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The fur trade revisited

selected papers of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991

Jennifer S. H. Brown

Publication Year: 1994

The Fur Trade Revisited is a collection of twenty-eight essays selected from the more than fifty presentations made at the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference held on Mackinac Island, Michigan, in the fall of 1991. Essays contained in this important new interpretive work focus on the history, archaeology, and literature of a fascinating, growing area of scholarly investigation. Underscoring the work's multifaceted approach is an introductory essay by Lily McAuley titled "Memories of a Trapper's Daughter." This vivid and compelling account of the fur-trade life sets a level of quality for what follows. Part one of The Fur Trade Revisited discusses eighteenth-century fur trade intersections with European markets. The essays in part two examine Native people and the strategies they employed to meet demands placed on them by the market for furs. Part three examines the origins, motives, and careers of those who actually participated in the fur trade. Part four focuses attention on the indigenous fur-trade culture and subsequent archaeology in the area around Mackinac Island, Michigan, while part five contains studies focusing on the fur-trade culture in other parts of North America. Part six assesses the fur trade after 1870 and part seven contains evaluations of the critical historical and literary interpretations prevalent in fur-trade scholarship.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. v-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-xii

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pp. xiii

Since 1958, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission has operated a professional, historic sites program at the Straits of MackInac, restoring or reconstructing Fort Mackinac, Colonial Michilimackinac, and Historic Mill Creek. Archaeological, architectural and historical research have been cornerstones of the Commission's work. Commission staff have assembled extensive...

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pp. xv-xx

Outstanding, extraordinary, and superb are all adjectives that participants used to describe the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan on September 25-29, 1991. Its excitement, theme, and flavor all came to a crest at the Saturday evening banquet finale. The orchestra's playing and the audience's stirring singing of the American and...

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pp. 1-7

The Sixth North American Fur Tade Conference, held on Mackinac Island, Michigan, 25-29 September 1991, demonstrated that fur trade studies continue to thrive in the 1990s. The field has a remarkable capacity to attract to each conference a broad range of scholars, students, and other enthusiasts who delight in the opportunity to come together in some locale made famous by the ...

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Memories of a Trapper’s Daughter: Banquet Address of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference

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pp. 9-17

This is a real pleasure. I can hardly believe that I'm here; in fact, I've had a terrible cold all week and I thought, "What if I lose my voice? What will I do?" The next thing that kept coming into my mind was, "What if I wake up and find that this is all a dream? I would be really disappointed." I was in contact with Linda Heard through the telephone several weeks ago, and we spoke ...

Part I: Transatlantic Fur Trade Markets and Entrepreneurs

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Exchange Patterns in the European Market for North American Furs and Skins, 1720-1760

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pp. 19-37

The contrast between the expansionistic Montr

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British Capital in the Fur Trade: John Strettell and John Fraser

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pp. 39-56

Trade in Canada, after the Conquest in 1759-1760, took on the general form already worked out in the American colonies. Manufactured goods, mostly from Britain, were imported to serve the general needs of the white inhabitants and the special needs of the Indian trade, and commodities were sent back. The New World traders of the eighteenth century were not men of means, and the manufacturers and wholesalers in England who supplied them ...

Part II: Native People and Changing Trade Relations

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Articulation of the Lakota Mode of Production and the Euro-American Fur Trade1

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pp. 57-69

Scholars have debated the question of whether Indians generally were "dependent" upon the Euro-American fur trade or whether they retained options of economic independence until Reservation confinement. This debate has been complicated by different uses of the term "dependent." The everyday meaning of dependence as reliance on others may imply varying degrees of ...

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French and Spanish Colonial Trade Policies and the Fur Trade among the Caddoan Indians of the Trans-Mississippi South

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pp. 71-91

The participation of the Caddoan peoples of the Trans-Mississippi South in the European fur trade had lasting consequences for these aboriginal inhabitants of Texas and Louisiana (Usner 1985: 86). With the development of the fur and peltry trade, and a direct European presence in the Caddoan Area, European goods of considerable diversity became accessible to Caddoan peoples...

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The Flow of European Trade Goods into the Western Great Lakes Region, 1715-1760

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pp. 93-115

Since the pioneering work of Francis Parkman (1983) and Frederick Jackson Turner (1970) in the late nineteenth century, the North American fur trade has been conceptualized primarily as a Euro-American institution. For the most part, historians have characterized the fur trade as the initial, path breaking incursion of Euro-American influence into the interior of northeastern...

