Copyright
Albert Lord Belden.

The fur trade of America and some of the men who made and maintain it, together with furs and fur bearers of other continents and countries and islands of the sea online

. (page 10 of 34)
Online LibraryAlbert Lord BeldenThe fur trade of America and some of the men who made and maintain it, together with furs and fur bearers of other continents and countries and islands of the sea → online text (page 10 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


season for bear only. Wyoming provides protection for
beaver to September 15, 1919, and Arkansas and
Nevada to 1920.

In some of the states the fur laws might readily be
changed for the better, particularly in setting the open-
ing date a little later in states which permit trapping to
begin November i. There is imperative need of a
stricter enforcement of the laws in all the states, and it
is to the interest of trappers and raw fur merchants to
co-operate in effecting this result. A considerable num-
ber of fur-bearing animals are caught annually many
days in advance of the open season, at which time the
fur is nearly worthless.

This practice is effectively discouraged by reputable
members of the trade, who refuse to accept such pelts
at any price — there are, however, other dealers, those
who get busy in fur from November to April, who take
any skin offered in which they think they see a profit.

The Federal Government has enacted excellent laws
for the protection of all species of fur-bearers found in
Alaska.

Fur-bearers are ideally protected by laws in all the
Provinces of Canada — ideal, not alone because the laws
are wisely framed, but definitely on account of the fact
that they are rigidly enforced.




FIRST TRAIN ON MOHAWK VAUiET R. R.



TRANSPORTATION

Raw furs in the beginning were transported from
the localities in which they were secured in the woods,
lakes and streams, on the backs of the successful buyers,
the longer carries requiring many days and much
physical strain. Later the season's catch of peltries was
collected at chosen points along the rivers or borders of
the lakes, and then more easily and swiftly transported
to the principal posts in strong canoes — and still later
in steamers.

The accompanying illustration shows a fairly good
picture of the first locomotive and train ever run over
the Mohawk Valley Railroad; the line was surveyed in
1830, and the road was opened in September, 1831 ; the
train consisted of three coaches drawn by an engine of
three and one-half tons.



f(ACCOOlV

167




BSKIMO DOG



DOG



During the first one hundred and fifty years of the
fur trade in America, though man was the ruling spirit,
the master mind, he did not achieve success solely with
his willing hands, the unreliable guns of the time, spears,
bows and arrows, pitfalls, or sundry minor devices, but
was definitely and importantly aided in his enterprise
by the plain, every-day dog — not just one kind of a dog,
but dogs of every size and color abounding in the diverse
canine family ; any kind of a dog that would tree a coon,
chase a fox, run a skunk to earth, or face a wildcat was
employed and kept on the payroll so long as it produced
results — failures were quickly given passports to the
land of nod.

Dogs were used to discover, pursue and in instance
to kill fur-bearers in all parts of the country, from the
vast wilds of northern Canada all the way south to the

168



DOG 169

Gulf of Mexico, and from ocean to ocean, and they
were extremely effective in increasing the catch of fur
year after year — a record sustained without a break to
the present day.

Aborigines of North America possessed many dogs,
a greater number than the white man of average wealth
can now afford, and considered them indispensable, as
live assets yielding satisfactory usury, and in the long
rim more effectual than the crude traps of the period
in capturing, or aiding in the capture of game and fur-
bearing animals of practically all species.

The dogs, in view of their remarkable utility were
not generally as well cared for during their lifetime
as one would reasonably suppose, but when they died
they were accorded many honors, and their remains
were borne to their last resting place in evident esteem
and regret. The Indians believed that the spirits of the
canines joined those of the braves and buffaloes that
had gone on before to the "happy hunting grounds,"
and that they would find them there and successfully
hunt with them when it came their turn to cross the
"great divide."

The mound builders of Tennessee buried dogs in
the graves of children, who were considered too young
to trace their way alone to the realm of departed spirits.
Early natives of Mexico entertained the same opinion.
The belief still prevails in some rural districts, and
seemingly now and then in the ranks of the ultra rich.

Dogs are used not only as fur finders, but as
guardians of the trappers' hut and his catch of peltries
left therein during his visit to the trap line.

