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 24 of 34)
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as the under portion of the body.

The perwitsky is found in Siberia, is arboreal ; when
upon a branch it is not easily noticed from the ground,
and is not readily observed by enemies above it — its re-
markable coloring is manifestly protective. Annual
catch in some years is fairly large, but is usually small.

Perwitsky fur, introduced in New York some six
years ago as a novelty, is used in making coats, sets and
trimmings ; it is at times popular in Europe as a lining.

This is one of the handsomest of the leopards ; the
fur on the upper parts of the body is grayish, slightly
tinged in part with faint yellow, interspersed with dark
broken to nearly black marks more nearly resembling
those on the jaguar than the leopard; the under fur is a
clear, snowy white. The animal is found in central Asia,
and is secured only in small numbers ; skins come to the
market through the London public sales.

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Native and imported furs of every description, from
the cheapest to the most costly, have been used as cloth-
ing throughout northern China for many centuries,
probably from a period as remote as the creation of man
— if we may accept the records of Chinese writers ; it is
certain that Siberian and Russian collectors of fine pel-
tries have for several hundred years transacted a flour-
ishing trade with China, exchanging sable, fox, squirrel
and other skins for tea, silk, and sundry products.

The East India Company conducted a large fur
business with China from 1600 to 1833, when its exclu-
sive privilege of trading with the country was abolished.
Early Spanish settlers on the Pacific coast near the site
of the city of San Francisco made large shipments of
sea otter, seal and other fur skins to China with very
satisfactory results. The Russian American Fur Com-
pany, operating in Russian America, made large ship-
ments of sea otter, black and blue fox, beaver and other
high grade skins to the empire where they found a ready
and apparently unlimited market.

For some time past Chinese merchants have secured
necessary supplies of furs, raw, dressed and dyed, from
Russian merchants at the fairs, English shippers and
Leipzig dealers ; all markets have been unsettled by the
European war.



Furs are seldom worn in the southern portion of
China, owing to the mildness of the climate, but in
northern districts — it is a big country — heavy fur cloth-
ing is regarded as absolutely necessary, not alone on
account of the severity of the winters, but owing to the
fact that the dwellings, which are made of light and very
combustible materials, are not provided with stoves or
other appliances for obtaining artificial heating.

Millions of fox, hare, rabbit, goat, lamb and cat skins,
and enormous quantities of cheaper sorts of Siberian
squirrel skins, none of which are durable articles, are
annually worked up into coats, crosses and garments of
many names to meet the requirements of the "common
people"; otter, sable, beaver, marten and other choice
peltries are still consumed in quantity by persons of
larger means.

The "heathen Chinee" may be peculiar in many
ways ; he is a shrewd dealer, a careful buyer, and is fully
awake to the "tricks in trade" practiced by his white
brethren, and is ever ready to match them with a few of
his own; he may be deceived into accepting a Russian
dyed rabbit as a rare article worth a yen instead of only
a few cash ; but in turn he can darken a fifty dollar sable
so that it will pass as a two hundred dollar pelt, and not
be "found out."

Moths destroy furs in China as easily as they do in
New York, and to insure their protection against both
moths and thieves at a mere nominal charge, wise China-
men entrust their furs in summer to the care of pawn-
brokers, who realize that they must deliver the goods in
perfect order on demand, or lose their advances.

Graft is not unknown in official life; the govern-


ment is a large purchaser of furs for military purposes,
and some of the purchasing agents, usually mandarins
and high officials, have entire rooms filled with fine furs
paid for by government money.

Fur constituted a considerable part of the loot ob-
tained by the allies sent to China to crush the Boxer up-
rising; members of the royal family, nobles and rich
persons had large stores of fine furs at Peking, most of
which were carried away by invaders of the white race
presumably intent upon protecting missionaries.

A few species of fur-bearing animals continue to
exist in the mountains and forests of China, the only
districts not densely populated by man; these embrace
the fox, weasel, otter, wild cat, civet and tiger.

