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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observation and the use of the gunners in cases of attack
by hostile Indians. A double gate, in one of which a
small door was set, constituted the only entrance to the
enclosure; a trading house, at which Indians delivered
peltries and received payment, was just within the en-
trance ; small dwelling houses, built of logs, were erected
at intervals throughout the enclosure. Indians brought
in raw furs of all kinds, and buffalo hides at the posts
in the "buffalo country," and accepted in return, colored
cloths, blankets, knives, axes, and sundry trinkets.

^tate of Jf ranfelin

In 1785 a part of the present State of Tennessee,
owing to dissatisfaction on the part of the people with
official acts, was organized as a separate state, known as
Franklin; four years later the General Assembly of the
State of Franklin enacted into law the following re-
garding official salaries to date from January i, 1790 :

Governor, one thousand deer skins per annum.

Chief Justice, five hundred deer skins per annum.

State Treasurer, four hundred and fifty raccoon

Clerk of House of Commons, two hundred raccoon
skins per annum.

Clerk of Each County, three hundred beaver skins
per annum.

Justices, for signing warrants, one muskrat skin
for each warrant signed.

Constable, for serving warrant, one mink skin.

Members of Assembly, three raccoon skins for each
day of session.

Secretary to the Governor, five hundred raccoon
skins per annum.

The State was separated from Tennessee only for
a few years.


Fort McLeod, which was located well within the
border of the territory, was the first settlement in
Oregon laying claim to being more than a mere trading
post; it was established in 1805 by the Northwest Com-
pany of Canada, and was the center of a lively fur



trade for a number of years. It was visited by many
Canadian voyagers and efficient Indian hunters, and
proved to be a profitable investment for the company.

The earliest settlement in the Columbia Valley was
Fort Henry, named after a successful trader; it was
built on Snake River in 1809 by an agent of the Missouri
Fur Company, of St. Louis. Operations were conducted
at Fort Henry for only two years ; it was considered to
be too far from the home post. From 1809 to 18 12
several similar forts were set up from the Columbia
River northward into Canada ; some of them were main-
tained for a number of years, but a majority of them
were abandoned as unprofitable.

The Pacific Fur Company was organized by John
Jacob Astor, Alexander MacKay, Duncan MacDougal,
Alexander MacKenzie, David MacKenzie and Wilson
P. Hunt, the final agreements being signed January 23,

Ramsey Crooks, a Scotchman of highest integrity,
was employed by Mr. Hunt in 1809 to accompany an
expedition to Oregon; he had formerly been with the
Northwest Company, and in that connection had ac-
quired valuable knowledge of the country and the best
methods of dealing with the natives.

Mr. Crooks was somewhat later made a partner in
the Pacific Fur Company, and was one of its most useful
and faithful members. Following the passing of the
Pacific Fur Company, 1812, Mr. Crooks was admitted
into the American Fur Company, and ultimately became
its president.


Indians were the first and only "out and out" fur
traders in America — strictly American fur traders
handling American furs exclusively. How many hun-
dreds of years, or thousands of moons ago the red men
began trapping and hunting fur-bearers ranging from
the Gulf of Mexico to Hudson's Bay history saith not,
and as no one even presumes to know, it is one of the
few matters of time regarding which there is happily
no ground for learned controversy — though a few
savants, whom for lack of evidence none may convinc-
ingly contradict, profess to believe that before the Indian
was spontaneously emerged from nox, or nix, cave men,
cliff dwellers, and intelligent predecessors of both, in-
habited America and were monarchs of all they sur-
veyed ; by which we do well in understanding that they
took all they could lay their eyes and hands on when no
one else was looking.

Those prehistoric monarchs are all gone — they
probably raced to extinction in company with the pre-
historic monkeys which thoughtlessly permitted them-


Smithsonian Report 1893



selves to be evolved into beings human — but the Indian
remains, and his priority as an American fur trader
may be disputed only by the idle rich who can afford
to wantonly waste time.

For unnumbered years Indians traded with each
other; traded furs for bows, arrows, tomahaws,
feathers, useful things, according to their needs and
ability or inability to supply them; and they would be
living and exchanging things in the same happy way
unto this day, if the progressive white man had not in-
vaded their land and impressed — probably imposed is
the better word — upon them his marvelous civilization —
liquid fire, deadly guns, and a business code which Cap-
tain Kydd might have studied with great personal profit.