They are also employed, and more importantly, to



170 DOG

transport the trappers* collection of peltries from his
trapping grounds in the wilderness to the verge of
civilization.

In the far north, the vast unoccupied Hudson Bay
section, and the wild districts of Alaska, where snow
and ice abound for many months in the year, fur-bearers
of superior interest and value abide and multiply ; some
of the best trapping sections are hundreds of miles dis-
tant from the farthest outlying settlement, and the
knowing professional trapper regularly journeys to
these remote, uncharted regions accompanied by a pack
of dogs drawing supply-laden sledges, and remains in
the dreary solitudes from September to May following,
or a longer term, hunting and trapping black and silver
foxes, lynx, fisher, marten and other prized fur-bearers.

In the spring, while the snow remains and is frozen
hard, the trapper arranges his collection of peltries in
firmly bound packs, loads them on the sledge, and his
dogs draw them to the trading post from which he set
out the previous year; on his arrival he exchanges his
fur for such things as he needs during his sojourn on
the border and for his next expedition northward.

The dog is not only a finder and a fetcher, but is
the "real thing," the fur itself ; the pelts of many thou-
sands of dogs, particularly those bred for the purpose
in China, are annually used in the fur trade of America
in the production of robes and men's fur coats.

Every alert trapper of to-day has at least one
valuable, well-trained dog — a specialist — good for coon,
great for skunk, or incomparable as a fox finder; and
these intelligent dogs materially aid the men afield in
maintaining at its maximum the fur trade of America.



tariff

The United States tariff on imported goods of high
and low degree has affected furs and furry things to a
greater or less extent ever since there was a tariff,
whether operated under manifold decisions, either for
protection or revenue. For a long time the tariff laws
were quite easily understood, the schedules being tersely
set forth as follows: "raw furs, free; dressed and dyed
fur skins, twenty per centum ad valorem; manufac-
tured furs, thirty-five per centum ad valorem ;" the last
two rates were designed to protect an "infant industry,"
the particular infant being only a little more than a
hundred years old. As time passed, and it never stood
still, customs appraisers, specially capable in electing the
candidate of their party, made something like twice in
awhile marked, marvelous, diverse and incomprehensible
rulings regarding the constitution of fur, resulting in
tribulation and uncertainty, appeals and more appeals,
and trials resulting chiefly in painful delays and much
unnecessary expense.

Merchant appraisers were called into being, and
were overworked without becoming a profound success,
not on account of the facts involved, for they knew fur
perfectly, but because of the opinion that it was the
duty of every official to protect the tariff, and let the
particular industry take care of itself.

Then General Appraisers were appointed, succeeded
by Boards of Appraisers, and more distinctions, doubts
and difficulties, until no one presumed to know the
proper classification in advance of its official determina-
tion; conditions have improved under wiser heads, but

171



172 TARIFF

it should be borne in mind that no one can say what will
be next in the form and substance of import duties. We
merely know that many startling official rulings, closed
to secondary appeal, have been promulgated : pony skins,
originating in Russia, have been classified as "fur";
frogs' legs, for want of a national term, have been as-
sessed for duty as "dressed poultry," and live snails have
been admitted for revenue as "wild animals."

Goose skins dressed with only the down remaining
thereon were assessed at forty per centum ad valorem
as "manufacturers of down"; protest, then a judicial
ruling was handed down by the Board of United States
General Appraisers, July 23, 191 7, declaring that "duty
should have been assessed at the rate of thirty per
centum ad valorem under paragraphs 348 and 386 of
the tariff act as furs dressed on the skin."

The goose skins in question, regardless of the learned
ruling, will pass into consumption as swan's down.

Practically all of the conflict in determining tariff
classifications and rates of duty springs from the
opinion, entertained by examiners at the seat of customs,
that where skillful classification may impose either of
two rates of duty seemingly lawful, the higher rate
should be constrained to apply.

Tariff troubles of a furry nature have their be-
ginning at New York because it is the port of entry of
nearly all fur receipts from over seas; though the ex-
perienced distress has its inception in New York, after
final appeals and protests have been sifted and settled,
the thrill speeds over the entire continent, for in every
instance the unsuspecting consumer pays the duty, and
plus — ^but not on furs only.



^mt^



r









Y



'



!,



'(






( .


