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 28 of 34)
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woodchuck; during the bounty period the ears and tails
of unfortunate Hartford County woodchucks circulated
as cash on a par with the silver half-dollar, and might
still form an important part of the local currency except
for the accidental discovery of the fact that sharp Yan-
kee boys were obtaining two bounties on each woodchuck
by depositing the ears with the treasurer of one town,
and the tail of the same chuck with the public cashier
of the other. The boys considered their method of bank-
ing as more profitable than simple barter, but as the
town officials did not favor junior enterprise, woodchuck
tails and ears were withdrawn from circulation by dis-
continuance of the bounty.

Fur cash was not easily counterfeited; it might be
too green or a great deal too dry to have just the right
ring ; some of it having been minted with a shotgun had
holes in it, but they could not be "plugged" or concealed ;
and there were no twenty-cent pieces to be passed as
quarters upon the unwary.


Some of the fur-bearers were considered sacred
otherwise than as money.

At Maru and Miyajima, Japan, the small native
deer is regarded as sacred ; the animal is tame and docile.

The fox, universally prized for its handsome coat
of fur, is regarded as a divine creature in China ; when
the animal attains the age of fifty years it is said to be
able to assume the form of a woman, at one hundred
years to change to a beautiful girl, and at one thousand
years is admitted into paradise and becomes a celestial
being. The fox was formerly adored by the Peruvians,
and statues of the animal were placed in many of their

The badger, was held as sacred by the Chinese, was
credited with possessing the power of changing its form
and character at will.

Wolves were generally worshipped at ancient Ly-
copolis, and when one of the animals died its bones were
very carefully embalmed ; mummies of wolves have been
found in the tombs in the mountains above the city.

Certain species of African monkey are revered by
the natives, but are not treated as divine; the simple
minded Africans believe that the souls of deceased rela-
tives undergo a mild process of transmigration and con-
tinue their earthly existence by taking up their abode
in the bodies of monkeys; owing to this belief and the
hope of each good African of becoming a sacred monkey
after death, the animals are not allowed to be killed.
This view may have supplied the basis upon which the
higher critics erected their filmy dogma of evolution,



and it ought not to be doubted that if a man, even though
black, can transmigrate into a monkey, that same mon-
key, at least, should experience no great difficulty in evo-
luting into a man.

The entellus, another species of monkey, ranks as
sacred in India, and is adored in Egypt and protected by
a large number of devotees and priestly servitors.

There was a time, however strange it may appear,
when the common house cat, regardless of age or color,
reigned and ruled as a deity at Rome, and in consequence
enjoyed the privilege of holding midnight serenades dur-
ing the full term of its nine lives undisturbed by bricks,
bottles or other missiles.

Tabby was also revered by the ancient Egyptians,
and was regarded as sacred to Isis, or the moon, and its
worship embraced rites of peculiar interest. The bull
was also a sacred animal in Egypt — there have been
many ecclesiastical bulls, not identified with heathen
lands, which have been obeyed, if not worshipped.

Certain animals are regarded as sacred, and others,
including the bear and beaver, are worshipped by North
American Indians; the ceremonies connected with this
worship have been greatly modified, and are not so gen-
erally observed as formerly. Indians of several tribes
consider the moose sacred in a limited sense only, as
they do not hesitate to kill it ; the moose is, in their esti-
mation, a sacrificial rather than a sacred animal, and the
manner in which the Indians dispose of the carcass is
suggestive of the "burnt offering" prescribed by Moses.
When Indians capture a moose they cut up the carcass
and cast some of the choicer portions of the flesh into
their campfire as a thanksgiving offering to the Good


Spirit for favoring them with success in the chase; the
tongue, liver, kidneys and part of the breast of the ani-
mal are eaten as soon as possible, and the other parts of
the flesh, properly cooked, are devoured in haste — very
like the Passover — as the rule governing such feasts re-
quires that the entire moose, except the parts offered as
a sacrifice, must be consumed at a single meal. Buffalo
flesh "burned with fire," was also used as a thank-offer-
ing on particular occasions.

