Albert Lord Belden.

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

. (page 27 of 34)
Online LibraryAlbert Lord BeldenThe fur trade of America and some of the men who made and maintain it, together with furs and fur bearers of other continents and countries and islands of the sea → online text (page 27 of 34)
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of seal, none of which exist.

Muskrat, sheared, sold as mole.

Nutria, unhaired and dyed, sold as beaver, seal,
electric seal and Hudson seal.

Otter, unhaired and dyed, sold as real fur seal, and
electric seal.

Raccoon, dyed, sold as lynx.

Rabbit, dyed, sold as sable or French sable ; un-
haired and dyed, sold as electric seal, and sundry other
seals not found on land or sea.

White rabbit, sold as ermine, and dyed, represented
as chinchilla — rabbit, twenty-five cents, real chinchilla
ten dollars per skin.

Hares, foxes and other dyed skins pointed with
white hairs, sold as natural furs.

Dyed skins of many kinds, sold as natural.

Wild cat, sold as genet.

Opossum, blended, sold as stone marten.

Muskrat, natural and blended, sold as water mink,
or brook mink.

The need of a pure fur law, with penalty to fit, is




The often reiterated assertion that "history re-
peats itself" may be trite, but records of great events
prove it true, definitely so in war's effects upon the fur
trade. In the earlier wars the common people were de-
spoiled of their necessary and highly prized fur skins to
their great personal discomfort, the victors confiscating
the goods to their own uses, or retaining them as tro-

The war of 1812 between the United States and
Great Britain completely destroyed the essential and
profitable export trade in American raw furs conducted
by individual exporters, and on a large scale by the
American Fur Company, London being the world's cen-
ter of receipt and distribution. This loss of the most im-
portant part of its business ended the ambitious career
of the American Fur Company ; and though subsequent
to the cessation of hostilities English traders were pro-
hibited from engaging in the fur business within the
Sorders of the United States, the company did not

During the war London remained open as an active
market for the receipt of skins and the operations of
buyers from all countries except the United States.

The war also adversely affected the business of
American fur merchants in the home market, as under
normal conditions collections of skins regularly exceed-
ed domestic consumption, and the reduced demand, con-
sequent upon the loss of the export trade, caused an im-
mediate and pronounced decline in values rendering
trapping unremunerative.


478 WAR

The war of the Rebellion, 1860-65, materially inter-
fered with the foreign and domestic trade in raw furs;
the catch was greatly reduced, as thousands of men who
formerly trapped and hunted were on the firing lines, and
amateurs who took their places on the trap-line depend-
ed upon luck rather than skill — and luck in any enter-
prise does not definitely dififer from a hopeful enumera-
tion of little chicks prior to placing the eggs in the incu-
bator. In consequence of the small catch fine Eastern
and Northern mink considerably advanced in price ; the
war beginning in 19 14 produced the contrary effect,
lower values, owing to the great decrease in the number
of consumers abroad, and inability of the home market
to absorb a normal collection.

The boxer war in China like the conflicts in the early
centuries, resulted in many personal losses of valuable
furs to the vanquished, chiefly non-combatants, due to
looting by the Allies.

The latest, greatest and most barbarous war of all
time, beginning in the summer of 19 14, duplicated, but
with far greater loss, the record of the earlier and less
strenuous conflicts ; the exportation of furs immediately
ceased, London public sales were abandoned, and nearly
all foreign markets were closed to American shippers;
all of the countries engaged in the unreasonable and in-
excusable slaughter were important consumers of Amer-
ican furs, and the almost instant loss of so large a per-
centage of the trade paralyzed the fur business in the
United States; prices of skins declined sharply; mer-
chants who believed they were well informed as to the
consuming power of the home market augmented the
depression by limiting their purchases to comparatively



small lots at low figures. Many of the most experienced
and successful trappers refrained from operating, being
unwilling to accept prices quoted at the opening of the
trapping season of 1914-15. As the war, at first as-
sumed to be a matter of a few weeks, still raged on the
near approach of winter, wolf and other heavy and
strong skins suitable for military purposes were pur-
chased for the armies at fair prices, and in quantity, af-
fording some relief to the trade; but the trapping sea-
son as a whole was a dismal disappointment to all con-