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“No less than 7 different nations”: Ethnicity and Culture Contact at Fort George-Buckingham House

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pp. 117-142

This article summarizes archival research undertaken as part of an historical archaeology project on contact and culture change in the early fur trade era in western Canada (Gullason 1990). The purpose of the project was to identify the selective changes in Native material culture and behaviour upon contact with Europeans, using archival and archaeological data from two trading...

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Looking at the Ledgers: Sauk and Mesquakie Trade Debts, 1820-1840

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pp. 143-159

The extension of credit to Native Americans was the ruination of the fur-trading companies according to their main offices, but the financial mainspring of the hunt according to the wintering traders; it was an unconscionable lure to an ingenuous savage according to missionaries, but a necessity against starvation according to Native American chiefs and headmen. Wherever the fur ...

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“Half-Breed” Rolls and Fur Trade Families in the Great Lakes Region—An Introduction and Bibliography

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pp. 161-169

Most of the individuals who worked in the fur trade, as in many occupational fields, are very poorly documented. Because much fur trade activity took place in areas with little or no governmental control, comparatively few records were created, outside the trade itself, that even named the workers. Typically, identifying or quantifying these individuals can be accomplished only...

Part III: Becoming a Trader: Origins, Lives, and Survival

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The Career of Joseph La France, Coureur de Bois in the Upper Great Lakes

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pp. 171-187

Of all the categories of people involved in the French fur trade, the most elusive are the coureurs de bois. They are always mentioned as the precursors of "real" explorers, whose ventures are documented in written records. Because they settled comfortably in Indian communities, they also receive credit for creating the first generation of m

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The Cadottes: Five Generations of Fur Traders on Lake Superior

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pp. 189-198

Between 1686 and 1840 five generations of the Cadotte family were active in the Lake Superior fur trade. At one time or another they were involved in almost every aspect of this lucrative commerce: as voyageurs, clerks, traders, interpreters, and even as financiers. Some sought to make a fortune, others pursued adventure; many more were born to the fur trade and knew no other life. ...

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The Fear of Pillaging: Economic Folktales of the Great Lakes Fur Trade

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pp. 199-216

Throughout the history of the fur trade in the western Great Lakes, European traders and Native people employed a variety of means to insure the peaceful operation of trade.1 These methods, which included gift-giving and trade protocol, were designed to prevent the possibility of violence, the pillage or theft of furs or goods by either trader or Native customer. While violence was ...

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Roots in the Mohawk Valley: Sir William Johnson’s Legacy in the North West Company

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pp. 217-242

Several fur-trade researchers have attempted to identify the factors influencing the rapid rise of the Scottish Nor'Westers to business prominence. A shared ethnic identity, military experience, and the adoption of effective trading practices from the French have all been cited as sources of the effective corporate behaviors demonstrated by the Scottish expatriates who comprised the bulk ...

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Faithful Service under Different Flags: A Socioeconomic Profile of the Columbia District, Hudson’s Bay Company and the Upper

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pp. 243-267

I n the late spring of 1825, a peculiar event occurred along the banks of the Bear River in present-day Utah. Twenty-three freemen1 attached to the Hudson's Bay Company's Snake River Brigade under the command of Peter Skene Ogden absconded with their traps, horses, and furs, most leaving unpaid debts for the company to absorb. Desertion was not a new theme to the HBC. ...

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Failure on the Columbia: Nathaniel Wyeth’s Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company

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pp. 269-283

Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth was an important participant in a transitional period of American westward expansion. As a thirty-year-old business man from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Wyeth in the early 1830s was lured by the West and the potential profits to be made in that part of the country. In 1832 he became a fur trader, making the first of two trips to Oregon. Before ...

Part IV: The Fur Trade at Mackinac

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The Michilimackinac Misfortunes of Commissary Roberts

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pp. 285-298

Benjamin Roberts' tour of duty at Michilimackinac as commissary for Indian affairs proved to be brief but, as subsequent events would demonstrate, not mercifully so. He arrived at the Fort on 27 or 28 June 1767 and, after confinement to his quarters, took an involuntary leave early in October.1 It was a stay plagued by unresolved and protracted consequences, sufficient to bestow ...

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Effects of the American Revolution on Fur-Trade Society at Michilimackinac

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pp. 299-316

Throughout the American Revolution, 1775-1783, the fur-trade society at Michilimackinac and in the western Great Lakes region faced serious challenges. Hence, the formation of a multicultural society centered at the Straits of Mackinac between the 1660s and 1775 seems worthy of a close examination. The fur trade brought together Native North Americans, French missionaries, traders...

