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History of the Beaver with Humans and the Fur Trade

furpeltssmallFrom the 1500's when the french first started trading with the native peoples of north america, beaver pelts created a foundation for exploration to communize. Trading along the eastern seaboard of Canada, french explorers brought back to Europe beaver skins and beaver castors (beaver gland used in the perfume industry). Within a century France became the new world leaders in the fur trade.

By 1660 Champlain, Pierre Radisson and Sieur des Groseilliers pushed deeper into north americas northern wilderness searching for new beaver territory of Lake Superior and James Bay.

In 1670 the english entered the beaver skin and castor trade with the formation of the Hudson's Bay Company. At its greatest the Company governed an area in north america the size of Europe. The Iroquois helped english traders move south into New England then to Virginia. This opened the way for newer trading posts from Main to Georgia. Ships now could leave from many places on the eastern seaboard and from interior trading areas. This made it possible for other people to come and homestead in the new world.

The french made other inroads as far south as the Mississippi River with the aid of the Huron and Ottawa indians and dominated the beaver fur trade until the 18th century where four wars of bitter fighting lost the trade in beaver skins that fell to the english. The expansion grew bigger and by the end of the 18th century ships were leaving from ports on the pacific seaboard heading for Asia. Beavers had always been in full supply and an expedition of 20 trappers in 1823-24 season came back with 5,000 beaver skins. By the 20th century beavers were almost decimated. Fashion in clothing changed which helped the beaver to recover in the past century. Today there are millions of beavers throughout north america. With careful conservation the beaver is still an important cash crop but not in the same way as the past.


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