The Indians were good judges of fur, but they were
as ignorant of fur values as some consumers of the
present period ; this simple statement of fact will suffice
to show how easy it was to trade with the Indians — to
exchange a nickel's worth of red glass beads, or even
blue ones, for a fifty dollar raw fox skin, or any other

It was a raw fur trade for poor Lo.

Indians greatly appreciated furs as articles of
utility, and many of the skins secured by them in traps
or with bow and arrow, were used in making clothing,
couches, coverings for wigwams, and other articles
adapted to their simple needs. Many of their arrow
cases, made wholly of fur, were artistic and attractive,
and were proudly carried by their owners at all times.

The accompanying illustrations shows a bow and
arrow case and bandolier, one wholly of otter skin, fur-
side out, ornamented with fringe of the same fine fur.

Fort Amoersoh Eskimo Quiver

This model, there are other styles, is made of
dressed deerskin, and is provided with a hood — the
Eskimo understands the importance of keeping his
powder dry. The ornaments suspended along the outer
or longer edge consists of the false hoofs of the deer
attached to short thongs of buckskin.



New York City, in the beginning known as Nieuw
Amsterdam, is the oldest fur market on the continent,
and the greatest. It is the only fur center surviving the
era of the tomahawk that was not originally established
solely as a crude trading post, or named after a saint
to impart character, or a sinner as a memorial to his
financial rating. New York, under its primitive title,
was founded to become a home-land, was settled by men
of steady habits, and was named after a flourishing
foreign city in the expectation that it would in time be
as great and renowned as the older municipality — and
it is, many times over.

The fur trade did not put New York on the map,
though fur trading was indtflged by the first settlers,
the Dutch, very soon after they had landed and built
houses and planted gardens, as early as 1624; when the
Hollanders gave place to the English, 1664, the name
of the growing city was changed to New York and fur



trading continued, but was incidental to empire building;
in the following century the English were constrained
to move out, and American freemen rode in, and under
their rule New York has become in every particular the
greatest city of North America, and incidentally the
fur trade has grown with it to proportions unapproached
by any other market in the world; and it now impres-
sively touches, as no other market does, either to supply
or draw from, every mapped and uncharted section of
the globe where fur-bearers abound and furriers

In New York at the present time there are more
than two hundred and seventy fur merchants — firms
dealing in raw, dressed and dyed fur skins — about nine
times the number similarly engaged in the next largest
American center.

The number of fur manufacturers in New York
City, exclusive of makers of fur caps, robes and heads,
totals 1,075; Chicago ranks next, with 168; Philadelphia
is third, with loi ; Boston is next, with 60; the other
cities that "count" are: Milwaukee, 36; Detroit, 28;
Baltimore, 2.^; Cleveland, 24; Buffalo, 23; San Fran-
cisco, 20, and Seattle, 13.

It may seem to be somewhat peculiar to some read-
ers, though it is a matter of record, that the fur busi-
ness has invariably been good in years when the stock
market has shown a strong upward trend — reversed

There was a time, not very remote, when the tem-
perature was the important factor in determining the
volume of a season's business; in recent years Fashion
is supreme mistress in the matter, but her reign could


not be so universally maintained were it not true that
furs constitute the most attractive components of
effective apparel the world over.

In 1856 the consumption of manufactured furs in
New York reached a valuation of $1,200,000; the more
moderate cost skins were chiefly used at that time;
muskrat sets ranging from twenty-five to thirty-five
dollars were quite popular; the fur was then sold as
French mink, marsh marten, brook mink, and under
other names, some of which still cling to the article. In
1866, after the war, a demand for better furs developed,
including Russian sable sets costing from three hundred
to fifteen hundred dollars ; fine Eastern mink sets selling
up to two hundred dollars, stone marten from one hun-
dred to one hundred and fifty dollars a set, and other
peltries of better quality than had previously been in
general request.

The trade to-day aggregates several million dollars
per annum, and requires for its development fur skins
of every description collected from all parts of creation.

Wholesale fur manufacturers of New York send
their productions to every part of the United States to
meet the requirements of retailers, department and
specialty stores, and the consumption shows a steady
annual increase.

