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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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 15 of 34)
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to protect the head ; blue backs, are young hooded seals,
and bedlamers are males under one year old, at which
age the harp-shaped mark appears ; the other names re-
late either to the appearance or habits of the animals,
noticeably leopard, crested and jumping seal; all differ
from the fur seal, importantly in consequence of the fact
that their coats consist wholly of hair, and have no par-
ticular interest for furriers except that occasionally
skins are dyed black as an odd trimming. The oil is the
component of greatest value, the skin being chiefly used
in the manufacture of patent leather.

When born, and for a period of about two months,



all hair seals have coats of long woolly hair, which is uni-
formerly white, and on that account are known as white
coats ; the skins of these young seals are at times in mod-
erate demand in the fur trade. Approximately one
million hair seal skins are marketed annually, the largest
single collection being obtained by the experienced seal-
ers of St. Johns, Newfoundland, operating off the coast
of that country and Labrador.

The sealers of St. Johns made their first catch of
hair seals in 1763, at which time they went out in a few-
small sailing vessels, or fishing boats, to effect the cap-
ture of some of the animals observed off the shore of
northeastern Newfoundland and Labrador; the initial
catch was small, and for some years did not exceed from
three to four thousand skins per season ; the number was
gradually increased as the demand for oil and skins de-
veloped, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century
the annual catch exceeded sixty thousand skins; larger
and larger vessels were built, up to forty tons burthen
each, and these were later largely superseded by fast
steamers, twenty-six fine vessels with an aggregate ca-
pacity of ten thousand tons ; some sailing vessels are still
engaged in sealing, but for a long term the steamers
have taken about five-sixths of the yearly collection of

The hair seals are born, about the first of March,
on the ice which lies off the coast in vast fields, many
square miles in extent ; more than a million old seals con-
gregate upon these ice fields late in February, presenting
a wonderful scene of life and incessant activity. The
young seals, which constitute the greater part of the an-
nual catch require from twelve to fifteen days for de-


velopment warranting profitable capture; at the end of
about three weeks they leave the ice, and after they have
entered the water cannot be caught. For many years
in succession the sealers set out early, arriving at the
ice fields simultaneously with the female seals, but as
they indiscriminately killed both old and young, the leg-
islature of Newfoundland regulated the departure of
all fleets, sailing vessels not being allowed to leave St.
Johns until the first and steamers the tenth day of
March. As the vessels arrive at the hunting grounds
the men, who carry heavy clubs, scalping knives and
towing lines, go at once upon the ice and the slaughter
begins ; the hunter first, using his club, strikes the young
seal a stunning blow across the nose, then cuts the skin
open along the abdomen from head to tail, and by a
quick motion detaches the skin and adhering blubber, or
fat, from the flesh, and deftly turning it into a roll
leaves it upon the ice, and passes on to the next killing;
when six or eight seals have been killed the rolled pelts
are attached to the towing line and drawn off to the ves-
sel — if allowed to lie too long a time, the skins and fat
would become frozen fast to the heavy ice.

Young seals, fifteen to twenty days old, weigh about
forty pounds, and have a protective covering of fat
three inches in thickness, between the flesh and the skin ;
this fat is tried into oil at St. Johns as a lubricant of gen-
eral utility and considerable aggregate value — approxi-
mating a million dollars in a successful season; the
skins are pickled and sent to England and France to be
tanned, the finished product being used in Europe in the
manufacture of ladies' shoes, pocketbooks, book bind-
ings and other small articles. The owner of a vessel


pays all charges for outfit and maintenance, and salary
to the captain, whether the expedition meets with suc-
cess or failure; owner and crew share the proceeds of
the catch, the former taking two-thirds, and the balance
being equally divided among the members of the crew.
Sailing on the ice fields off the shores of Newfoundland
and Labrador does not invariably result profitably, is
always attended with danger, and not infrequently with
great suffering and loss of human life; at times the
floating ice moves to and fro in impenetrable masses
making it impossible for the sealers to reach the solid ice
fields until after the young seals have entered the water,
in which circumstance the season proves a total loss;
crews on the main ice are at times similarly prevented
from returning to their vessels, and in consequence suf-
fer severely on account of the extreme cold, and in in-
stances perish ; and in some seasons some of the sailing
vessels and steamers are crushed and lost in the heavy
pack ice. The slaughter of the young hair seals is cruel,
and develops in the sailors a degree of heartlessness
exceeding that experienced even on the field of battle;
the fearful extent to which the killing is carried is shown
by the record — a single vessel has taken into St. Johns a
catch of forty-two thousand young and old seals, and a
total of nearly seven hundred thousand have been
slaughtered by the entire fleet in a single season.

