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

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it an easy matter to obtain three million skins annually
— and many more whenever wanted.

The muskrat is amphibious, gregarious, and very
prolific, and doubtless would long since have over-run
the continent, except that the death rate is very high as
the result of adverse conditions — the number of common
animals that prey upon it, the severe and fatal cold
experienced in some sections and years, the limited food
supply in all districts, and last of all hungry and savage
man who came upon the scene and took all he could get,
plus a few.

The muskrat, better known in Canada by its Indian
name, musquash, to some residents of country districts
as "mushrat," and in the trade simply as rat, varies from
six to fifteen inches in length, those abounding in the



south being smaller and more poorly furred than speci-
mens having their habitat continuously farther north;
the color differs regardless of section of origin, even in
the same marsh, and is generally a dull or reddish-
brown, the back and sides being appreciably darker than
the under portion of the body ; some specimens are very
dark, almost black on the back and sides, and are
separately classed as "black" and rated higher in value
than the brown rats, which they surpass in density of
fur and luster of hair, qualities rendering them more
available for manufacture in the natural state than skins
showing practically every shade of brown; the fur of
the muskrat caught in the south is a light brown, rather
coarse and thin, and low in price. Muskrat fur is more
durable than certain peltries of higher cost, and in point
of utility outranks all, as it may be and is used in the
manufacture of every article of apparel for which fur
may be appropriately employed, and is effective in all
conditions — natural, plucked, blended and dyed ; sheared
it makes a good imitation of mole skin; and when effi-
ciently dyed and unhaired resembles seal so perfectly in
texture and appearance that only an expert can surely
determine at sight "which is which."

Muskrat fur is extremely popular abroad, even
more decidedly than in the land of its birth, owing to its
many good qualities, exceptional utility, and the fact
that the price makes it available to a host of consumers
of moderate means. Skins are graded and valued ac-
cording to the geographical sections of origin, color,
size, condition of fur, and season of capture.

Seasonal qualifications as expressed by the terms, fall,
winter and spring, are of leading importance, though all


Other circumstances are carefully considered in grading;

spring caught skins, color and size duly appraised, are
rated as best, in which respect they differ from the pelts
of land animals which evidence marked deterioration at
that time of the year, and they are classed as best owing
to the fact that during their winter sojourn in the icy
waters of lakes, ponds and marshes the animal develops
a full or dense coat of fur of richest hue.

The muskrat is so named because the creature
exudes an odor resembling musk ; to those who like musk
it is agreeable, but to others is mildly offensive ; the fur
is perfectly deodorized in the processes through which
the skin passes preparatory to manufacture.

The muskrat is the most prolific of all North
American fur-bearers; during the century,. 1801-1900,
a grand total of 139,078,109 skins was offered at the
public sales in London.

In 1848 a total of 225,000 American muskrat skins
were sold at public sale in London at an average of two
pence per skin; sixty-two years later 4,000,000 skins
were similarly sold, bringing an average of fourteen
pence per skin — fashion determined the values in each

0. (iobfrep Pecker

A general business in raw furs was conducted by
Wolf, Becker & Company, at Chicago, for a number of
years down to November, 1887, at which time the above
named firm was succeeded by Bach, Becker & Company,
the several members being: S. Max Becker, A. E. Becker
and Emanuel Bach. Some years later A. E. Becker
withdrew from the firm.

For the convenience of the trade at large a branch,
with a commodious warehouse, was opened in New York
City in 1894 under the efficient management of O. God-
frey Becker, a man of unusual executive ability, tireless
industry, and marked probity in commercial matters,
and a painstaking merchant whose influence in elevating
the status of the trade has been pronounced and effec-
tive. The firm of Bach, Becker & Company dissolved
by mutual consent on December 31, 1904, and at that
time S. Max Becker and O. Godfrey Becker purchased
the interest of Mr. Bach and organized the firm of
Becker Brothers & Company, as successors to the pre-
ceding concern, both at Chicago and New York; the
members of the present firm are S. Max Becker, O. God-
frey Becker, M. W. Becker and E. S. Waldbott.

