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 23 of 34)
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Hats of sundry shapes are made of fur, particularly
beaver, otter, muskrat, lamb and rabbit skins, for com-
mon wear. Trousers, vests, undergarments, and every
other article of masculine and feminine attire are made
exclusively or in part of fur.

An imperial edict, dated November 7, 19 16, em-
powered the Russian Minister of Agriculture to create
on crown lands reserve areas for the preservation and
breeding of various fur-bearing animals, and particu-
larly sables in Siberia.


Lapland, under Russian rule, is a good fur produc-
ing country, marten, beaver, fox, wolf and the hare be-
ing fairly abundant; other animals of local and trade
interest are the elk, goat and reindeer. Laplanders wear
fur clothing almost exclusively ; all collections of peltries
in excess of home needs are sent to Russia.

Reindeer skins are perfectly dressed by the Laps,
and are made up by them into linings, called pijiki in
Russia ; other articles of reindeer skin include long coats,
trousers, and capes with attached hoods for covering
the head.

Reindeer skins are also very finely dressed in Rus-
sia for coat linings.


Pardine Lynx shows very little change in colora-
tion as the seasons alternate ; the fur, which is quite soft,
is reddish brown on the upper portions of the body and a
pleasing white beneath; the black markings, many of
which are circular spots, are distributed over all parts of
the body, including the short tail.

It is smaller than the Canadian lynx, measuring
twenty-four to thirty inches in length ; the limbs are com-
paratively long, consequently the animal stands rather

The Pardine Lynx is found in Europe, various
wooded sections of Spain, Portugal, and in parts of

The fur may be used natural or dyed in making sets,
linings and robes.

Stone marten, corresponding in size to the Canadian
marten, is found in Spain, Germany, and other parts
of Europe. It is a handsome mottled brown and white
fur, and is used in making stoles and sets.



Fur-bearers of comparatively moderate individual
value continue to abound to some extent in Germany,
the number including the polecat, badger, marten, mar-
mot, hamster, and hare; the supply does not even ap-
proximate the demands of the country, and consequently
large quantities of furs are imported from other parts of
Europe and North America, as furs of all kinds, from
the finest to the cheapest, are worn throughout the em-

A number of species of fur-bearers formerly abund-
ant have either ceased to exist, owing to the general cul-
tivation of the soil, or have sought safe retreats in the
wilder mountainous districts. The wild cat continues to
exist in various parts of Europe, but in comparatively
small numbers ; some years ago heavy floods in Germany
caused many wild cats to vacate wooded retreats where
their presence was not suspected until thus strangely re-
vealed. Leipzig is the chief market of supply for a large
number of European furriers and fur merchants, and
for years past has been an important distributing center
for American, European and Asiatic furs sent thither
to be sold to visiting dealers from all parts of the world.

The business at Leipizg is conducted by a number
of fur merchants, upwards of one hundred, some of
whom make a specialty of one article, or deal exclusive-
ly in particular classes of goods, and others conduct a
commission business only, buying for or selling to for-
eign houses.

Leipzig fur merchants have for many years been
large buyers at the regular London sales and Russian



fairs, and more recently direct purchasers of raw furs
in the United States. This great business was brought
to a standstill by the war beginning in 19 14, imports and
exports ceasing, and many of those engaged in the bus-
iness being called to the colors — some never to return;
to what extent the trade will be resumed after the war
is a question for future decision, but it may be unhesi-
tatingly asserted that it will be many years in attaining
the former high standard in volume. Public fur sales,
differing little from those held in London, were in-
augurated at Leipzig in 1875, and were held twice annu-
ally, in January and September, for a period of four
years, but as they proved detrimental in the main to the
regular fur business they were discontinued.

Fur dressing and dyeing are important branches of
the Leipzig trade, those engaged in both operations be-
ing exceptionally efficient; the dressers have handled
more than four million squirrel, three million lamb, about
three million muskrat, and thousands of beaver, opos-
sum, raccoon and various other skins in a year. Many
of the best fur dyes originated in Leipzig. Raccoon
was first dyed black there in 1873; a large number of
remarkable imitations have been produced by the more
efficient Leipzig fur dyers, whose trade extended to
every fur consuming country.