'


1

'1 J


1 .


i



FUR HEADWEAR



Adown the ages to fifty years ago New York City
experienced real winters with a succession of heavy
snowstorms; in those comfortable days the snow was
cleared from the sidewalks, but was allowed to remain
on the streets until it trickled away in its dance to the
sea in the glad springtime. In that wintery era public
sleighs daily transported fur-robed and fur-capped men
and women from the East River ferries to the uptown
districts, and the bracing ride was doubtless more
heartily enjoyed than a dash, dangerously near the speed
limit, in high powered autos in this snowless age.

Fur headwear, mainly caps, was almost universally
worn by men and boys, and was considered necessary
to real comfort. New York was the source and center
of supply, though many dozens of fur caps were also
made at Albany and in Brooklyn, and in more moderate

178



174 FUR HEADWEAR

quantity in a few other places ; the furs used comprised
muskrat, otter, beaver, and some fancy and cheaper furs.
Many manufacturing furriers, who in the course of time
became prominent in the production of ladies' furs —
capes, stoles and muffs — ^began their careers in the trade
in the manufacture of fur caps.

As the years passed the Empire City gradually be-
came an ever enlarging treeless tract, an expanded area
of stone and brick, and the snowfall materially decreased
in volume, and for the convenience of trade and traffic
the smaller amount of snow falling at intervals in suc-
cessive winters was promptly carted from the streets
and sent adrift in the rivers east and west, and the
public sleighs, the jingling bells, disappeared from the
once cheery thoroughfares, and the fur cap gradually
declined in popularity in the American metropolis.

When seal skin became fashionable, some forty
years ago, caps, toques and hats for both ladies* and
men's wear were quite extensively made of this fine fur ;
the production continues, but is chiefly in ladies' goods.
Other fur hats for women and children are made in
New York in mink, beaver, chinchilla and other skins
as fashion demands.

Fur caps are still worn in winter by men in the
northwest and west, the goods being manufactured in
New York and at various places in the sections of con-
sumption.

Ladies' headwear, made wholly or in part of fur, is
fairly popular at the present time.



Wift Jf urrier

The expert practical furrier is the corner-stone
upon which a successful fur business is reared ; his won-
derful manipulation of knives and needles gives per-
manent form and effect to the designer's fancy, pro-
duces marvels in artistic excellence, and on demand al-
most literally develops "something from nothing" owing
to his great proficiency in cutting, matching and piecing
together not only whole and half skins, but fragments
so tiny, mere bits, that many hundreds are required to
compose the lining of a single garment. In work of
this character the leadership, long since attained, is un-
approachably maintained by the practical furrier.




176



Joseph Steiner entered upon his successful career
in the fur business in New York City in 1876, briefly
in association with Henry Kraus, and then with his
brother, David Steiner, formed the firm of Joseph
Steiner & Brothers, under which style it has continued
to date.

From the beginning their motto might well have
been "work and win," for no house engaging in the
fur business during the past fifty years, or earlier in
so far as we can ascertain, has manifested greater in-
dustry in business building; each member of the firm
has continuously devoted his time, talents and physical
powers to the development of the commercial and mer-
cantile interests of the house in all possible fields, domes-
tic and foreign, neglecting no opportunity, great or
moderate, whereby the ends desired might be attained.
In an exceptional degree the very pronounced success
achieved in the more than forty years is to be credited
to the personal eflforts of the members of the firm, who
from first to last have unweariedly pressed forward
wherever duty beckoned.

In the earlier years of the business the firm recog-

176




Sosiepft g)teiner



JOSEPH STEINER— DAVID STEINER 177

nized the wisdom of establishing strong trade relations
with all important home markets, and sound, enduring
connections abroad — they were building both nationally
and internationally — and in those days the members of
the firm were great travelers, not only in the United
States, and northward into Canada, but again and
again across the high seas; their constant journeying
occasioned wonder — one member, as an instance, would
return from Europe in the morning, and on the evening
of the same day another, released from house duty
would be on the way west or to Montreal, and almost
immediately following his return would again speed
from sight on an outward bound ocean steamer — and
always on business bent.