O. Godfrey Becker has been absorbingly concerned
in the continuously expanding commercial and mercan-
tile interests of the house, guides and guards its major
and minor affairs with exceptional zeal, and is unwearied
in wisely directed efforts to insure the high standing of
the name in the business community; under his careful
and considerate management the transactions of the
firm have increased many fold in the past decade, and


®. (Sobfrep ^Becfeer


the concern now ranks among the largest, most im-
portant and best known in the branch, not only in Amer-
ica, but Europe as well. Raw furs, embracing all classes
of peltries from the finest natural black foxes to lower
cost articles, are received daily throughout the collecting
season from every nook and corner of America in
steadily increasing quantity as the consequence of the
correct and approved methods adhered to in dealing
with shippers — great and small, known and unknown,
being treated with equal fairness at all times.

Manufacturers and merchants purchasing goods
from the house have experienced satisfaction in every
instance, as they have found that no furs are ever
offered or delivered to them other than strictly "as are"
— a record of present value and enduring worth to any
house pursuing such a policy in merchandising.

When the Raw Fur Merchants' Association of the
City of New York, Inc., was organized in 19 14, Mr.
Becker was unanimously elected president of that pro-
gressive and influential body, and his associates continue
to confer upon him the honor of that important office
to the time of this writing.

He has also from the first been actively and help-
fully identified with the Public Auctions of furs con-
ducted in New York as an essential development in the
life of the trade consequent upon the great European

O. Godfrey Becker was born 1867, and entered upon
his business career at the age of twenty ; he has won by
merit the esteem and good wishes of his fellow mer-
chants both at home and abroad, all of whom clearly
recognize his personal merits, and worth as a merchant.

American 0posiinm

Though hunted night and day, and trapped early
and late in every season except summer, the prolific
opossum continues to flourish, and furnishes an annual
collection ranging from two hundred to six hundred
thousand skins — good, otherwise and bad. The opossum
is hunted and trapped for its fur and flesh, the latter
cooked with sweet potatoes being very popular.

The fur is generally a dull greyish-white, and is
particularly beautiful in the natural state, but is fairly
handsome dyed black or brown, and is quite popular,
especially abroad, with consumers of cheap furs. It is
used with satisfactory results, price considered, for
linings, neck pieces, muffs, trimmings and children's

Dyed, it is used as an imitation of other furs of
higher cost.



wam Cat

Though formerly abounding in mountainous and
densely wooded districts throughout the United States,
the wild cat is steadily decreasing in numbers on account
of its incessant pursuit by hunters and trappers, not
merely to secure the pelt but purposely to effect its ex-
termination as a fearsome beast.

The wild cat resembles the Canadian lynx in general
form and color; the body, which is broad across the
back, is about thirty inches in length ; the head is rather
massive, and the limbs and tail are short, the latter not
exceeding five to six inches in length; the ears are
tipped with black. The predominant color of the fur
is a sandy grey varied by dark brown or black spots and
broken lines, one of these dark lines extending down
the spine in many specimens ; on the sides and limbs are
many brown and black blotches which heighten the
beauty of the fur when made up natural in sundry small
articles of apparel. The long dense fur and fine long
over-hair of the wild cat is most popular when dyed a
handsome brown or lustrous black ; in the latter state it
is an excellent imitation of more costly lynx. The fur



of the wild cat is also colored by what is known as the
Chinese smoking process, resulting in a rich, dark and
uniform shade of brown ; as thus prepared it is at times
popular in Europe as a serviceable lining for men's coats,
less extensively for ladies' wear, and for making small
robes and rugs.

Cibct Cat

In recent years under the stress of harum scarum
speculation, extravagance and unexampled emulation,
everything in fur, or that looked like fur, has been mar-
keted, manipulated and manufactured to please the wise,
charm the improvident and appease the faddist; the
latter demanded and eagerly accepted not something
good or merely new, but the extreme, the limit, some-
thing sufficiently loud to catch the instant attention of
the deaf to whom the rumbling thunder passes as silently
as a distant whisper. To meet the startling demand
sundry skins, formerly disregarded or long neglected,
including civet cat, were introduced, exciting our wonder
like summer clouds which vanish in the hour of their
appearing; the most bizarre of all, civet cat, lingered
longest, not as the fur of fashion but as a satisfying fad.