The polecat abounds in all parts of Europe ; the an-
imal is of moderate size, about as large as the mink, and
is a near relative of the American skunk, rivalling it in
point of offensive odor, and on that account is given
several suggestive, if not pleasing titles, such as foul-


marten, foul-cat, and a few more of similar import;
these names are applied only to the animal, and are not
used in the trade, the fur being sold exclusively under
the name of fitch. The longer hairs, which are most
abundant on the back, are dark glossy brown or black,
and the under fur is pale yellow, brightening toward the
roots ; some specimens are very pale yellow approaching

A large number of skins are regularly sold at the
Leipzig Easter Fair, and the article is generally popular
in Germany for the manufacture of linings, muffs and
collars. The fur had a fashionable "run" in the United
States in 19 13- 14 for the first time in a number of years.


Several species of marmot are found in various
parts of the world; the species known as the "common
marmot," which is the one most largely used in the fur
trade, is quite abundant in the mountainous districts of
Northern Europe; its fur is greyish-yellow upon the
back and flanks, and dark grey, or brownish, on other
portions of the body ; it is a cheap article, and is used in
making sets and coat linings. The marmot is a burrow-



ing animal and late in September retires to its under-
ground den where it remains during the winter.

The hamster, a burrowing animal, abounds in the
Hartz Mountains and all sandy districts from Northern
Germany to Siberia, the little creature has a body about
twelve inches in length, but many smaller pelts are mar-
keted, as large numbers of half-grown animals are killed
by the hunters. The fur shows many colors irregularly
distributed; it is reddish-grey on the back, black on the
flanks and lower parts of the body, white and yellow on
the sides, shoulders and parts of the head, and white at
the throat. Specimens differ considerably, in some one
and in others a different dark effect being strikingly
noticeable ; a few skins are entirely black. In some sec-t
tions of Germany the hamster is exceedingly abundant
and troublesome because of its habit of carrying large
quantities of ripened grain to its burrows for consump-
tion during the winter. At the close of the harvesting
season farmers systematically dig open the dry sandy
burrows, kill the hamsters and recover the grain; as



much as sixty pounds of corn have been found in a single
burrow, and as more than fifty thousand burrows have
been opened in one district alone it will be readily per-
ceived that many tons of grain are recovered. Each
hamster has a separate burrow, from three to seven
feet in depth, which is ingeniously constructed and di-
vided into a number of compartments connected by
small passages; there are two entrances, one inclined
and the other perpendicular.

The fur of the hamster is chiefly used for coat lin-
ings ; the work of sewing the separate skins into lining-
plates is done by country women in their homes, each
plate consisting of from sixty to seventy-five skins.


Large collections of hare skins are secured each sea-
son in Germany, Russia, Siberia, and many parts of Eu-
rope ; full grown specimens are about twenty-four inches
in length, and are greyish-brown mixed with yellow on
the upper portions of the body, yellowish-white on the
neck, and white on the abdomen; snow-white hares
abound in Russia, Siberia, and Arctic regions. The fur
of the several species is long, soft and glossy, and is ex-
tensively used at home and abroad in making capes of
the coachman pattern, sets, broad and narrow collars,
and as a trimming for embellishing cloaks and costumes ;



many skins are dyed black or brown and used as rather
good appearing imitations of higher cost furs ; some are
dyed silvery in imitation of silver fox ; others are so dyed
that scattered small patches of white fur remain un-
touched by the black dye, and are known in the trade as
snowflake hares. Brown and white hares formerly
abounded in Scotland, but have greatly decreased in

Germany produces a large supply of coney skins,
used at home in making sets and linings, and exported to
various countries for other uses.

After the war German fur merchants will doubt-
less devote increased attention to raising conies of best
sorts to displace French skins, and meet an enlarged do-
mestic demand for furs of low cost.