That remarkable round of personal work — no eight
hour day in it — enabled the members of the firm to meet
and master every detail of the business problem and
difficulty of the first days and the succeeding years,
which as they passed brought the anticipated reward —
success won by patient and persistent industry and
devotion to the right.

The firm to-day stands at the front among import-
ers and exporters of raw, dressed and dyed furs, and
raw fur merchants; shipments of North American
peltries are received from trappers and collectors in
all best sections. The New York warerooms and offices
are at 1 15-127 West Thirtieth Street.

Joseph and David Steiner are invariably consulted
upon every important trade matter; are prominently
identified with all public spirited enterprises aflfecting



178 JOSEPH STEINER— DAVID STEINER

the progress and welfare of the business; and are ever
quick to participate in any movement of moment affect-
ing the status of the industry to which they have un-
reservedly devoted their time and interest — the best at
their command.

The indefinite continuance of the name, than which
none ranks higher in worth in the trade, is assumed by
the action of the house on January i, 191 7, at which
time an interest in the firm was given to Simon J.
Steiner, Julius Steiner, Albert J. Steiner and Sol.
Steiner, all sons of the senior member.





Babib Sterner



SEWING MACHINE

From the beginning of fur manufacturing to a date
well past the middle of the nineteenth century furs were
sewed by hand ; near the latter period some of the work
was done on medium grades of furs with the earliest
devised machines, which were designed for sewing
goods of a very different character. Extremely pro-
ficient hand sewers, men and women, were required to
perform this particular part of the manufacture of fine
furs, and consequently it was not only time consuming,
but costly.

Various attempts were made to perfect a machine
that would do the required work better and more quickly
than it could be done by manual labor, and near the be-
ginning of the last quarter of the nineteenth century a
fair degree of success was attained by two or three
skilled mechanics, but the results effected by the first
fur sewing machine were not wholly satisfactory to
furriers producing high-class goods.

In 1890 the problem was taken up in earnest by an
expert in existing sewing devices, and in 1895 a machine
was produced which met all reasonable expectations;
the machine was accurate, speedy, light running, and
was available for sewing light or heavy skins, the
cheapest or the most costly peltries. A very pronounced
advance in manufacturing immediately followed, new
firms were formed to begin operations as quickly as
sewing machines could be produced; the number of
manufacturers increased each season, and their output
was many times greater than when they depended upon
hand sewing.

179



180 SEWING MACHINE

The fur sewing machine has been instrumental in
incalculably magnifying the manufacturing branch of
the fur industry in America, and the old world as well.

In 1895, after five years of study and experiment,
S. M. Jacoby produced a fur sewing machine which
worked perfectly, sewing equally well furs of every
description, and enabling manufacturers to increase
their output many fold.

The Jacoby machine makes a uniform, firm stitch,
an even and pliant seam, and sews plebeian and the most
aristocratic furs with equal facility and satisfaction.
The Jacoby machine met with instant favor, and for
many months the capacity of the factory was strained
to the utmost to meet the demands of alert furriers in
New York, and later in Canada and Europe.

Sundry and material improvements were made
from time to time, until the inventor deemed he had
attained perfection.

Frederick Osann a little later than the preceding
devised, and subsequently perfected, a fur sewing ma-
chine which is in successful operation in America and
Europe.

It is the opinion of manufacturing furriers that the
fur sewing machine has been definitely instrumental in
imparting a finish not attainable in hand sewing.








AVIATION

There is an increasing demand for fur to meet the
experienced needs of aviators, many of whom, essen-
tially those operating in war zones, ascend to great
heights in the air where the temperature is below freez-
ing. Bird men do not choose the finer furs, but care-
fully select those that are classed as wind-resisting and
cold-excluding; raccoon, goat, wolf and Australian
opossum serve best and are most in use.

181




It may be that there was a time when to assert that
an article of attire was "in fashion" clearly awakened
the impression that it possessed excessive charm in more
respects than one ; but the term "fashion" has ceased to
be thus expressive in consequence of its unrestricted
application to fads and fancies, things of beauty in
measurable degree, and "best sellers" of the moment
quite regardless of importance, significance or intrinsic
value — a priceless robe, a simple sleeve, a brittle button,
a color or a curve are all alike classed as "in fashion."

