The under fur or beaver wool (duvet), consisting of barbed hairs that formed a durable, luxurious felt, was of prime importance to the European hat industry until the 1830s, when silk hats became fashionable. The wool could easily be removed from the skins, which yielded a useful leather.
Parchment (castor sec) pelts were sun dried immediately after skinning. Once in Europe, they required a specialized combing process to remove the guard hairs. Algonquian natives trading to the St Lawrence Valley furnished pelts mostly of this type.
In the late 1600s the HBC successfully tapped new supplies of coat beaver from the northern CREE, touching off intense English-French rivalry for these desirable furs. Native-white relations were sometimes strained as traders sought to match their coat and parchment beaver-pelt inventories with changing European market requirements.
Author JENNIFER S.H. BROWN
Links to Other Sites
In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade in Canada and the North West Company
An extensive website featuring digitized archival material related to the fur trade and its role in the early exploration, settlement, and economic development of Canada. From the McGill University Digital Collections Program.
Exploration, the Fur Trade and Hudson's Bay Company
This nicely illustrated website chronicles the turbulent early years of Canada’s fledgling fur trade. Features stories about European explorers, Aboriginal communities, the North West Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Also includes online maps, teacher materials, and links to primary sources in the Early Canadiana Online database.
Hudson's Bay Company Archives
A comprehensive information source about the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the fur trade in Canada. A Manitoba Government website.
Fur Institute of Canada
This Fur Industry of Canada website focuses on such industry issues as animal welfare, humane animal capture devices and wildlife conservation. Also includes educational resources about fur bearing animals and sustainable use practices.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Glossary: Hudson’s Bay Company
A bilingual glossary of key terms found the Hudson’s Bay Company records. From the website for the Hudson's Bay Company Archives. A PDF file.
Glossary: North West Company
A glossary of special fur trade terms and indexes to personal names, geographical place names and native tribes. A website from McGill University.