Russian hunters annually capture several thousand
harp seals off the eastern shores of the White Sea, which
are frequented by large herds of seals of this class in
February and March; the seals are pursued in small
boats as they are carried along the coast on the ice floes,
and are captured in the same manner as at Newfound-


land. Sealing fleets are regularly sent to the Arctic Sea
from various ports of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

Skins of the young seals are occasionally used in the
fur trade, and are known, the skins, as wool seal ; they
may be used in making sets and trimmings.


Wild fur-bearing animals are steadily going the
"way of all the earth" to give place to the more rapid
and seemingly limitless increase of the human species;
and as the response to the call, "back to the land," be-
comes more general, as it surely will, our furry friends
will swiftly join the "great majority"; the carnivora
will pass first, the bear, deer and other large animals
will closely follow, and those that can continue to find
life sustaining sustenance in proximity to man will lin-
ger latest, but in ever decreasing numbers to a minimum
devoid of commercial interest.

Wild fur-bearers are already practically extinct in
China except the central and extreme northern districts
where the character of the soil renders its cultivation im-


practicable; in the more populous countries of Europe
comparatively few fur-bearers remain to the present
time; in the new world the same condition is being has-
tened by increasing occupation of the soil, destruction of
forests, drainage of low lands, the wanton slaughter ef-
fected by professional and amateur sportsmen, trappers
and pot hunters, and, all importantly, the almost univer-
sal consumption of furs, the demands regularly exceed-
ing the supply.

This demand will continue so long as it can be met,
and it can only be supplied in the near future, other than
to the satisfaction of an exclusive few, by breeding fur-
bearing animals in captivity; this is now being done in
a small way and with a degree of success warranting the
material extension of the industry.

Millions of dollars have been invested in breeding
foxes, particularly blacks, in Prince Edward Island,
other parts of Canada, Alaska, and some places in the
United States, but to date the industry instead of being
conducted on the basis of the fur value, has been pro-
moted as something very like a "get rich quick" enter-
prise depending upon the sale of the live animals at in-
ordinately high figures to hopeful breeders; this spec-
ulative craze will ultimately, and not remotely, give
place to better reasons for fox breeding, and the ac-
quired experience in raising the animals for stock divi-
dends will be of very great value when the foxes are
bred for fur — the saner purpose. Other breeders in the
United States are raising skunk, mink, opossum, rac-
coon and muskrat for their pelts, and the industry is
destined to expand and become the source of future

$elt TBimtmiom

Members of the various species and families of fur-
bearers vary in size as they grow, owing to differences in
food supply and conditions of environment; the sizes
given in mentioning the several animals refer to full
grown specimens, but as very many never reach that
state the skins received in the markets show extreme
variations in dimensions, the failure of a g^eat number
to attain full development being due to the fact that the
aged and half-grown and the youngsters found their
curious way into the traps, perished in the experience,
and were shipped to town at the market price — all things

We append the dimensions of a number of dressed,
or both dressed and dyed skins, the proportions in which
manufacturers are most interested, and which determine
the number of pieces and cost of his output ; some skins
exceed the dimensions given, others are neither so long
or so broad, but the measurements express a fair aver-

Northern mink, 14x9 inches; Southern, 10x7

Mink, central sections, 15 to 24x5 to 6 inches.

Civet cat, 14x6 inches, open.

Badger^ 25x15 inches.

Marten, 20x4 inches, cased.

Ermine, 12x2 inches, cased.

Raccoon, northern, 27x15 inches; dressed skin is
irregular in width.

Siberian squirrel, 10x5 inches, open.