Domestic animals valued on account of their furry
coats abound ; the cat is exceedingly common, and its fur
is extensively used in making warm clothing for the
poorer people ; goats and sheep are bred to meet a similar
but larger demand, and provide a surplus of about one
hundred thousand skins for export each year, the prin-
cipal foreign markets being Russia and the United

North China tiger skins are very fine in fur, color
and size ; skins received at New York have measured up
to sixteen feet from tip to tip, and when mounted as hall
rugs, head and feet complete, have sold for more than


four hundred dollars each. Chinese hunters almost in-
variably remove and retain as trophies the claws of
tigers caught by them, but occasionally permit the claws
to remain in return for a few more "cash" — a very small
Chinese coin.

Chinese civet is much larger than the American
specimen, ranging in length up to thirty-four inches, ex-
clusive of the furry tail which is eight to ten inches long,
and clearly ringed in black and white. It is generally
similar in marking to the American civet, but the white
portion of the fur is chiefly in spots and cross-section
lines, instead of lengthwise figures. Good coats and
sets are made of the fur.

Many weasel skins are procured in China; full
grown specimens are nearly as large as the American
mink ; the fur is a pale yellow ; it is used as a lining) for
making sets, coat collars and trimmings, and is generally
dyed mink color.

Leopard cats; these are designated as "leopards,"
because the light brown fur is profusely dotted with
small black spots; and "cats" on account of the size, in
which particular they are comparable to the American
domestic cat. These pelts are used in making children's



sets, larger sets to some extent, and for coats and linings.
Ringtails; these are about thirty inches in length,
not counting the tail, and are of slight build, "open"
skins being approximately eight inches wide; the tails
are ten to fourteen inches in length, and are marked
with alternate rings of black and white fur. Fur-bearers
with caudal appendages of this character are almost as
abounding in China as human queues — and doubtless
more practical.

Pahmi — this name was seemingly given to the help-
less fur-bearer as a title pleasing to delicate ears, in the
same polite spirit in which for many years skunk, the
fur only, was presented in the marts of its nativity as
American sable.

In earlier years the pahmi was known in China
and to foreign traders as the "Ningpo Rat/' a compre-
hensive name, as the animal abounds in the Yangste
Valley, the rivers and marshes within a fairly large
radius of Ningpo, Central China.

The pahmi, full grown, is close to sixteen inches in
length, and has a short furry tail five inches long; the
color of the fur is a light brown, with a small, narrow
white mark on the crown, which in some specimens ex-
tends nearly to the shoulder ; fur on the under portion of
the body is white, the white mark, however, is only a
narrow line directly in the center ; the top hair is some-
what silvery, and the ground fur is yellowish in tone.

The annual collection of pahmi skins approximates
two hundred thousand, of which from fifty to one hun-
dred thousand skins have been annually exported to
America in recent years ; the fur has long been popular
in Europe in the manufacture of collars and cufifs in lieu


of otter, which it resembles in appearance and strength
of leather. Pahmi fur is used in China in making
crosses, in which form it is worn, and various small
articles including trimmings. In the United States it
is used natural, or "in hair," principally as an imitation
of otter. Skins are worth "round" fifty cents each in
the raw.

The Chinese are not only hunters, barterers, traders
and wearers of furs, but are also efficient dressers and
dyers of skins of every kind required in their domestic
and export trade; the latter branch of the business is
conducted by English, German and American merchants
located in greatest number at Shanghai, Tientsin and
Hong Kong.


Japan furnishes limited supplies of furs of fine
quality and medium grade; the indigenous animals
valued for their furry coats are the fox, weasel, badger,
marten, bear, hare, wild dog and tailless cat; on the
smaller islands off the mainland supplies of sable, fox,
sea otter, fur seal and land otter skins are obtained.
Japanese hunters, conducting their operations in small
sailing vessels, at times secure very valuable collections
of sea otter, fur seal, sable and fox skins at or near the
Kurile Islands in the North Pacific Ocean, for which
there is always a good demand, in part for the home
trade, but more largely for export.

These small vessels, with their crews, are not infre-
quently lost in violent storms at sea, or dashed to pieces
on some rocky island shore.

Deer are fairly abundant in Japan, and with rare


exceptions are smaller than those found in other coun-
tries; in some parts of the empire they are regarded as
sacred and are carefully protected.