Alaska Indians evidence a strange reverence for the
"spirits" of departed fur-bearers, including the bear,
wolf, beaver and fox, and rudely carved representations
of these and other animals are placed upon the top of
posts erected in front of their huts, or common burial

Customs change as age succeeds age; today the
multitude, embracing women and men, instead of rev-
erencing fur-bearers merely dote on them — a mild order
of worship — regarding the flesh of some of them and the
furry coats of all as sacred to their appetites and pride
of attire. Opinion is divided respecting the status of the
raven-hued cat; children, and a few to whom children
are unknown, fondle and seemingly adore, others regard
the cat of this particular color as an evil rather than a
good spirit, but surely a spirit — superstition may under-
go mystical transformation, but will not down.

Cut jFur

Fur-felt hat manufacturing, a distinct and import-
ant industry in the United States, England, Germany
and France, regularly requires a large proportion of the
fur skins annually procured in the mild and temperate


sections of production; considered from the standpoint
of value as expressed in dollars the skins used entire in
manufacturing coats, jackets, muffs, robes and similar
articles, rank first ; but in number of skins the consump-
tion in the felt hat making is much the larger, exceeding
a total of thirty million pelts.

In hatting the fur is not worked up on the skin but
is cut from it ; in the market of initial sale these pelts are
classed as "cutting skins," and the cut product, fully
prepared for felting is known as "cut fur," and quite
commonly designated in the hatting trade as "hatters'
fur." The business does not constitute a branch or part
of the "furrier's trade," but is conducted in every detail
by a wholly disconnected group of merchants, operating
in two classes, importers and cutters; the former in a
few instances conduct both divisions, but all handle, in
furs, only cutting skins or cut fur — importers of cut fur
also, as a rule, carry general supplies — required by hat
manufacturers. Only the soft under fur is used in felt-
ing, all the coarse hairs and the leather being discarded.

"Carroting" is the first operation in the work of
preparing fur for hatters' uses, this simple process is
effected by brushing the fur, while on the skin with a so-
lution of quicksilver and nitric acid, termed carrot, to
kill the natural oil in the fur and thus facilitate succeed-
ing operations in which water is freely used; following
the act of brushing, the skins are spread out flat to dry,
either in the open air or a room heated by steam ; dried
in the former way the fur becomes white, but when the
drying is effected by artificial heat the fur assumes a yel-
low or carrot-like hue ; these color conditions are always
noted in the brand, or mark, upon the packages of pre-


pared fur by abbreviations, W. C, for white, and Y. C,
for yellow carrot.

The operation of carroting is occasionally omitted
in the manipulation of beaver and one or two other furs,
but this "raw stock," so-called, does not felt readily ex-
cept when mixed with carroted fur, and even then is not
altogether satisfactory, as it works out to the surface of
the finished felt.

As the presence of mercury in the carroting solu-
tion, and mercurial vapor, and dust in the drying room,
constitute a menace to the health of the workers, a dif-
ferent preparatory method was perfected in Germany in
1875; by this process the skins are first saturated with
molasses, then dipped in a weak solution of nitric acid,
and then washed in soft water and allowed to dry slowly ;
the washing and drying are repeated until the fur is
thoroughly purified. Fur carroted in this way felts as
easily and perfectly as that treated with mercury. When
carroted skins have become perfectly dry, they are
brushed to remove all particles of dust, and to straighten
the hair so that it may be readily cut from the skin,
which is the next operation. Cutting, formerly done by
manual labor, is performed by a special machine of great
power and high speed, which shaves the fur from the
entire pelt without disarranging its form — the fur passes
out of the machine apparently exactly as it entered, a
perfect pelt, unchanged, untouched, but really only fur,
the leather, reduced to a countless number of fine
threads, having dropped to the floor. As the fur is cut it
is carried forward upon a moving endless apron, and
while in motion is separated into the three principal di-
visions, back, belly and sides, by experienced operators..


and deftly dropped into bags stationed at the sides and
forward end of the revolving apron. All fur does not
felt with equal facility, or produce felt of the same fine-
ness, softness or durability; there are marked differ-
ences even in the fur cut from the same skin; fur cut
from the back is the darkest and strongest, and when
taken from the pelts of land animals is also the best
grade; fur from the sides is lighter in color and some-
what lower in quality; belly fur is the lightest in color,
but not uniformly identical in quality — it is the finest or
best when cut from beaver, nutria and muskrat skins,
amphibious animals, and lowest in grade when taken
from land animals, such as the rabbit and hare. Sepa-
rate grades of fur are cut from the tails of various ani-
mals, and the cheeks of the beaver, the latter is of su-
perior quality; low grade fur is cut from small pieces
and scraps — the waste in furriers' shops. Belly-fur is
used in the manufacture of light colored hats ; fur from
other parts of the pelt is suitable for making hats dyed
any desired color.