KNOWN BY AIAj these names


480 WAR

As the year 19 15 advanced, though the frightful
war continued, conditions materially improved; a sud-
den and quite general demand sprang up in America for
furs, chiefly neckpieces composed of single skins, to be
worn during the "good old summer-time"; this unex-
pected outlet resulted in the consumption of a large num-
ber of fine, medium and common peltries at better prices
than had prevailed in the immediately preceding winter.
Values continued to increase as the months passed, and
the raw fur collection season of 191 5-16 opened with a
strong competitive demand for skins of all kinds, and the
season proved to be one of the best, all round, in sev-
eral years.

The American export trade in furs, which was
nearly destroyed by the European war, recovered some-
what in 19 1 6, reaching a total valuation of approximate-
ly eight million dollars during the fiscal year ending
June 30, 1916.

In February, 191 7, England placed an embargo on
the importation of furs, and exports to London ceased.

In 19 16 Russia prohibited the export of all furs; on
February i the regulation was changed to permit the
exportation of black and blue fox, marten, ermine, fitch
and otter skins without restrictions, and the export of
other furs upon application filed with the Bureau of
Foreign and Domestic Commerce at New York. Sable,
lamb, sheep and goat skins were excepted, and were not
permitted to be exported.

France prohibited, from January 18, 191 7, the ex-
portation of furs of all kinds, except to the United States
and allied nations.


Prices of raw furs fluctuate so greatly, not merely
in the course of a year, but in instance within a few days,
that dependable figures cannot be given for any period
other than the particular date of quotation.

Prices of dressed and dyed skins vary according to
quality, and as there is no fixed standard governing
any one article, fox, for instance, prices at retail differ
somewhat on furs of the same grade — each merchant
determines his own selling price within certain limits.


While exact prices of fur skins may not be given,
as already stated, comparative values of United States
furs in the raw state may be shown to the reasonable
satisfaction of those interested. Peltries vary in intrin-
sic value according to the section in which they are pro-
cured, those secured farthest north being most richly
furred and best in detail, and extreme southern skins
lowest in points considered in determining value. Skins
secured in adjacent States may be definitely dissimilar,
or practically identical in quality; but a Texas mink or
muskrat is pronounced inferior to one born and bred
in New York or New Jersey.

We reproduce here from "Fur News," a valued
monthly publication devoted to the raw fur trade, actual
quotations, that is prices offered and paid by merchants
in the trade at large; the quotations, which are those
given for January, 191 7, show the variation in prices of




raw furs at that time according to geographical differ-
ences in source of origin :


Black, Northern 20.00 12.00 8.00 8,00 2.00 .50

Black, Central 12.00 8.00 5.00 5.00 1.50 .50

Black, Southern and S. W 10.00 7.00 4.00 4.00 1.00 .25

Grizzly and Polar, according to
size and quality.

Far Western States and Eastern

Canada 8.00 6.00 3.00 3.00 1.00 .50

Cent, and S. W. U. S 6.00 4.00 2.00 2.00 .75 .40


Northern and N, W. 4.00 3.00 2.00 2.00 .75 .25

Southern and S. W 1.50 1.00 .50 .50 .25 .10


Central and Northern U. S 2.00 1.25 .85 .85 .45 .15

Southern and S. W. U. S 1.50 1.00 .50 .50 .25 .10


Alaska, Northern and West Can. 14.00 10.00 7.00 7.00 2.50 .50

Newfoundland and Labrador. . . 12.00 9.00 6.00 6.00 2.00 .50

Minn., Wis., Daks, and No. Mich. 10.00 7.50 5.00 5.00 1.50 .50
E. Can., Mich, N. Y. and N. E.