Fur-bearing animals of more than ordinary beauty
and value inhabit all parts of Siberia, and excellent col-
lections of superb peltries are annually secured by
assiduous hunters and trappers, many of whom are
wholly dependent upon their catch. These collections
include sables of finest quality, which are secured in
fairly large numbers each season, and for which there
is an ever ready market at high prices; the black fox,
one of the most beautiful of all fur-bearers, is found in
Siberia; the collection is small, but the skins command
extreme figures, up to three hundred dollars each.
Hares of good size are abundant, and are specially im-
portant to the natives whom they supply with food,
clothing and cash.

Large snow-white hares are plentiful in many sec-
tions; the fur is long and soft, and is used in the trade
in the natural, dyed black, brown and silvery, and as
imitations of finer furs.

The largest, best-furred and most handsome squir-
rels abound in eastern Siberia, and the skins are exported
In large lots.

Scent from the pouch of the civet cat, Asiatic and
African specimens, forms the base of sundry perfumes ;
nearly $150,000 worth of the material was exported to
the United States in 19 16.


Sable skins, of which from three to five thousand
are annually collected by experienced hunters in Kamt-
schatka, constitute the most important product of the
peninsula; the skins are disposed of to local merchants,
mainly foreigners, in exchange for various commodities
transported thither for the purpose.

Sea otter, fox, beaver, seal, bear and land otter
skins are similarly secured and bartered.

The reindeer abounds and is highly prized by the
natives for food and clothing. Since the conquest of
Kamtschatka by Russia in 1706 a regular tribute in furs
has been paid to the Russian authorities at Irkutsk.

The sea bear, so named on account of its size and
appearance, is found in large herds at Kamtschatka and
the Kurile Islands ; it measures from seven to eight feet
in length, and has an abundant undergrowth of rather
soft fur, or wool, reddish-brown to lighter brown in
color; the long hairs are plucked, and the under woolly
coat, designated in the trade as wool-seal, is occasionally
used, natural or dyed, in making novelty trimmings.


Fur-bearing animals, ranging in size from pigmies
to monsters, frequent the hills and vales of Africa, but
as the elevated temperature prevailing throughout the
year in most parts of the continent is not conducive to
the development of a dense and durable under-fur,
only a few native species are provided by nature with
coats suitable for the production of the protective cloth-
ing required in colder countries; in their native land,
however, these more or less furry skins are generally
appreciated and quite extensively used as ornamental
additions to the rather meagre tribal costumes. African
hunters, chieftains and warriors are very proud of their
crudely prepared tiger, leopard and other pelts worn
pendant down the back as manifest tokens of their

The list of African animals utilized in the fur trade
to a greater or less extent, embraces the fox, marmot,
caama, fennec, civet, genet, tiger, leopard, wolf, cat,
hare, bear, gazelle, ounce, rabbit and one species of

The genet, found in South Africa, has a moderately
good coat of fur, generally grey with yellow or clouded
white markings and many dark spots ; the tail is marked
with rings of alternate black and white fur; genet is



used by furriers, chiefly abroad, in making boas, linings
and trimmings.

Civet. This animal abounds in Northern Africa
and is persistently hunted for its fur, and the perfume
it carries in a small glandular pouch. The fur, which is
rather long, is handsomely marked with unevenly dis-
tributed patches of black and white hairs. Small parcels
of civet fur are used in Paris, London and other cities
for trimming garments, and making boas and muffs. A
perfume similar to civet is obtained from the rasse, a
Javanese animal.

Caama. Also called, asse, is a South African ani-
mal of the fox tribe, and the smallest known member of
the family; its downy yellowish-grey fur always com-
mands a ready sale at prices sufficiently remunerative
to induce a small number of hunters and trappers to de-
vote much time to its capture. Owing to the diminutive
size of the animal a considerable number of pelts are
required to line a cloak, and as the demand always ex-
ceeds the supply, a caama lining is a luxury obtainable
only by a few wealthy persons.