Fur of the North American beaver is superior to all
others for making fine, durable felt hats, but is too ex-
pensive for extensive use; it is sometimes mixed, in
small amount, with other furs to improve the stock;
nutria, fur of the South American coypu, ranks next to
beaver in every particular.

The fur used in greatest quantity in the manufac-
ture of felt hats is cut from the skins of wild rabbits and
hares procured by the million in Australia, England,
Scotland, New Zealand, Russia and the United States,
and domestic French conies ; in these sorts, English and
Scotch rank as best and strongest.


Cut fur is known in all markets of the world by cer-
tain marks, consisting of symbols and abbreviations —
the symbols are a single circle, two circles and three cir-
cles drawn one within another, the reading being — sin-
gle, double and tripple ring; these symbols are used to
brand the three choicest grades of fur cut from the
backs of Scotch, Russian and other hares. Abbrevia-
tions used to designate the animal and the part of the
pelt from which the fur is cut, are : C. B., coney backs ;
B. C. B., best coney backs ; B. H. W., best hares wool ;
H. S., hare sides ; R. B., rabbit backs ; B. H. B., best hare
backs. Hatters' fur is cut in the United States, England,
France and Belgium.

Cut hairs are also utilized in the fur and other in-
dustries to a considerable extent; hairs suitable for the
various purposes are cut from the coats of both fur-bear-
ers and hair-wearers, and very often constitute former
waste transformed into new and important products of
considerable value.

French bristles and the white hairs of the badger,
skunk and grey fox are used to beautify the plain sur-
faces of dark furs in which they are inserted; this is a
balancing act, as other skins, especially seal, have all the
hairs cut out so that the beauty of the fur may appear.
Reindeer hair, which is extremely light in weight, packed
in water-tight containers make superior life preservers ;
deer hair is an excellent substance for stuffing couches;
hair cut from several species are employed in filling mat-
tresses — ^but you cannot always be sure about it.

Long hairs from the manes and tails of horses, reg-
ularly offered at the minor sales in London, are collected
in quantity in Bavaria and Austria, for manufacture in


Switzerland. These hairs are thoroughly purified and
are then woven into long strips or braids, either singly
in black or white, or the two tones in combination, and
are then made into ladies* and children's hats for sum-
mer wear. Bovine hair early displaced the straw of the
Egyptians as a binder in mortar, but in turn is rapidly
being superseded by cement.

Human hair is largely utilized in an exceptional
number of ways devious and doubtful. A considerable
quantity is used in wisps and switches borrowing from
one sweet soul of a single thought to augment the golden
glory of another. Vast bundles of human hair cut from
weary and fevered crowns are patiently wrought into
black, red, brown and white wigs for the wigless, fash-
ion's devotees, judges, actors, detectives and those stren-
uously seeking to avoid detection; and other diversely
delusive purposes and persons.

The main crop of raw material, known in the nat-
ural connection as a queue, from cauda, a tail, is of celes-
tial origin, being matured in China ; formerly the supply
was small, queues being regarded as sacred, but in re-
cent years devotion to the almighty dollar having meas-
urably superseded the worship of Buddha, the harvest
has been large — all exported to Europe and America,
there being no demand for domestic consumption.


The muff, whether round or flat, would be rather
thin and flimsy if composed only of the visible fur and
inner lining of silk, and to create and retain the desired
form, a rather thick, soft body conforming to the partic-
ular shape of the muff is enclosed between the fur and


lining, and is known in the trade as a muff-bed. Orig-
inally the muff-bed was made of down with a covering
of muslin, but in these days of great progress in most
"infant industries" and very high cost down, the name
down muff-bed is retained, but the down is chiefly sup-
plied by Queen Hen and King Cotton, separately or in
combination, a substitution which enables manufacturers
to sell muffs to certain retailers for "marked down" sales.
President Harrison said, "A cheap coat makes a
cheap man," which may or may not be true; chicken
feathers and cotton surely make a cheap muff-bed, the
owner, however, feels cheap only when some of the
feathers work through to the surface of the muff", as they
sometimes do, revealing the character of the "down."


