation rights of way. Government officials wanted to achieve this objective as quickly and as cheaply as possible through the established custom of negotiating treaties. The native peoples, on the other hand, were anxious about their future, and they hoped to use the negotiations to obtain concessions that would enable them to improve their economic position under rapidly changing circumstances. The specific objectives of the bands varied...

  8. 3 The fur trade in transition, 1886–1913
    (pp. 50-95)

    Between 1886 and 1913 prosperity returned, and Canada was transformed from being predominantly a rural agricultural country in 1885 to an urban industrial one at the close of the First World War. A great deal has been written about the ways the wheat boom on the prairies fuelled the nation’s development at this time.¹ The expansion of the agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy meant that fur exports, one of the traditional staples, declined in relative importance. However, the fur trade did not go into decline as is commonly thought. Rather, it boomed. The rapidly expanding economies of northwestern...

  9. 4 The turning point: the impact of the First World War on the northern fur trade
    (pp. 96-112)

    The First World War caused major disruptions to international trade. In the fur industry the interruptions offered a golden opportunity for merchants in North American cities to challenge the traditional dominance of their counterparts in Europe, particularly those in London and Leipzig. They wasted no time in doing so. The restructuring of the international fur-marketing system that resulted had a major impact on the industry in the Canadian north. It served to unleash a tidal wave of competing buyers who flooded the north with cash, shaking the foundations of the old order. The Hudson’s Bay Company’s very cautious and sluggish...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 5 The international marketing of Canadian furs, 1920–1945
    (pp. 113-138)

    Between the two great wars the world economy went through the throes of boom and depression. The fur trade did not escape the buffeting. Depletion of fur stocks in boom years brought about greater government intervention for conservation purposes. Fur prices were in flux and the mix of fur output changed substantially. Meanwhile the struggle for dominance in the international fur-marketing system continued unabated. A new order emerged in the early 1930s only to be upset once again by the economic and political crises created by the Second World War. All these trends affected the position of London and the...

  12. 6 The struggle for dominance in the Canadian north during the 1920s
    (pp. 139-170)

    In the immediate aftermath of the First World War the Hudson’s Bay Company took stock of its position in the Canadian fur trade and then made a concerted struggle to regain the ground it had lost. In the 1920s the main thrust of company’s effort was directed towards an expansion program in the western Arctic (which will not be discussed here) and take-over challenges. The latter involved only the larger opponents. Generally the company’s strategy did not achieve the desired results.

    The Hudson’s Bay Company district managers’ reports filed just after the 1920–1 depression made clear the extent to...

  13. 7 Attempts to revitalize the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fur Trade Department, 1920–1945
    (pp. 171-198)

    Part of the reason that the Hudson’s Bay Company continued to lose ground after the First World War in spite of eliminating its larger opponents related to problems within the organization’s Fur Trade Department. In the 1920s the Canadian and London committees were mostly concerned with the retail stores division, where they made heavy investments but suffered substantial losses.¹ Meanwhile, the fur trade department was largely left on its own. When the directors, most notably the Canadian Committee, finally turned their attention to this department, their efforts to regain a comparative advantage in the industry were dogged by inconsistencies in...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. 8 The native people, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the state in the industrial fur trade, 1920–1945
    (pp. 199-221)

    In the mercantile and early industrial fur trades the native people produced nearly all the furs. For this reason the Hudson’s Bay Company depended on them for its survival. In turn, throughout much of the nineteenth century the company provided most of the native producers with the hunting and trapping equipment they needed in both prosperous and lean times. In the industrial age this mutually beneficial partnership was strained to the breaking point for many reasons. The years between the two great wars was a time when natives faced increasing hardships because of depletion of fur and game animals and...

  16. 9 The decline of the old order
    (pp. 222-228)

    Canada was transformed from a predominantly agricultural and rural nation to an urban industrial one during the seventy-five years between Confederation and the end of the Second World War. The economic revolution affected all areas of the country, and in the north the fur trade remained in flux. The construction of railway lines and the use of steam-powered riverboats before 1929 and the extension of air service thereafter substantially reduced transportation costs, making it economically feasible for new traders and merchants to enter the north cheaply for the first time. Construction of the telegraph between 1870 and the First World...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 229-256)
  18. Appendix: Figure references and data notes
    (pp. 257-259)
  19. Picture credits
    (pp. 260-260)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-272)
  21. Index
    (pp. 273-283)