Fennec — is the English name of another small ani-
mal, somewhat similar to the caama, inhabiting several
districts of Africa, especially Egypt and Nubia. It is
about twenty inches in length, including a very bushy,




fox-like tail. Marked differences are noted in the color
of the f ennec ; usually the fur is of a pale fawn tint, but
at certain seasons blanches to a creamy white. The fur
is wonderfully soft and warm, and so highly esteemed
by the richer classes that the entire collection is regu-
larly required for domestic consumption.

Leopard. The fur of the leopard when in perfect
condition is extremely brilliant and gaudy ; it is generally
marked with ten, and occasionally twelve, lines of irreg-
ularly shaped black or very dark brown spots extending
from the head to the tail ; the color of the fur between
the spots varies from nearly clear white to dark brown ;
skins showing light golden tints are considered most
beautiful, and are preferred by furriers in producing
stylish collars, muffs, trimmings and occasionally full
depth coats either for street or auto wear. The article is
used to a larger extent in making floor rugs with mount-
ed heads or half-heads.

Jackal. A limited number of jackal skins from
South Africa are offered from time to time at the Lon-
don sales of mixed furs ; this species of jackal is found at



the Cape of Good Hope and in the contiguous districts ;
it is larger than the common fox, and has a moderately
dense coat of black and white over-hairs, divided by a
distinct, dark line extending down the spine from the
head to the tail ; the skin is lined with plush, felt or cloth,
and is used as a sleigh or carriage robe or hall rug.


The skin of one species of African monkey, the black
colobus, is at times manufactured by European and
American furriers as a novelty; nearly fifty thousand
skins have been used in a year.

The monkey has no fur ; only the shoulders are fair-
ly but not densely covered with long and glossy black
hairs, forming on the body of the monkey a covering
strikingly resembling a coachman's cape; but as the
monkey wore it first, the charge of appropriating an
original style will lie against the coachman, but not
against him only as thousands of ladies have also adopt-
ed the fashion with manifest satisfaction.

Monkey skin as apparel is unquestionably an orig-
inal style, remotely original, for very learned men as-
sure us that it was worn in warmest Africa ages before
man happened, for man did happen as is clearly proven
by the voluminous theory of evolution, a process plainly
axiomatic and therefore independent of corroboration,
which is non-existent.

Once upon a time — the esoteric period in which all
legendary events have had their genesis — a monkey was
evolved into a man; how many monkeys suffered this
humiliating transformation or transmigration is not
stated, and the number may therefore be regarded as an


immaterial detail ; it is certain, however, that evoluting
was considered humiliating to the simian, which became
so distraught by the deeds and assumptions of the new
biped that it promptly estopped further evolving — hence
we have the monkey with us "even unto this day."

Man, though knowing from whence he came, but
not being able to unravel the secret of how to do it, has
not evolved backward or forward, but has been content
to multiply merely as man, and seek f orgetf ulness in mi-
gration; but now and then Dame Fashion stirs within
him painful memories of the long ago, for as he dons
thoughtlessly purchased coats or capes of monkey skin
and realizes that, "according to information and belief,"
the garments are made of the hairy cuticle of devoted
ancestors, he must be well nigh overwhelmed in grief.
To one not wholly hardened by the lapse of time the con-
templation of wraps made from the epidermis of human-
ity's prototype must be an exceedingly poignant experi-
ence ; grandparents many times removed, revered uncles,



aunts and beloved cousins innumerable pass in review
and thrill the imagination as one garment after another
is fondled and reluctantly tried on. From 1850 to 1900,
African hunters sent to market 2,733,163 black monkey-
skins to be converted into stylish capes, collars and trim-
mings for the adornment of winsome posterity, a large
proportion of the collection being required in the United

Since that unknown era in which he descended from
a monkey, man has achieved marked progress in me-
chanical efficiency, scientific attainments, and greatness
in his own opinion; failure, however, to rightly appre-
hend his origin plainly proves that he descended, really
came down, and will remain in the depths until he real-
izes that no matter how many times man has made a
monkey of himself, God never created a monkey in order
that he might therefrom evolve a man.


The spotted ringtail, called a cat because it is re-
lated to the felines, is about thirty-five inches in length
including the tail which is some seventeen inches long,
marked with alternating rings of black and dingy white,
eight of the rings being black. Fur on all parts of the
body is dotted with nearly circular black spots about one-
half to three-quarters of an inch in diameter ; the fur is
soft and fairly abundant.