The civet cat is found in western, southwestern and
southern sections, and is related to the skunk, which it
closely resembles in size and habits, but from which it
decidedly differs in intensity of odor, variation in color,
luster of fur and hair, and value. The black fur on the
entire coat of the animal is marked by a large number
of long, medium-length and short stripes, rather broad
and also very narrow lines of white fur (in some speci-



mens yellow instead of white) generally running length-
wise, or from head to tail, and so irregularly and
abundantly distributed as to be strikingly showy, but
never strictly beautiful. A stole or muff of civet cat
fur will surely rivet the attention of even the unobserv-
ing; and a full-depth garment of this dazzling fur, a
lew of which were recently made for daring dames,
constitutes a crowd-ensnaring freak.

Civet cat is excellent as a coat lining, works up
easily and economically, and is satisfactory as regards
durability. {Skin of civet cat shown below.)

^^^!^ /^^f^ ^^sfl^f


The ringtail cat, so-called, should be classed with
the civets; the animal has elongated body eighteen
inches in length, and a tail seventeen inches in length
marked with eight black and seven white rings of fur,
the tip being black interspersed with white hairs. The
ringtail frequents the western coast of North America
from British Columbia to Texas, but is not found east
of the Sierras.

The fur is light greyish brown, quite unattractive
in the natural state, but is much improved by dyeing a
good brilliant black.

Skins taken farthest north are of best grade; a
few are so marked that they may be used in imitation of
chinchilla; the greater number are dyed in imitation of
kolinsky, when the latter is popular, and are made up
into ladies' coats, muffs and neck pieces.


^ouge Cat

Hundreds of thousands of pelts of domestic felines,
all dear to some one, are annually slaughtered for their
fur ; the large number of skins secured and marketed is
consequent upon the fact that the house cat, the only
name used in the trade, is a cosmopolitan animal,
abounds in every peopled part of the world, urban and
suburban, and universally flourishes — it is nevertheless
a profound mystery how so many become commercial
prizes without their devoted owners obtaining an inkling
of their destiny.

The tragedy of the house cat involves Toms and
Tabbies of all colors, black, grey, white, yellow, spotted,
striped and combinations of all known hues ; the natural
blacks command the highest price, twenty to thirty cents,
according to market conditions, and the mixed colors,
worth from a nickel to fifteen cents, are generally dyed
to something approaching uniform shades, and stmdry

House cat fur is used chiefly in Europe and Asia —
leaving some supplies for America; is used in making
cheap coat linings, sets, children's furs, and to some
extent in the production of toys.

It may be true that the house cat, at least the back-
yard vocalist, has "nine lives" ; we are not prepared to
confirm or controvert the assertion, but knowing mer-
chants assure us that it has only one pelt.

Other fur-bearers of value found in the United
States embrace the fox, fisher, otter, marten, bear,
weasel, lynx, wolf and wolverine; these are considered
in later pages.


Babtb Plusitetn

Among the conspicuous successes in the New York
raw fur trade whose first experience in the business was
gained outside of New York City, may be mentioned
David Blustein, who came to the United States from
Moscow, Russia, at the age of seventeen and with his
brother Isadore founded the firm of David Blustein and
Brother, in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1891.

From the beginning the raw fur department of the
business received special attention, although hides and
medicinal roots of various kinds were also dealt in. The
reputation of the new firm for fair dealing, and its readi-
ness at all times to buy any quantity of furs, hides, or
roots, rapidly spread through the territory tributary to
Charleston and even beyond it.

The business continued along these lines for sev-
eral years ; then David Blustein, always alert and search-
ing for ways and means to better handle the raw fur
business, decided that the full development of the enter-
prise demanded a location in the fur-consuming market
of America — New York City. To give the idea a trial,
a temporary store was rented in Mercer Street in the
fall of 1904, which was maintained for the raw fur
season only.

After two years the practicability of the move was
thoroughly demonstrated and in 1906 a large store was
leased in Bleecker Street, with David Blustein in charge.

With the advantage of the New York outlet, the
business grew by leaps and bounds and when the fur


Babib PIu£(tetn


trade began to leave the downtown section David Blu-
stein and Brother removed their business to the new sec-
tion, locating in East Twelfth Street.