Animals of the lower order, broadly spoken of as
"beasts that perish," are herbiverous, granivorous, car-
nivorous, and otherwise variously classified, but man is
in a class by himself, solitary and singular, the one and
only omniverous animal. What he cannot "eat, drink or
put on" in its natural state, he transforms, manipulates
or transmutes into the medium of exchange wherewith
to procure eatables, drinkables and wearables, and in the
execution of this exalting purpose uses not only the
manifestly beautiful and serviceable coat and cuticle but
every part and fragment of all the furry and f urless den-
izens of earth. Man utilizes the skin of the beast pre-
pared as fur, hair, felt or leather for the protection and
adornment of his person from "head to foot"; every
portion of the flesh from tip to tip, both inclusive, as nu-
tritious or delectable food; the marrow as a rare deli-


cacy; the bones changed into tools, buttons or charcoal
for his service and well-being, as poultry provender in-
suring an increased egg output, or to fertilize the soil in
order that it may yield more abundant crops of grapes
and cereals ; the odor sacs as pleasing perfumes ; galls,
livers and horns as remedies for ills to which pampered
stomachs are subject ; the teeth as emblems of an order,
and both the teeth and claws as ornaments and evidences
of skill and courage in the chase or still hunt; and,
finally, the fat to make his hair shine, render age-
strained joints and sinews supple, protect his tools
against corrupting rust, to soften and prolong the life of
leather, lubricate machinery, and to light his hut or path-

Bear's grease was once upon a time regarded as a
hair-oil of unexampled value because of the widely cir-
culated rumor that it made the hair grow, and was a
sure cure for sundry imaginary diseases of the human
scalp. The article ceased to be intensely popular some-
time in the latter part of the nineteenth century for good
and sufficient reasons — the scarcity of fat bears, and the
fact revealed by analysis that nearly all bear's oil sold at
a fairly high price had other than a bear origin, and was
really a bare delusion. Skunk oil, tried and purified, is
also used as a lubricant of human locomotive powers.

The skin (leather) of the rabbit, nutria and other
animals from which the fur has been cut by a machine,
called a devil, for use in hat making, was formerly
thrown on the refuse heap, but some years since the dis-
covery was made that the skin, which comes through the
cutting machine a mass of fine threads, when treated in
a certain way yielded an excellent gellatine of consider-


able value for making films of superior quality — worth
for some time upwards of one hundred dollars per ton.

At a later date the waste discarded in the manu-
facture of the films was purchased by the Standard Oil
Company, and in combination with similar materials is
used in lining barrels in which oil is stored or trans-

The shredded skins are also largely used in making
a fine grade of glue.

Poorly furred and damaged fur seal skins are spe-
cially tanned, producing a beautiful and expensive
leather ; the supply is small.

Sheepskins from which the wool has been shaved,
are carefully tanned for the production of the finest mo-
rocco leather, for the manufacture of leather in excel-
lent imitation of alligator skins, and a fine soft leather
imitating cork used in making hat sweats.

Split sheep skins are finished as a substitute for

Goat skins prepared as parchment were used cen-
turies ago, and many have been preserved in perfect
condition to the present day ; beaver skins were similarly
used at a much later date.

Vellum, a finer material, is made of the skins of
lambs and newly born calves.

Tanned deer skin, commonly known as buckskin,
though most largely employed in making stout gloves, is
also used for covering or padding piano hammers.

The small pieces clipped and trimmed from skins by
manufacturers of fur garments, which are otherwise
useless, are sold to fur cutters to be used in making fur
felt hats.