States 9.00 7.00 4.50 4.50 1.50 .35

Pa., N. J., Ohio, Ind. and 111.... 7.00 5.50 3.50 3.50 1.00 .35

All Central and Southern States 5.00 3.50 2.50 2.50 .75 .25


Dark 200.00 @ 1000.00

Pale 100.00 @ 300.00


N. W. Canada and Alaska 12.00 8.00 5.00 5.00 2.50 .50

Eastern Canada and Northern
U. S 10.00 6.00 4.00 4.00 2.00 .50

Alaska, Labrador and N. W.,

Dark 25.00 15.00 10.00 8.00 3.00 1.00

Alaska and N. W., Pale 6.00 4.00 2.50 2.00 1.00 .50

Eastern Can. and U. S., Dark. . 12.00 8.00 5.00 4.00 2.00 .75

Eastern Can. and U. S., Pale. . 3.00 2.00 1.00 1.00 .60 .25




Dark Brown Pale

E. U. S. and N. Canada 25.00 30.00 10.00 15.00 6.00 9.00

Pacific Coast 15.00 20.00 5.00 10.00 3.00 5.00


N. Y., Pa.. N. J., New England

and East Canada

Mich., So. Wis., Ohio, Ind., IlL

and W. Va

Cent, and S. Ohio, Ind., Ills., W.

Va., Ky

Cent, and So. Pa., N. J., Del.

and Md

Va., Carolinas, Tenn

Mo., Ark., Kans. and Pacific


Wis., Minn., Iowa, Neb


Large Small
Spring Winter Fall Fall Kitts
























Large Med. Small
No. 1-

No. 2 No. 3 No. 4

East Can., New Eng. and No.

N. Y 5.00

N. Y., No. Pa. and No. N. J. . . 4.50

Minn., No. Wis. and No. Mich. 4.50

Wis., No. Iowa and Dakotas. . . 3.50

Mich., No. O., No. Ind., No. 111. 3.25
So. Pa., So. N. J., Del., Md. and

W. Va 3.25

Va. and No. Car 3.00

B. C. and Alaska Coast 3.00

So. O., So. Ind., 111. and Ky. . . . 2.75
So. Iowa, Neb., Kans. and No.

Mo 2.75

Pacific Coast and Rocky Mt.

States 2.75

So. Car., Tenn., Miss., Ala. and

Ga 2.50

So. Mo., Ark., Okla., Tex., La-

and Fla 2.25




2.25 1.50 1.50

2.00 1.50 1.50

2.00 1.50 1.50

1.75 1.35 1.35

1.75 1.35 1.36

1.75 1.35 1.35

1.65 1.25 1.25

1.60 1.10 1.10



.60 ^0

.40 .20

.40 .20

.40 .20

.40 .20

.40 .20

.40 .20

.35 .15



OTTER Large Med. Small

No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4

Eastern U. S. and Canada 12.00 8.00 5.00 5.00 2.50 1.00

Northwestern and Pacific Coast 10.00 7.00 4.00 4.00 2.00 1.00

Western and Southwestern 10.00 7.00 4.00 4.00 2.00 1.00

Virginia and No. Car 10.00 7.00 4.00 4.00 2.00 1.00

Ga., Fla., Ala., La. and S. Car.. 7.00 5.00 3.00 3.00 1.50 .75


Minn., Wis., Daks 4.00 3.00 2.00 2.25 .50 .15

N. Y., New England, Can. and

Mich 3.25 2.25 1.25 1.50 .35 .15

Pa., N. J., No. Ohio, Ind. and Ills. 3.00 2.00 1.00 1.25 .30 .10

Iowa, Kans., Nebr. and No. Mo. 3.00 2.00 1.00 1.25 .30 .10

So. Ohio, Ind., 111., W. Va 2.25 1.25 .75 1.00 .25 .10

Ky., Tenn., Virginia, No. and

So. Car. and N. Ga 2.00 1.16 .60 .75 .25 .10

So. Ga., Fla., Ala., Miss., Tex.