Nutria, 15 to 21x12 to 15, broadest across the hind



quarters, and comparatively narrow across the shoul-

Cross fox, 35x7 inches, cased; others much smaller.

Fisher, 25x5 inches, cased.

Otter, 35x5 inches, cased; both slightly larger and
smaller get into the traps.
Fitch, 19x25^ inches, cased.

Lynx, 30 to 36x10 inches, open.

Wallaby, about 20x10 inches.

Skunk, skins of the American skunk vary so greatly
in both dimensions, that it is impossible to state anything
like a fair average.

Mink, fox, weasel, marten and similar skins vary
considerably in length, but do not differ materially in

Japanese marten, dressed open, 24 by 6 inches.



liOBdon CoiBBaereial Sale Rooms, HUneing LaiOf


Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & fflonday

AIJ6UST 25th, 26tli, Zlih k 30th, 1$5$,

At ^K*m3W o'clock precisely.







Raccoon •/ -

F(« Red;*:^^

„ Crds/:-'*^-

M Sliver ^-

Otter X-^'^-
„ Sea -/-
Fisher/'^- ^' - 34
Bear ^-/'^^^ -

Wolf ./.^/X















[ink -/-^X 61


Mink -/^.
Musqnash-/;;4 33
Black ^^
JUynx - ^'^468
Cat Ccmnon-, 7}
Fox Grey - - 78


Kitt .^.''


Skunk - m/» 7«
Oppossnin* -^-T 7e

- Page 77



We reproduce in part the front page of the cata-
logue of Messrs. C. M. Lampson & Company's sale of



August 25-30, 1858, which is interesting on account of
the offerings, printed figures; and the average per skin
realized, written figures. The collection of 227,cxx) rac-
coon will cause many to marvel, doubly so when they
learn that 21 1,207 raccoon skins were offered in January
of the same year ; while the number of skins is high, the
average price of three shillings is low. The entire col-
lection, 227,869 raccoon skins, brought £34,024.13.2.

We are indebted to the estate of the late N. F.
Monjo, who was with G. Franchere in 1858, for the
privilege of reproducing the catalogue preserved by him
among carefully kept records of trade interest.

Movxii Jf. ^faeljer

Morris F. Pfaelzer was born in Hemsbach, Baden,
on March 2, 1871, and came to New York, May 10,
1893, a panic year, and consequently not a particularly
favorable time for entering upon a business career in a
strange land; but it has always been true that he who
makes his opportunity succeeds more definitely and
permanently than the one who idly and hopefully awaits
the incoming of the ship which never sails because of
contrary winds. Mr. Pfaelzer shortly after his arrival
in the Metropolis actively engaged in the raw fur
industry, and became intently interested in its various
phases, and on February 10, 1908, he established a busi-
ness of his own under style: M. F. Pfaelzer & Company,
at 3 East Twelfth Street, dealing in raw, dressed and
dyed furs; it was a moderate beginning, in a year of
general business depression, but was backed by ex-
perience, energy and a determination to succeed, rather
than large means; the business did not grow by "leaps
and bounds," but it surely increased "line upon line,"
and the end of the first year showed satisfactory prog-
ress, all conditions considered, and somewhat larger
premises were taken at No. 6 East Twelfth Street.

The business of the succeeding years was marked
by a fairly steady increase, particularly in the raw fur
department, shipments of peltries being received from
practically all parts of the United States and Canada;
the furs thus received were marketed in New York,
other manufacturing centers, and in large part were
exported to Europe.

On February i, 191 3, Mr. Pfaelzer leased his pres-


iHorrisi jf. J^fael^er


ent premises, 115 West Twenty-ninth Street, where he
has achieved continuously increasing success. As the
outcome of close application to details, Mr. Pfaelzer
has acquired a comprehensive knowledge of furs and
fur values; local, national and international methods
prevailing in the trade; has built up a sound and safe
business, and enjoys the confidence and good will of a
large number of fur shippers in all sections of America
and leading fur merchants at home and abroad.