Formerly an article that was truly fashionable, was
at the same time rather exclusive; in these more demo-
cratic days the particular thing, or style, declared to be
in fashion is adopted by all who can afiford the price
and care to mingle with the many and be lost in the
multitude.

182



FASHION



183



Dame Fashion rules; is
autocratic ; supreme ; dis-
cards one fabric that is per-
fectly good, sets it aside re-
gardless of its beauty or in-
trinsic value, and adopts
something else not a whit
better or more attractive,
effecting the change merely
as an assertion of regal
authority.

The law of supply and
demand has not been re-
pealed, but is in detail defi-
nitely in force and opera-
tion; it is not submissively
recognized, however, in the
realm of fashion, except
when fashion consents, co-
operates and commands, and
even then — so far as furs
are concerned — extreme
favor is accorded to a single
article, or rarely more than
two simultaneously.

Wheat, or even common
potatoes, may at times be in
exceptionally small supply, considerably unequal to the
demand, and in consequence a rise in price occurs, and
the advance in value, or price, thus occasioned extends
to all wheat and potatoes; the same rule is operative
with regard to all other necessaries.




1817



FASHION 185

Of the thirty or more varieties of fur-bearing
animals there may be at one time more than twenty
million skins in the markets of the world, but of these
thirty odd diiferent kinds of fur — differing in color,
texture, fineness and beauty, but all fur — only one
variety is in extreme fashion ; the number of skins may
be twenty or one hundred thousand, but at the utmost
obtainable at the particular time insufficient to meet the
demands of all fashionable consumers, and under such
conditions the price per skin will advance enormously,
and the other classes of skins, including those of equal
or greater natural worth or beauty, will remain station-
ary or even decline in price, with the exception of two
or three articles very similar in appearance or susceptible
of manipulation as remarkably good imitations, which
generally advance somewhat in harmony with the lead-
ing fur of fashion. The one fur in strong fashionable
favor one season, and which in consequence has sud-
denly advanced one, or more than two hundred per cent,
in price, may be quite neglected a year or two later, and
on that account decline in value more than it had ad-
vanced in obedience to fashion's decree.

Fashion in fur changes frequently; the range in
differentiation includes jackets, capes, full depth gar-
ments, stoles, scarfs, neckwear of various names, muffs
and trimmings varied in design, fit and combinations,
which come and go in alternation; these are only the
forms, the real fashion changes are more noticeable in
the class or color of the fur ; mink enjoyed a long reign,
and choice skins were "up" to approximately twenty
dollars, and mink passed out, and though intrinsically
worth "as much as ever," declined to a tenth of the
top notch figure; seal, changed from time to time in



186



FASHION




form and finish, succeeded and was queen for a quarter
of a century, and then near-seal, an excellent imitation,
found favor; next, fox had a rather long day, followed
by lynx, natural raccoon, and fitch. Latterly fur, just
fur, has been so universally popular from the frozen
north to the balmy south, that the coats of all fur-bearers
are used — but natural black and silver fox, Russian
sable and ermine command sufficiently high prices to
meet with measurable satisfaction among the exclusive
four hundred.

Fashion, not supply and demand, rules. In 1848 a
total of 225,000 muskrat skins was sold at public
auction in London at an average price of two pence per
skin; sixty-two years later 4,000,000 muskrat skins
were sold at an average of fourteen pence per skin. All
fur skins show a similar record; for some furs the
fluctuation is not expressed in pence, but in hundreds of
pounds.

For many centuries the world, sycophants pre-
dominating, kings and queens idly set the fashions;
these royal personages, supported by the state, were in



FASHION



187



a class by themselves, but of late the class has become
so small that fashion experts have to roam afield in
quest of other models and manikins.

American designers may cheerfully turn from the
whims of kings, and find in the sensible and serviceable
a profitable field for the exercise of their skill in devising
apparel worth while for the world, because good enough
for America.





MISS BLACK MUSKRAT



LADY HUDSON SEAL



Both garments are made of muskrat fur ; the first
is in the natural state, except that it has been cleansed,
or "dressed"; the second has been dressed, machined



Online LibraryAlbert Lord BeldenThe fur trade of America and some of the men who made and maintain it, together with furs and fur bearers of other continents and countries and islands of the sea → online text (page 10 of 34)