and La 1.50 1.00 .50 .60 .20 .10

Extra Dark Colors 3.00 @ 6.00

SKUNK No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4

N. Y., Pa., New Eng. and Can.. 4.00 2.75 1.50 .75

N. J., No. Ohio, Mich, No. Ind.

and Ills 4.00 2.75 1.50 .75

Kans., Neb., No. Mo 8.75 2.50 1.25 .65

Cent. O., Ind., Ills., W. Va. and

Md 3.75 2.50 1.25 .65

So. Ohio, Ind., Ills, and So. Mo. 3.25 2.25 1.15 .60

Ky., Tenn., Ark., Va. and N. C. 3.00 2.00 1.00 .50

Ga., Fla., Ala. and other South-
ern States 2.50 1.50 ,75 ,40

Large Western, Long Narrow

Stripe, prime 2.00 @ 3.00


Northern, cased 7.00 5.00 3.75 3.75 1.00 .25

Western, cased 4.00 3.00 2.00 2.00 .75 .25


Canada 7.00 5.00 3.00 3.00 1.00 .25

N. Rocky Mts. and N. Prairie

States 5.00 3.50 2.25 2.25 .75 .25

Cent. Rocky Mt. and Ct. Prairie

States 4.00 3.00 2.00 2.00 .60 .25

Southwestern 2.00 1.25 .75 .75 .35 .l"

The natural "brushes," or bushy tails of several
species of fur-bearing animals constitute special arti-
cles of varied utility and value in the fur trade, other
manufacturing industries, and highly prized trophies
when secured by sportsmen who prefer to follow a live
fox rather than an anise scented drag.

Tails are put up and sold in bundles of forty, called
a "timber."

Mink tails deservedly rank as exceptionally hand-
some when properly prepared for the manufacture of
costly collars and borders ; when intended for either pur-
pose, the tails are split open along the center of the under
side, spread flat — twice the natural width — and then
sewed together lengthwise of the tails to the requisite
number to make either specified article of apparel; the
strips thus produced vary from five to eight inches in
width; one width serves as a border, two widths for a
superb collar ; whole tails are used to finish ends of boas,
edges of capes, trimmings for hats, and in other ways.

Fisher tails, which are black and glossy, are used
the same as mink, with excellent effect.

The fur of the stoat, commonly known as ermine, is
snowy white except at the tips of the tail, which is a deep
black ; the plain, flat white fur is rendered attractive and
popular by inserting in it the black tips of the tails at
regular intervals.

Sable tails are made up similar to mink tails, but are
usually very expensive. Squirrel tails are used split and
uncut, and the perfectly matched dark and light shades
of grey are effective as borders and for embellishing lin-



ings ; entire boas are occasionally made of whole or split
squirrel tails.

Fox, wolf, wild cat, wolverine and raccoon tails,
which are long, bushy and varied in color, are frequently
used in finishing boas, scarfs, muffs, and ornamenting
fine sleigh and carriage robes ; for the latter purpose the
tails are associated with skins of the same or other ani-
mals, producing harmonizing or contrasting color effects
as desired.

Raccoon tails are worn to some extent by hunters
and trappers attached to and pendant from their fur
caps ; it is a dangerous fad, however, as the wearers risk
being shot in mistake for the animal whose caudal ap-
pendage is so proudly flaunted — the error while not
pointing a moral would constitute a different finis.

Grey fox, wolf and raccoon tails attached to han-
dles of suitable length make good dusters. In the good
old times grey or red fox tails, tied to short rods, were
used by conscientious deacons to waken drowsy church-

Glossy hairs taken from the tails of the mink and
sable are used to a moderate extent in the manufacture
of artificial flies for luring trout and salmon from their
watery retreats.

The bushy tails of many fur-bearers are chiefly use-
ful and valuable for the manufacture of artists' brushes
in all grades.