Mr. Pfaelzer, even as the multitude, is in business
to gain the financial rewards due to intelligent enterprise
and patient industry ; but it is quite certain that he does
not regard that result as the utmost worth while, or
altogether as best; none can fail to note that he is in a
remarkable degree public spirited, broad minded, pro-
gressive and more than ordinarily interested in the wel-
fare and commercial standing of the fur trade, not only
in his own city, but in its entirety. In 1914, when condi-
tions in the trade required definite and decisive regula-
tion, Mr. Pfaelzer was the first to take up the matter,
give it serious and studied attention, and do all in his
power to bring about the organization of the Raw Fur
Merchants' Association of New York, which has proved
of extreme value to the sustained life of the raw fur
business of the Empire City.

Mr. Pfaelzer has always been ready and prompt to
participate to the extent of his means and ability in
every movement intelligently designed to advance the
good repute of the trade, and maintain it distinctly at
the front of the foremost rank of mercantile and com-
mercial bodies in America.

jFur iWercfjantg,

to tDf)om iionorable mention isi |U£(tlp actorbeb


Hennessy, Adams & Company, established in han-
dling raw furs and ginseng in 1893 at 147 Spring Street,
New York. The style of the firm was changed to T. W.
Adams & Company, in November, 1895, ^^^ ^^s so con-
tinued to the present time, enjoying from the first a
perfect record for honorable dealing. The firm has re-
lations with large and small shippers throughout Amer-
ica, and leading foreign merchants. The business was
removed to the present location, 89 Mercer Street, Feb-
ruary I, 1890. T. W. Adams retired July i, 1909, and
the business was continued without change of name by
Richard Auerbach, who was conversant with all depart-
ments of the trade. Mr. Auerbach was killed by a
subway train at the Eighteenth Street station on the
evening of June 16, 19 10.

Mr. T. W. Adams at once returned to the business,
and still continues it.


Bayer Brothers established in the raw fur business
in 1890, opening in commodious and very desirable prem-
ises at 285-287 Water Street; and from that date to the
present time their mercantile and commercial transac-
tions have been guided and governed by the highest
principles of honor, and consequently have shown a pro-
nounced and continuous increase, attaining a degree of



importance of which any house might well be proud.
The firm receives raw furs of every description, from
choice silver fox to moderate cost musquash, and from
the far north to southern sections, enabling them to meet
the known and exceptional demands of the domestic
trade and foreign markets. In addition to raw furs the
firm handles alligator skins, and for some years past
have been the largest American dealers in hides of this
class; their supplies are secured direct from first hands
in the South, Mexico and Central America.

Adolph Bayer of the firm died November 20, 19 13.
The business continues without change of name or pol-


Henry Bennet has been actively and prominently
identified with the fur trade on both sides of the Atlan-
tic for nearly forty years, during which time he has ac-
quired a large fund of information regarding the fur
business and the men, past and present, connected with
it. From January, 1 881, to December, 1888, he was with
Edward J. King's Sons, and on the first of the following
year engaged in business on his own account, dealing in
raw and dressed skins, and buying and selling on com-
mission, at 169 Mercer Street; in February, 1902, he re-
moved to 140 Greene Street, where he carried an inter-
esting assortment of American, European, Asiatic and
Turkish skins. One year later he removed the business
to London, where for a number of years he was estab-
lished as a fur merchant with an international trade in
all popular peltries. He next returned to New York and
located at 47 East Twelfth Street, making a specialty of


sundry novelties in skins for which there was an in-
creasing demand among local manufacturers.

In December, 191 1, he was appointed American
agent for Fred'k Huth & Company, London, who had
perfected arrangements for holding public sales of raw
furs, in the English capital, beginning January, 191 2.


E. G. Boughton began what proved to be an unusual
career in the fur business in 1855, and during his exper-
ience was at different times engaged in various branches
of the trade, as a manufacturer, dealer in raw skins, and
a dyer of furs ; he was principally active and best known
in connection with the wholesale handling of raw furs
in which he dealt down to 1889. At one time, not being
financially able to monopolize the entire trade, he made a
heroic effort to corner opossum; he made special offers
for such skins, sought them at all centers of collection,
sharply competed with other dealers, large and small,
and in the course of his speculation ran the price up to
near one dollar and fifty cents, and while his cash held
out took every opossum skin that was offered. It was
not a wise ambition, and he was so advised many times,
and when opossum declined in value the fall was so great
that Mr. Boughton was nearly ruined — in everything
but spirit.

