the monopoly, of all trade in these regions, and thus
we see the origin of the Great Hudson’s Bay
Company, which is to-day, one of the largest organizations
of its kind on the globe. The territory they claimed,
extended from Hudson’s Bay, west to the Pacific,
and north to the Arctic Ocean, excepting that occupied
by the French and Russians. They soon formed
settlements upon the various rivers which empty into
Hudson’s Bay, and carried on their operations
with immense vigor and success. They met with
much opposition and open hostility from the French,
and were subjected to vast expenses and losses, but
in spite of all, they continued to prosper. Their
forts or factories were extended further into the
interior of British America, and their power was supreme
throughout the country, and in a great measure over
the Indians, whom they employed to collect their skins.
In the course of time, the French Canadians organized
themselves into a united band, under the name of the
North West Company, and established their headquarters
at Montreal. Their operations were carried on
with great energy and profit, and many factories were
built in the western portion of the Province.
The company thus soon became a formidable competitor
with the Hudson’s Bay Company and for a period
of two years, an actual state of war existed between
them. This condition of affairs finally terminated
in a consolidation of the two organizations, under
the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the privileges
of which extended over all the territory formerly
occupied by both.
Thus, we have the history of the famous Hudson’s
Bay Company, from its origin to its perfect organization.
It is a most stupendous concern, and its annual shipment
of furs, is something amazing. Their great sales
take place in the month of March, in order to be completed
before Easter; and again in September, every year
at London, and are attended by purchasers from nearly
all parts of the world. Leipsic, the famous fur
mart of Germany, is also the scene of a great annual
fair, for the sale of skins.
The importance of the fur trade in this country, led
to the [Page 281] early settlement of the Western
territories of the United States; and many a frontier
city, like St. Paul, has been built up by the enterprise
of the trapper. Mackinaw and Montreal owe much
of their growth to the traffic of the fur trade; and
many a kingly fortune—John Jacob Astor’s,
for instance—has been founded on peltry.
Besides the above fur sales in London a moderate portion
of those annually collected in the United States are
retained for use, amounting to about 150,000 mink
and 750,000 muskrat skins, besides a number of other
furs which are manufactured and worn.
The annual yield of raw furs throughout the whole
world is estimated at over twenty millions of dollars
in value; and when we include the manufactured articles
therefrom, the amount will swell to a hundred millions
or over. This will serve to give some idea of
the immensity and value of the business.