Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Fur Trade Story Part One of Five

Frances Anne Hopkins, Voyageurs at Dawn

In the 16th and 17th centuries, furs were a big part of European fashion. Mink, lynx, otter and sable were used to enhance stoles, sleeves and capes. Ermine, which was completely white with just a touch of black, added a majestic beauty to kings' mantles. Beaver felt, which was also popular, was use to make broad-brimmed hats with incomparable impermeability.

Furs from Russia and Scandinavia were costly for the French furriers and they were not always of the best quality. Merchants quickly realized how they could make the most of North American furs, which were abundant, diversified and magnificent as a result of the harsh climate. The fur trade was to play a decisive role in French colonization efforts. It was the fur trade that forced the exploration of the territory and the establishment of good relationships with the Aboriginal peoples.

Seeking beaver skins and pelts, thousands of men traveled along the waterways and through the forests of North America. Depending on their status and the period, they were known by different names: coureurs des bois, voyageurs, pedleurs, men of the North, eaters of lard, trappers. Whether they were just passing though or had settled down, they lived life off the beaten trails and enjoyed a great deal of freedom. This chronicle provides an opportunity to learn about their daily lives, as they lived on the fringes of the colony.

(Bloggers Note: I cannot take credit for these articles, I found them floating around the net with no real way to track the author, so I have included the link to the original pages)

Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/Fonds Frances Anne Hopkins/C-002773

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