His method of assorting furs was peculiarly his
own; no one before or since ever graded raw skins in
his way; it was said that he would take a lot of skins
and make as many assortments as there were pelts in the
collections ; the statement was slightly exaggerated, but
was sufficiently near to the truth to warrant the remark.


The following is a copy of an actual "bill of re-
turns" to a New York State shipper, and is a fair exhibit
of an assortment made by Mr. Boughton, and prices pre-
vailing at the time :

I Skunk, black, small $i-25

I " nearly black, medium size 1.30

1 " small stripe, fur off on back 60

2 " small stripe, each 85

1 " small stripe 80

2 " small stripe, all over poorish, each 65

I " small stripe, little damage on back 65

3 " wide stripe, mostly white, each 30

I Mink, med. size, very red, poor 35

I " small, very red, poor 30

1 muskrat, small 14

2 Raccoon, large pale, each

3 " large and med. size reddish, each 85

3 " large and med, very red, each 80

I " med. and small pale 70

I " small, reddish 60

I " extra small pale 55

I " ex. ex. small pale 40

The above shipment was received by Mr. Boughton
on February 26, 1886, and remitted for on March 11,

In the height of the fur seal business in New York
Mr. Boughton undertook to dye seal skins, but did not
succeed in obtaining the color in popular request. He
continued in business until 1889.



William M. Clagg, raw fur dealer at LeMars, Iowa,
can readily recall the time when there were no railroads
in that part of the country, and furs were generally used
as a medium of exchange ; the purchasing power of the
pelts was quite small, but the cost of actual necessaries
was low — eggs, for example, round ten cents per dozen.
Indians abounded in the State, and during the winter
months made fairly large catches of furs. Mr. Clagg
with a cash capital of four to five thousand dollars in a
strong leather belt concealed under his garments, was
one of the first experts to visit the Indians and farmers
scattered over the trackless prairies to buy their furs;
the skins, when collected in sufficient quantity, were
baled and shipped to New York.


William Eisenhauer succeeded C. H. Habbert &
Company, in September, 1897, dealing in raw furs and
ginseng at 378-380 West Broadway, New York; he be-
came widely known throughout the country as an able
and exceptionally upright merchant. His forecasts of
the raw fur season were remarkably reliable, and evi-
denced a thorough knowledge of the business. He died
February 21, 1906, aged forty-one.

The business was resumed at 507-509 West Broad-
way, June I, 1906, by the J. S. Lodewick Company, with
capital stock of $100,000, and was thus continued under
the same management and correct principles as former-
ly, Mr. J. S. Lodewick having been intimately and con-
fidentially associated with Mr. Eisenhauer during his
business career. In a published notice, under date of


May 24, 1906, the Estate of William Eisenhauer stated:
"We take pleasure in commending the J. S. Lodewick
Company to the good will of our former shippers, know-
ing as we do that they can safely place in the successors
to William Eisenhauer & Company the same confidence
they had in the old firm."

The continued record of J. S. Lodewick Company
to date has fully justified that confidence in the concern.


William H. Fleet when a young man took an aca-
demic course preparatory to entering Aberdeen College,
Virginia. In 1865 he came to New York and entered
upon his mercantile career as a general broker, and in
that connection handled raw furs in quantity, becoming
thoroughly familiar with all essential features of the
trade; in due course he also made large purchases of
buflFalo hides for J. & A Boskowitz, Eddie, Carter &
Company, and other important houses in New York.

When the American bison, savagely slaughtered
solely for its hide, had about departed to join the red
man in his happy hunting grounds, coat makers became
extremely anxious to find an article equally good and
cheap to take its place ; the credit of discovering it is due
to William H. Fleet, who "saw it first" in an exception-
ally fine dog skin incidentally imported into New York
from China in a tea laden clipper. The first lot of Chi-
nese dog skins brought to New York at the instance of
Mr. Fleet, were not properly dressed in the homeland, or
refinished in America, and though they did not "smell

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 15 of 34)