Go where you may, not only in Germany, but to
every spot of earth to which thoughtless man has passed
on before, you will find the domestic cat, find it in all cat
sizes and conditions, possible feline and fearsome colors,
moods and attitudes. In the minds of the multitude
there is a profound conviction that the domestic cat ful-
fills no grander or more gruesome destiny than that of
making night hideous throughout the long-drawn vicis-
situdes of its nine prorogued periods of existence ; there
is a contrary opinion expressed by a rather large minor-
ity who have found the furry coats of defunct toms and
tabbies profitable and comfortable, though the latter
class of beneficiaries have generally not surely known
the real character of the article, as the finely dressed and
dyed fur of cats and kittens is sold under the attractive


title of genet, or other fair sounding names, to which
even the most hopeful or visionary feline never dreamed
of falling heir.

Skins are dyed in quantity at Leipzig for barter at
the fairs, and to meet the regular demand. Russian
dyers are extremely proficient in coloring cat fur either
a plain shade or in imitation of other furs, and are said
to be able to effectively deceive even the Chinese, who
are supposed to know cats — if anything.

Feline fur is used in Europe for coat linings, collars
and trimmings; and in Russia for lining boots and

Some of the inferior white skins are dyed in imita-
tion of squirrel and other lining furs, but as they are al-
ways low in price, and generally unattractive in appear-
ance the deception is not harmful.


Fur-bearers found in France include the fox, mar-
ten, polecat, wolf, bear, coney, and an occasional lynx;
the number of species is small, and the individual skins
are all of moderate value.

The European lynx, the largest and most beautiful
member of the lynx family, is now nearly extinct, being
found only in the Pyrenees Mountains, and in very small
numbers in one or two other places; the long, lustrous
fur is an exquisite chestnut brown diversified with black.

Wolves continue to infest the forests of France in
sufficient number to effect considerable damage to prop-
erty and the destruction of domestic animals; bounties
are paid by the government for the scalps of all wolves


destroyed, and the amount thus expended indicates the
early extinction of the wolf in all parts of the country.
Prior to 1880 professional wolf hunters, known as
Louvetiers, were employed by the government to kill
the wolves abounding in the woodlands and open coun-
try. The institution of the Louvetiers, which is of an-
cient origin, has been abolished and re-established sev-
eral times; through the favor of Napoleon I it was re-
vived after a suspension of unusual duration, and con-
tinued to flourish until abolished by Louis Philippe. It
obtained a new lease of life under patronage of Napoleon
III, but finally passed out of existence at the close of the
second empire.

Paris is the center of the French fur trade ; the bus-
iness at the capitol is conducted by able merchants and
alert furriers having commercial relations with all parts



of the world where high class furs are used. For many
years Paris was also the leading fashion center of the
universe, but is less important in this regard than for-
merly as many of the Parisian styles are too extreme for
general adoption ; it still quite distinctly leads in the in-
troduction of particular kinds of furs, as any article in
strong fashionable favor at Paris is certain to become
very popular for a time in other great cities.


About eight million conies, or rabbits, are annually
killed in France for their flesh and fur. The French
conies, bred in captivity, are unusually large and well
furred, and on account of more than ordinary care in
breeding and handling are of superior quality ; the nat-
ural colors are black, brown, white, bluish grey, mottled
black and white, and sundry mixed hues.

Nearly all persons living in country districts whose
homes include small back yards or larger plots of ground,
breed rabbits, usually only a few, keeping them in boxes,
barrels and coops, from which they are rarely liberated
even briefly ; the animals are well fed on clover, oats and
vegetables, and when ready to kill weight from seven t<
fifteen pounds each ; the flesh, which is of fine flavor, is
generally worth about ten cents per pound, and the skins
from five to twenty cents, according to size. The skins
are bought up by men who travel through the country
collecting old rags, junk and bones; when these collec-
tions are brought together the skins are assorted accord-
ing to size and color, the large, perfect and fully furred
skins being best adapted to the requirements of furriers,
and the lower sorts for hatting purposes.


French coney dyers are remarkably proficient, and
enjoy the reputation of producing many excellent fancy
colors, and an unequaled black, deep and lustrous, on
coney; the skins all bear the special brands of the indi-
vidual dyers, which are universally known. The dyers
are located at Paris and Lyons; one dyer at the latter
city has a world-wide reputation for producing a supe-
rior rich and brilliant black on native rabbits and par-
ticularly on white Russian hares.