Together with the raw fur business considerable
attention was paid to the ginseng trade, and it was not
long before the Blustein store became the Mecca of the
Chinese exporters, who seldom failed to find large lots
of root awaiting their inspection when they called.

When the fur trade again traveled northward,
many fur merchants and manufacturing furriers located
in the section between Twenty-fourth and Thirtieth
Streets, west of Broadway. David Blustein and Brother
were among the first to remove to the new section,
locating in Twenty-seventh Street. Here the business
continued to grow and prosper, the reputation of both
brothers for integrity growing as their trade and
acquaintanceship increased.

David Blustein continues in charge of the New
York division of the business; while the Charleston
store is managed by Isadore Blustein. The firm has
unusually pleasant relations with country dealers and
trappers, large and small, in all parts of the United
States and Canada and maintains unsurpassed connec-
tions in the fur trade abroad. Their trade intercourse
with local merchants and manufacturers is unusually
intimate and friendly, and there is no doubt that the
firm has a great future and will measure up to it as time

iSames of Jf ut peaterst

We purposely omit latin names of animals men-
tioned, as we greatly doubt the propriety of employing
a dead language in the treatment of a live subject.

The names follow in English, French and German,
which we believe will suffice.


Badger Blaireau Dachs

Bear Bar Ours

Beaver Castor Bieber

Cat Chat Katze

Civet Cat Civette Chat Civet Katze

Coney Lapin Kanin

Ermine Hermine Hermelin

Fisher Pecan Virginia litis

Fitch Fitch litis

Fox Renard Fuchs

Fox, Black Renard Sombre Schwarz Fuchs

Fox, Blue Renard bleu Blau Fuchs

Fox, Cross Renard traverse Kreutz Fuchs

Fox, Gray Renard grison Grau Fuchs

Fox, Red Renard rouge Rot Fuchs

Fox, Silver Renard argent Silber Fuchs

Fox, White Renard blanche Weiss Fuchs

Hare Lievre Hase

Lynx Lynx Luchs

Marmot Marmotte Murmel

Marten Martre Marder

Mink Vison Norz

Mole Taupe Maulwurf

Muskrat Rat Musque Bisam

Opossum Opossum Opossum

Otter Loutre Otter

Rabbit Lapin Kaninchen

Raccoon Marmotte Schuppen

Sable Zibeline Zobel

Seal Phoque Seehund

Squirrel Ecureuil Eichhorn

Skunk Skunk Skunk

Weasel Belette Wiesel

Wild Cat Chat sauvage Wild Katze

Wolf Loup Wolf

Wolverine Goulu Vielf rass

French for squirrel fur is Feh. German for raccoon, the animal,
is Wasch Bar.



The history of the American bison, regarded from
the viewpoint of the hide of the animal as a commercial
commodity, is a shameful record of willful waste very
definitely followed by woeful want; during the height
of the trade more than two hundred thousand bison were
killed each season in Texas alone, and that total was
duplicated on other hunting grounds, merely for the
hides, the bodies being left on the plains to slowly decay,
or be in part devoured by ravenous animals.

If the vast herds of bison on the wide western and
southwestern plains had been properly protected by the
government, half a million might have been taken year
after year, indefinitely, both for their hides and a supply
of meat approximating beef in excellence — and just now
the meat would supply a "long felt want," many yearn-
ing appetites, and be a material help in reducing the high
cost of living to those who are living high, and the
greater number existing in hope.

A member of the American board in the Bering Sea
Arbitration Tribunal at Paris, on being reminded that
the United States was very eager to preserve the fur
seals in which a monopoly was concerned, but was in-
different when the bison was being exterminated in a



free to all onslaught, stated that the American bison
had been slaughtered in "the interests of civilization."
If any one has noticed any improvement in civilization
since the last bison was killed thirty years ago, the fact
has not been disclosed. If the diplomat had said that
the bison were recklessly exterminated for the "land's
sake" — in the interest of few — that the greedy might
find "a place in the sun," his meaning would have been
perfectly clear. "Buffalo" was the only trade name.

In the seventies of the past century about one hun-
dred and fifty thousand buffalo robes were shipped east
in a single season from Fort Griffin, Texas, and upwards
of fifty thousand from Fort Concho, or San Angelo on
the opposite side of the river; other vast supplies were
gathered in Montana, Idaho, and the Territories ; about
two thousand himters operated on the plains of Texas.