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Apprentice Trader: Henry H. Sibley and American Fur at Mackinac

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pp. 317-330

The political power wielded by large fur companies in the north western territories of the young American republic and the reciprocal role they played in supporting westward expansion through U.S. acquisition of Indian land are a familiar story. One of the leading chapters in it is the alliance between Lewis Cass, who served as governor of Michigan Territory from 1813 to 1831...

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Crucifixes and Medallions from Michilimackinac

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pp. 331-348

The seventeenth century was a time when Europeans established lasting contacts with American Indians living in the Old Northwest. French Jesuit missionaries were among the earliest Europeans to enter this region. Their objective was to Christianize the Native inhabitants in the beliefs of French Catholicism (Jennings 1975: 101). A tool used to instruct Native...

Part V Archaeology and Material Culture

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A Newly-Discovered Trade Gun Type

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pp. 349-357

The archaeological record throughout the eastern United States sup ports a picture of keen competition between Great Britain, France and, to a lesser degree, Spain, for control of the North American fur trade. Distinct small bore gun barrel fragments, gun parts, and lead shot and bullets from the Plattner site (23SA3) in western Missouri are proof of this competition, and...

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When Rivers Were Roads: Deciphering the Role of Canoe Portages in the Western Lake Superior Fur Trade

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pp. 359-376

When Europeans entered the northern lake-forest regions of North America, they found an intricate network of canoe trails in use by indigenous populations. Carrying places, like land bridges, bypassed obstacles and linked waterways, contributing to the efficiency of what was truly a remarkable inland water transportation system. In regions south and west of the Great Lakes, most ...

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Origins of Fort Union: Archaeology and History

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pp. 377-392

One of the more famous places in the antebellum American West was Fort Union trading post (figure 1). Located on the Missouri River, immediately above its confluence with the Yellowstone River (figure 2), Fort Union played a significant role in American history. For almost forty years it served as the headquarters of the American Fur Company's Upper Missouri Outfit (UMO), controlling the trade over much of western North Dakota, Montana...

Part VI Into the Twentieth Century

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The Hudson’s Bay Company in Southwestern Alberta, 1874-1905

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pp. 393-408

The importance of the British-based Hudson's Bay Company in the economic development of southwestern Alberta between 1874 and 1905 has been insufficiently appreciated. Most historical accounts of the company have briefly noted its inability to compete for market share in the fur trade industry in this region during the 1870s and 1880s with powerful American merchant...

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Creating Corporate Images of the Fur Trade: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Public Relations in the 1930s

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pp. 409-426

The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) has long held a fascination for those interested in the history of the North American fur trade. Less readily recognized, however, is the HBC's own contribution to the public perception of its image. Given the central role assigned to the fur trade, and to the Hudson's Bay Company in particular, as a factor in North America's historical development in...

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Capt. Thierry Mallet: Adventurer, Businessman, Writer

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pp. 427-446

These words in praise of the northern wilderness are taken from the final sketch in Plain Tales of the North-fifty vignettes, as spare as line drawings, depicting scenes of life in the North, beyond the railway lines and the limits of civilization. This book, along with Glimpses of the Barren Lands, was written by Captain Thierry Mallet, based on his experiences of twenty years of travel in the...

Part VII Fur made Literature and Interpretation: Issues and Problems

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Long’s Voyages and Travels: Fact and Fiction

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pp. 447-463

With an impressive "List of Subscribers" containing the names of the most distinguished persons connected with the Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade, and a four-month advance notice of its impending publication, J. Long's Voyages and Travels of an Indian Trader and Interpreter... was considered an important document from its very first appearance in February 1791.1 It was ...

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The H.B.C.’s Arctic Expedition 1836-1839: Dease’s Field Notes as Compared to Simpson’s Narrative

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pp. 465-479

Seldom in the annals of the literature of exploration does it fall to the second in command to publish the chief narrative account of an expedition, but the Hudson's Bay Company's only nineteenth-century arctic expedition primarily mounted to help discover the Northwest Passage was as uncommon in respect to leadership and to publication as it was in respect to standard company activities. It featured a twenty-eight-year-old who was formally...

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Fur Trade Social History and the Public Historian: Some Other Recent Trends

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pp. 481-499

It is now over fifteen years since the Third North American Fur Trade Conference was held in Winnipeg. The papers presented at that conference had a profound impact on fur trade historiography in their own right, but they also reflected equally significant changes in scholarly research on fur trade subjects which had been taking form over the previous decade. One paper in particular, ...

About the Authors and Editors

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pp. 501-505


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pp. 507-536

E-ISBN-13: 9780870139123
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870133480

Page Count: 536
Publication Year: 1994