Thousands of skins are dyed brown; the "black
coney" and "brown coney" pelts are skins in the natural
state, that is unplucked, dyed either black or brown, and
while of very considerable utility, rank in beauty and
value below skins upon which more labor is expended,
and known as seal-conies.

The choicest coney skins, best in fur and leather,
are plucked and unhaired by machine as carefully and
thoroughly as the finest fur seal, and are dyed seal-color,
practically black, and are used in the manufacture of
garments in prevailing styles, and are sold as electric
seal, and under other names associated with the word
seal, which fur they so closely simulate that only ex-
perts can distinguish the one from the other; it is in-
deed a perfect imitation, and is readily sold at a better
profit producing price than is obtainable for many fine

Silver rabbits are raised by nearly all small French
farmers ; these rather handsome little animals have also
been bred for many years by the Trappists order found-
ed in 1 69 1 near Mortagne, Department of Orne, close
attention being given to selection of stock to maintain
purity of color ; when born the rabbits are jet black and


do not change to silvery until they are about three
months old. Silver rabbits skins are dressed to be used
natural in making muffs, collars and fine trimmings.
Conies also abound in Spain, and the name of the coun-
try is due to that fact, being derived from the Phoeni-
cian, Spaniga, which means, abounding in rabbits. **Bel-
gian coney" consists mainly of fancy varieties, and is
so named on account of being dressed, dyed and other
wise prepared in Belgium ; the dyers of that country for
years supplied the markets with black, brown, sheared,
half -sheared coney, and various imitations of finer and
more costly furs ; the more remarkable imitations in Bel-
gian dyed coney include tiger, leopard and zebra effects.
Alas ! poor Belgium. Lissa, or white Polish conies, are
extensively collected, bartered, bought, sold, dressed
and dyed and finished at Lissa, a town of Prussian Po-
land, near the border of Silesia. There are two assort-
ments, German and Polish, each of which embraces a
number of grades ; the German are the larger and better
skins; in assorting the German division of the Lissa
conies the largest and best furred skins are made up in
packages of fifty skins each, tied with a single cord, and
marked "Russian conies." The next selection, accord-
ing to size and quality, is also put up in packages of half



a hundred skins, bound together with two strings, and
therefore called Doppelschreinge, "double-stringed."

Smaller and poorer skins are either bundled or
sewed into lining-plates. Raw skins of the second prin-
cipal assortment, or Polish skins, are put up in bundles
of sixty skins, called "shocks." Dressed skins with light
leather and little fur are arranged in parcels of ten
skins; good white furred pelts, about thirty, are sewed
together in lining-plates, each plate being of the proper
size for lining a coat. Coney sewers at Lissa make up
the plates in sizes for coat linings of different lengths,
linings for high-top boots, and for many small articles ;
some of the linings are composed of hundreds of small
pieces to avoid even a minimum waste of material.
Much of the coney sewing is done by small children, five
or six years of age, who earn about one dollar a week.

Natural linings are assorted according to color,
thereby making three classes, pure white, a lower grade
of white and yellow ; the linings are also dyed black, and
to imitate squirrel and ermine.


Furs are fairly popular in Italy, but are not in com-
mon use, being regarded as luxuries rather than neces-
saries ; low priced furs, however, are worn by many, and
are doubtless admired by all. Fur-trimmed garments
are popular, and measurably satisfy the natural desire
for at least a little fur as an effective finish.

High grade furs are used to some extent, but the
chief demand is for medium and lower cost skins ; owing
to widespread love of the conspicuous, cheap furs in high
colors, bright reds and blues, are at times in good

Three articles of interest to the fur trade — cats,
lambs and geese — are reared in Holland considerably in
excess of domestic needs.

As a fur-bearer the Dutch cat is a pronounced suc-
cess; it is wonderfully prolific, attains an extreme size,
and owing to an abundant fish diet develops a coat of
fur superior to that of any other "house cat" on earth;
the soft, dense fur is a handsome brownish-grey with
black markings, and one skin is so like another in color
and quality that the supply is available for manufacture
in the natural.

The mole flourishes in Holland, and we may as-
sume that it will not be delved from the soil in numbers,
endangering the extinction of the animal while the skins
remain high in price. Mole hunters are active, however,
and for some time past have sent good supplies of skins
to market.