These hairs, preliminary to brush making, pass
through several operations; they are first clipped from
the skin, and then, consecutively, assorted according to
size, color and part of tail from which they are cut, those
taken from the tip of the tail constituting a special as-


sortment; the hairs, which are naturally curved, are
then straightened, after which they are cleansed to re-
move oil and dust, and are again assorted according to
length and individual fineness ; these are ready for mak-
ing up natural, but a considerable part of the collection
has to be dyed to secure uniformity of color.

Hairs from the tails of the common grey squirrel
are used in immense quantities in the manufacture of
low and medium grade brushes for water color painting;
these brushes are sold and popularly known as camel's
hair, a deception in name only, as the hair of the camel is
not adapted to the manufacture of brushes of any kind.
Hairs from the tip of the squirrel's tail make good gild-
ing brushes. Squirrel tails are usually cheap, one to two
cents each, and from five to eight million tails are annu-
ally collected in Russia and Siberia, which are the coun-
tries of dependable supply.

Artists' wash brushes and blenders in flat and round
shapes, and in various sizes; extra large brushes re-
quired by pianoforte makers ; very soft shaving brushes ;
and smaller brushes for sundry purposes, are made from
the long hairs taken from the tail and parts of the pelt
of the badger ; the hairs of this animal are greyish black,
white, and tipped with black.

Hairs from the tails of the Russian and German
polecat are used in making serviceable brushes for art-
ists and sign painters, and are generally employed by
the latter in laying gold leaf on glass and wood. Russian
polecat tails, though sold as sable, are cheaper than the

Skunk tails are frequently used instead of polecat.


both animals belong to the same family, in the manufac-
ture of varnish brushes.

Good stiff brushes for water color painting and
lettering are made from selected hairs cut from black
sable tails; and very fine "pencil points," water color
brushes, are manufactured from the long flexible hairs
characterizing the bushy tails of Russian and Hudson's
Bay sables. Black sable tails are worth from ten dollars
upwards per timber, forty tails, and usually about two
ounces of hair, desirable sorts, can be cut from a timber
of tails.

The finest and most costly brushes for artists' uses
are made of the red hairs cut from the tail of the ko-
linsky, a Siberian animal ; tails of this class at times ap-
proximate fifty dollars per timber, or more than twenty
dollars an ounce for the hair.

Some low priced brushes for ordinary work are
made of hairs taken from the pelt of the common goat.
Japanese artists use brushes made of deer hair.

Brush makers obtain rather large quantities of hair
for the manufacture of brushes from another and ex-
tremely strange source, namely, the interior surface of
the ear of the ox, which is quite densely lined with hairs
ranging in length from two to four and one-half inches,
and shading in color from light to dark brown; nature
provides the patient ox with this rather profuse growth
of hair as an effective protection against gnats and flies
which are predisposed to lay their eggs in the dark re-
cesses of the spacious bovine auricle. Brushes made of
the longer of these ox hairs are used by carriage paint-
ers; those composed of the shorter hairs, from two to
two and one-half inches in length, are employed by


decorators and artistic sign painters. Prices vary, but
ox-ear hairs are worth, approximately, eight dollars per
pound. All tails worn as parts of fur garments, muffs and
neck pieces, are not nature-grown caudal appendanges;
many of them are manufactured tails produced by a
simple mechanical device, made to supersede hand labor,
known as a tail spinning machine; strips of fur, of the
proper length and width, are attached to a cord on the
machine which revolves at high speed spinning the fur
into an excellent representation of a tail ; these manufac-
tured tails, both as lower grade articles and imitations of
more costly sorts, are spun in very large quantities when
tail trimming is in fashion.