Ass, domestic and wild ; badger, largely used in the
first tabernacle; bear, slain by David and other courage-
ous men; camel, cow, colt, dog, unclean, and anyone
making a row was forbidden under the law of Moses to
"bring the price of a dog into the house of the Lord" in
satisfaction of that vow, as it was declared to be "an
abomination unto the Lord" ; coney, of which Solomon
wrote: "Conies are a feeble folk, yet make they their
houses in the rocks" ; deer, Solomon had deer in captiv-
ity ; goat, skins used as clothing ; greyhound, hart, hare,
unclean; lamb, used for clothing; ferret, lion, specially
mentioned as slain by David and Beniah, the latter "went
down into a pit on a snow day and slew a lion" ; leopard,
regarding which Jeremiah propounded the often quoted
query: "Gan the leopard change its spots?" mole, roe-
buck, and sheep the most frequently mentioned of all
animals, the references being exceptionally beautiful,
interesting and impressive; ox, mouse, unclean; mule,
ram, a sacrificial animal ; weasel and foxes most common
and numerous of the wild animals in Palestine, on which
account some places were known by their name. Sam-
son caught three hundred foxes alive, tied their tails
together "two by two," put burning brands between the
tails, and then let the foxes go into the grain fields of
the Philistines, thereby destroying them.

:f ur :f oob

Confident epicures and hungry hunters regard the
flesh of certain fur-bearing animals as superior in value
and importance to the fur, and as the only meat worth



cooking — no matter how it is cooked, but that it is better
cooked in certain ways than in others, and best when
cooked in one particular way. The flesh of all fur-bear-
ers is not held in equal esteem, and even different parts
of the same carcass differ materially in flavor and favor,
some cuts being considered incomparably delicious, and
others scarcely palatable. A few ancient Roman epi-
cures ate the flesh of the fox, but considered it savory
only in early autumn when the food of the animal con-
sisted chiefly of grapes.

Dwellers in the Arctic regions still regard the flesh
of the white and blue foxes as fairly digestible, raw or
cooked, but it is doubtful whether they would relish
roast beef.

Roast badger is considered a delicacy in parts of
Europe and northern sections of North America.

Natives of Australia feast upon the solid flesh of
the wombat, but it is a tough morsel which can be mas-
ticated only by a set of natural teeth. Bushmen also eat
the comparatively juicy flesh of the native opossum, and
the platypus.

Esquimaux of all ages eat hair seal meat as often
as they can get it, and are not particular about the way
it is prepared; the fat of the animal is also highly es-
teemed, largely because it keeps aglow the internal fire
of the eater. The flippers of young hair seals, annually
obtained in large quantity, are classed as delicacies by
Newfoundlanders, by whom they are preserved on long
strings until required.

The hamster, which is found in large numbers in
the sandy districts of Germany, furnishes the people with
good food ; the animal is killed very soon after the cereal


crops are gathered, and as the catch is large the meat is
very cheap.

Rabbits, wild and domesticated, are extensively used
for food in Australia, Europe, America and in all places
where the animal abounds; many thousands are annu-
ally sold in New York markets from November to Janu-
ary. Millions of rabbit carcasses are canned in Aus-
tralia and New Zealand for export; large supplies are
taken for the army in the field. Hares, which are larger
than rabbits, are eaten in vast quantities in Russia and

From eight to twenty million squirrels are killed
annually for fur and food.

Black bear steaks are served in hunting camps,
country homes, and city restaurants, but the supply is
never large; properly broiled bear's liver is a delicacy.

The flesh of the Polar bear is relished by an Eskimo
— when he can catch the bear asleep; a few Arctic ex-
plorers have dined on juicy roasts cut from the carcass
of this huge animal, and at the time considered the meat
rather good.

Baked raccoon and opossum are favorite dishes in
many parts of the United States; a president of this
great country upon occasion tested roast opossum, and
asked for more — but not too often.

In a few places the economical and hungry eat
woodchuck, when other flesh foods are scarce and some-
thing must be eaten.

Aleuts on the islands of St. Paul and St. George
eat the flesh of the fur seal as Newfoundlanders eat fish,
fresh, smoked and salted ; the government permits them
to kill about twenty-five hundred fur seals each year for


food — no one else is permitted to kill a fur seal for any
purpose on American soil. Aleuts use the oil of the fur
seal to soften dried fish which constitutes a considerable
portion of their daily provender.

South American Indians eat the red-hued flesh of
the coypu.

The flesh of the moose though eaten fresh is said

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 28 of 34)