Holland annually produces about one million lamb
skins of medium quality, which are used in the produc-
tion of clothing.

Flourishing goose farms supply the trade with
many fine geese skins, from which, when properly
plucked, we obtain the well-known fluffy, beautiful and
delicate white "swan's down" of commerce.


Asia, the largest of the continents, is of the highest
importance to the fur trade of the world in every respect
except the manufacture of high-class furs; fur-bearing
and near-fur-bearing animals abound in immense num-
bers and variety of species; collections of peltries are
counted by bales rather than single skins; the manu-
facture of cheap classes of skins by crude methods is
almost universally conducted ; and all the people, except
in very limited southern districts, are fur-clad.

The fur-bearers include the sable and black fox of
greatest value, otter, ermine, wolf, lynx, marmot, mar-
ten, wild cat, wolverine, beaver, bear, hare and foxes of
all colors; and near-fur, tigers, leopards, Persian and
Astrachan lambs, some quite black and others white,
brown and mixed, Mongolian lamb, moufflon and hun-
dreds of goats and kids, all of which are utilized by

Thibet goat skins, secured in large numbers, are
sent to market in the natural state, and as coats, robes
and crosses ; all goat and kid skins are shipped to selling
markets in these four forms.

Caracul — variously written carakule, karakul and
caracool — Persian, astrachan and broadtail (unborn
Persian lambs) are the finer grades of lamb skins, and
are used in different ways, the white and grey, natural ;
and all, as required, dyed black ; the caracul and Persian,
also called Persianer, are close curl, the astrachan open
curl, and the broadtail wavy, or showing the handsome
weave effects noticeable in moire silk.

Moufflon, found in some parts of Europe as well as



Asia, has long, soft hair and woolly undergrowth,
naturally dull white or brown ; it may be dyed any color

Caracal, a small lynx, is a handsome fur of a uni-
form reddish brown, paler brown on the abdomen, and
showing many small dark brown or nearly black spots ;
the ears are black, to which fact it is indebted for its
Turkish name, caracal, meaning black eared.

Angora goats abound in Asia Minor, the number
being estimated at three million; the fleece is long, soft
and silky, and dresses a clear white. Angora is used in
the fur trade in the manufacture of children's sets, baby
carriage robes and for making fine small rugs.

Kolinsky, indigenous to Asia, is a small and rather
handsome fur-bearer, about fourteen inches in length,
and in general form resembling the American mink or
European marten, and is known abroad as the Siberian
sable, and also as the Fartar sable and Siberian marten ;
the fur, however, is unlike that of either the sable or
marten, being shorter, harsher and lighter in tint than
that of the sables, the general color being a bright golden,
handsome shade of yellow, or brownish yellow, quite
uniform in tone on all parts of the body.

Some of the best skins are found in the govern-
ment district of Kola, Russia, and large numbers are
obtained in China.


ASIA 425

Kolinsky is made up natural or dyed mink color or
much darker shades of brown; it serves excellently for
the production of ladies' coats, capes, stoles, linings of
coats, ladies' hats, muffs, borders and trimming.

Skins are offered in the market with or without
tails; the tail is covered with fur and moderately long
reddish stiff hairs ; split tails make a handsome border or
finishing edge for capes, coats and stoles. The long
hairs in the tail are used in making artist's water color
pencils and other brushes.

Tails may be purchased separately by the timber,
forty tails, generally for one dollar, sometimes more, per


The perwitsky is one of the smallest fur-bearers
utilized by furriers ; the body approximates eight inches
in length, the bushy tail about five inches; looked at
"straight in the face" it resembles a very small domestic
kitten, but in coloring is in a class by itself. On the
back and one-half way down the sides the fur, which is
unusually short and in moderate quantity, is a pale
yellow, profusely marked with blotches, spots and lines
of chestnut brown hairs; these brown markings vary
considerably in size, from a few hairs to moderate sized
patches. The under one-half of the entire length of the
body is uniformly covered with fur and hair in a rich


mahogany brown; the tail is of the same dark brown

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 23 of 34)