As a fur-skin with a tail but lacking a head would
appear deficient at the more important extreme, heads
and tails are equally popular ; but as the skins sent to
market have tails but are without heads, all of the latter
required to meet the demands of fashion have to be
made ; the work is done by hand and constitutes a distinct
branch of the fur business, a number of concerns being
engaged exclusively in the manufacture of fur heads,
ranging in size from that of the fox to the weasel.
These artificial heads are made over cork, celluloid or
composition skulls, all of which are light in weight, cov-
ered with fur of the animal represented, and finished
with glass eyes and colored noses and, when open-
mouthed, painted tongues. Some skins, worn singly as
neck pieces, are made "complete and entire" by the addi-
tion of artificial paws and claws, composed of fur, cel-
luloid or horn.


Fur-bearers contribute in various ways to the pass-
ing pleasure, entertainment and comfort of the little
folks, providing them with pets, warm jackets, coats,
neckwear and gloves, and, to them, intensely interesting
toys of various kinds, particularly small animals, such
as tiny bears, cats, tigers, dogs, woolly horses, and
drumming rabbits. These furry toys, with which we
are all familiar because we were once children, and chil-
dren and toys are omnipresent, are chiefly made of white
coney fur obtained in Poland, and used either natural or
dyed; many toys are made of English and Scotch lamb
skins, and sundry furs, pieces serving excellently for
the purpose, but none is used in as large quantity as th«
low cost Polish coney — and cost is considered, as toys in
children's hands are short-lived.


Skins of various species of fur-bearing animals
were used as mediums of current exchange centuries be-
fore mints or coinage or papyrus promises to pay were
dreamed of, or stamped money began its march from
sufficing simplicity to the present complicated marvel
which no one fully understands; the ancient medium,
fur-skins, though supposedly superseded by coins and
paper, has never passed wholly out "of circulation.

Chinese historians assert that small, square pieces
of deer skin freely circulated as money in the Celestial
Empire, a vast territory, ages before the round and
weighty trade dollar of United States coinage was in-
flicted upon that great realm of badly mixed fact and



Early Dutch settlers who camped on Manhattan
Island, Communipaw and all along the Hudson River
as far north as the present city of Albany, accepted
beaver, raccoon, muskrat and other peltries from the
Indians in lieu of the gold pieces of ancient Amsterdam ;
and while they were eager to obtain as many of these
tokens as poor Lo could trap, beg or surreptitiously bor-
row, they were careful to appraise the currency at as
low a figure as possible, and the merchandise given in
exchange at full frontier general store values. In all
the years of his association with pale faces unimagina-
tive Lo has had the misfortune incident to dealing with
traders who have readily taken his ''cash money" in pel-
tries at heavy discounts on market quotations.

The skin of the beaver is entitled to rank as the
standard dollar in peltry currency, as from the earliest
period of barter in America it was accepted as legal ten-
der to that amount, and is still at par or above at trading
posts. Indians used the buffalo hide as cash, until coin-
age ceased.

The finely furred skin of the raccoon is the small
coin of some Southern sections ; it will buy a glass of im-
ported Jersey lightning or domestic moonshine moisture
at almost any saloon in Kentucky ; general store dealers
in Alabama and other Southern States formerly accept-
ed it as good for from ten to fifty cents in exchange for
either wet or dry goods ; it also passed the same as coin
in purchasing snuff, tobacco and "store clothes" in nearly
all districts where the animal abounded.

In some parts of the West where burrowing squir-
rels were numerous and troublesome, especially large
wheat-producing districts, a small bounty was paid for


each squirrel that was killed, and as the tails were gen-
erally accepted as vouchers of squirrel slaughter, these
tails freely circulated as money until they were finally
banked with the State official designated to redeem them
by paying the bounty; their face value was five cents
each, and they should be used, instead of the lamented
bison, to adorn the modern nickel.

Where a bounty has been paid on wolves, the skins
have been used as, good for thirty dollars each.

For some time a bounty of fifty cents was paid for
each woodchuck killed in two adjoining towns in Hart-
ford County, Connecticut, one town accepting the ears
and the other the tail as evidence of the death of the

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 27 of 34)