Pelts of the spotted ringtail in the natural state
make good coat linings, or sets for ladies and children
who like odd things; dyed it may be used in various
ways. Spotted African ringtails are a novelty for the
American market; the supply is not large.


The Black Colobus, shown above, is the African
monkey whose hirsute cuticle is utilized in the fur trade.
When a few, very few, monkeys committed the foolish
fault of changing to humans, it is a moot question
whether they became men or women ; it is certain, how-
ever, that the hairy hides of the monks "become" women
only, as men, though not adverse to monkey-shines, have
€ver, instinctively it may be, refused to be appareled in
monkey skin.



In the earliest period of the trade the skins of fur-
bearing animals caught in more or less extended sec-
tions of country lacking transportation facilities, were
brought together at certain season for barter and distri-
bution at fairs. Though wonderful progress has been
made in dressing, dyeing and manufacturing furs, orig-
inal methods of handling raw skins still prevail in many
places, or have been abandoned only in part, reluctantly,
or by force of circumstances. There are places where
it is still possible to secure furs of superior quality in
exchange for trinkets of small value ; rather large collec-
tions of raw furs are, "even unto this day" and as of old,
sent to London and Leipzig to be sold publicly or pri-
vately to merchants in the countries of origin, including
the United States and Canada; and fairs are held as of
yore, and are regarded as essential centers of distribu-


The Mackary Fair, undoubtedly the greatest fair
of the present day, is held annually at Nijni Novgorod,
Russia, beginning, officially, on August 6, St. Mackary's
Day, and continuing to September 6; the fair is named
after its patron saint, and the monks of St. Mackary
formerly derived a large revenue from the institution in
duties imposed on the goods brought forward for barter
and sale; the duties were long since taken over by the
government, though dignitaries of the church continue
to officiate in the interesting ceremonies inaugurating
the fair each year. Nijni Novgorod, famous chiefly on



account of the fair held there annually for many hun-
dreds of years, is situated upon a hill rising rather ab-
ruptly from the plain, near the confluence of the Volga
and Oka Rivers, and is a very attractive city during the
gala period of the fair ; it is estimated that two hundred
thousand persons, busy merchants, dealers and specula-
tors of all civilized lands attend the fair, bring forward
for exchange furs, tea, silk, wool, hides and other prod-
ucts and manufactured goods; these articles are dis-
played in large warehouses and some three thousand
shops, one-story buildings of wood and brick erected in
rows along straight streets ; many of these shops are un-
occupied during half the year, but all are needed for the
fair. Every precaution is taken to avoid a conflagration
— a trench filled with water from the river runs through
each street; no one is allowed to light a fire or even a
candle in any of the shops; and special watchmen are
constantly on duty. A large part of the business trans-
acted is effected by barter, goods from one country be-
ing exchanged for those from another ; business is con-
ducted slowly, methodically and in calm disregard for
the value of tirne; values are to a certain extent regu-
lated by supply and demand, but each merchant or trader
values his own goods independent of market quotations,
and as it "takes two to make a bargain," not only hours
but days are sometimes consumed in completing a single
transaction — vain efforts to obtain two dollars* worth
of goods for a hundred cents, or two dollars for mer-
chandise worth half that amount.

Furs offered at the fair are collected from all parts
of the universe, ranging in grade from Siberian sables
to European hares ; the articles brought forward in larg-


est number are squirrel skins, up to two million ; hares,
half a million, and lamb skins, seven hundred thousand.


Another Russian fair of special interest to the fur
trade is held annually in February at Irbit, capital of a
district of the same name, on the Rivers Irbit and Nitza,
near the Ural Mountains. Furs to the value of more
than two millions dollars are offered at this fair in small
buildings erected for the purpose, about thirty thousand
European, Asiatic and American merchants attending
as buyers. The furs, being winter caught, are of excel-
lent quality, and include very fine sable, fox, bear, ko-
linsky, wolf, wolverine, and three to four million Siber-

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 24 of 34)