The large buyers were J. & A. Boskowitz, Chicago
and New York ; Samuel Shethar & Company, New York ;
Hart, Taylor & Company, Boston. Indian caught and
handled hides came from Fort Benton, and posts in
Indian Territory, through J. G. Baker & Company, T. C.
Power & Company, and other Indian traders. The
buffalo robes were, with few exceptions, handled by fur
merchants, and were converted into sleigh robes and
men's coats by fur manufacturers.

The excessive slaughter resulted in a steadily de-
creasing collection; in 1878 the number of robes mar-
keted comprised 25,000 from Texas, 15,000 southwest,
50,000 northwest, and about 10,000 from scattering
points; a year later the total fell to 55,000. From the
latter date the decline was rapid, and by 1886 none re-
mained. Many of the Indian tanned hides were


illuminated on the leather side with outline sketches in
strong colors, especially bright reds, yellows and greens.
The sketches were pictorial writings descriptive of
the chase, battles, and interesting events in the lives
of the red men. The illustration shown elsewhere de-
picts some of the courageous deeds of a mighty warrior.


White beavers, muskrats, raccoons, and abino
specimens of other fur-bearing animals are ocasionally
caught, but records can be found of only three white
American bison, commonly known as buffalo.

The first of these was found in 1867, ^.nd constituted
part of the trappings of a horse ridden by a Cheyenne
chief who was killed in a battle on the Arickaree River.

The second was captured late in 1871 by James
Caspion, a hunter, on the plains of western Kansas.

The third was taken in a hunt in 1881, and the hide
was mounted and set up in the State House Museum at
Topeka, Kansas.


The 191 7 catch of Lobos Island fur seal skins, a
total of 1,873 pelts, was sold at auction in St. Louis on
October 8, 19 17, bringing satisfactory prices.

It was the first time that skins of this class have
been offered in the raw at public sale in the United


Pointing is a term used in the fur trade to con-
veniently designate a comparatively modern method of
ornamenting certain plain black or brown furs, natural
or plucked, by inserting longer white hairs in the fur in
masses or at irregular intervals ; the scattered or rather
closely set white points suggest the title of the operation,
and skins so treated are said to be "pointed." The pur-
pose is three-fold — to relieve the plainness of a solid
dark ground, temporarily introduce a new mode, and
most importantly to produce at moderate cost an effec-
tive immitation of a fur of much greater value, particu-
larly silver fox and sea otter. These white hairs were
formerly sewed in the leather, a slow process ; the point-
ing is now expeditiously performed by blowing open the
fur and firmly attaching the white hair to it with a
small amount of India rubber cement.

Badger, skunk, coney and grey fox hairs are used
in pointing; articles of this character rarely remain in
fashionable favor more than a season or two following
their re-introduction in response to a fair demand, or
to create a "riffle" in business.

Occasionally a few skins have been pointed with
white tips of the small feathers taken from the breast
of the grebe, and the showy plumage of the peacock.
Best pointing is now done with hairs of the animal pelt
to be thus improved.



A new and increasingly strong demand
for furs of a distinctive character followed
in the gaseous trail of the automobile from
the date of its introduction, leading to the
use of various peltries, some real fur and
others seemingly furry ; the articles required
in this special field of service embraced
coats, caps and robes.

These auto furs and skins were at the
outset extremely conspicuous, and in many
instances made the wearers appear akin to
denizens of the Polar circles, but this apparent reversion
to primitive nature becoming as general as the auto soon
ceased to excite more than passing attention, and noth-
ing less than a rainbow-hued coat would attract curious
interest at the present time.

Auto furs and skins include natural raccoon, not
selected and matched skins, but just raccoon ; a coat of
this fur apparently added seventy-five pounds to the
weight of the average sized automobilist. Australian
opossum, another bulky fur ; China goat, diversely grey,
and dyed black ; the skin of the leopard, an African and
Asiatic animal which cannot change its spots because
they are so numerous; civet cat, bear, hair seal, cattle
hides, muskrat, and sundry better furs. This demand
for auto furs materially benefited the trade; wearers

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 12 of 34)