This is concise, unadorned history, not a flourish of
trumpets — multiplied words would not add to the im-
pressiveness of the facts.


Change has been the order in the procession of the
ages, and nothing small or great has been immune to
its influence ; its march began prior to the advent of man
upon terra firma, and has never ceased. When the
Dutch per force of circumstances moved out of, and the
English entered upon the possession of Manhattan
Island, the name of the developing city at the southern
extremity of the island was changed from Nieuw Am-
sterdam to New York to emphasize the change in ruler-
ship. This change necessitated another, the designing
of an appropriate official seal for the City of New York ;
in 1653 the seal here shown was adopted. It consisted


of a flag with three crosses on the center stripe, and
above the flag the figure of a beaver, an animal prized




by the Dutch on account of its ready conversion into
the coin of the realm, and honored by the English as the
native fur-bearer most pleasingly characteristic of the
territory a: id the period.

As time progressed constantly increasing attention
was devoted to raising grain, and multiplied windmills
were turned to profitable account in grinding whole
wheat flour — another precious product seriously affected
for the worse by refining change. In due course many
barrels of flour were exported from New York, flour
and beaver pelts going abroad in the same ship, the
former gradually and steadily leading in importance.
This export trade led to another change, the production
in 1686 of a new seal for the city, as here portrayed.


The flag was superceded by a shield upon which
was drawn two barrels, symbols of barrels of flour, the



sails of a windmill, the miller's engine of that day, two
beavers, and a white man and an Indian; it was the
purpose of the latter to evidence the friendly relations
existing between the two races — the pale-faced miller,
and red-visaged beaver catcher. The design was topped
with a crown — symbol of the over-ruling kingdom.

This new seal endured for a while, and was then
change struck by the vigorous American Revolution,
which sent the crown hurling, and mounted in its stead
a glorious eagle, which has proved to be a long lived
bird of freedom.


Imposing the eagle, which fearlessly, mounts to
heights unknown, in place of the crown, emblem of an
unstable crown, was the only change made in the seal


to mark the passing of an autocracy, and the beginning
of a triumphing republic.

Change in its restless march has swept the beaver,
the windmill and the Indian westward, and to the con-
fines of oblivion; but New York, though wondrously
changed, remains, and has become the most populous
city on the North American continent, and has attained
that glory because millions of men, men of every name
and color, have sought and found desired liberty and
peace in a change from monarchy to democracy.


The Fur Merchants' Credit Association of the City
of New York was incorporated January 25, 1898; the
members at that time were : G. Gaudig & Blum, Joseph
Steiner & Brothers, Leopold Weil & Brothers, Joseph
Ullmann, Bach, Becker & Company, J. & L. Mautner,
Eisenbach Brothers & Company, E. J. King's Sons,
Thorer & Praetorius, F. N. Monjo, Akiba Weinberg,
Otto Erler, Mayers & Tigner, Theodore Apfel and
Edgar Lehman.

Charles Myers, actuary.

The Association has continuously wrought wisely
and effectually in improving the general conditions and
moral status of the fur business in America; the in-
creased membership evidences the value and importance
of the results accomplished, and clearly reveals the fact,
that in the opinion of all in interest, the association has
become indispensible.

Mr. Richard S. Otto, a man of recognized ability,
efficiently serves the Association as actuary.


The Raw Fur Merchants' Association of the City
of New York, one of the most important organizations
ever called into virile life in the trade, was organized
in 19 14, and later in the year was duly incorporated
under the laws of the State of New York. At a meeting
of the Association held June 9, 19 14, the first board of
directors was chosen, embracing: O. Godfrey Becker,
A. E. Prouty, F. N. Monjo, Charles Bayer and Adolph
Wiener. The officers subsequently unanimously elected
were : O. Godfrey Becker, president ; A. E. Prouty, vice-
president; Paul Belden, secretary; David Steiner,

The Association was formed upon broad principles
essential to the maintenance and prosperity of the
fundamental branch of the fur trade; the purposes set
forth included the conservation of the interests of every
one, the least as well as the greatest, engaged in any way
in handling raw furs ; to exalt the business to the highest
attainable standard in public estimation; eliminate sun-
dry evils in methods and competition which had in the
course of the years crept into the trade as they in-
sideously invade every important branch of industry;



and to take concerted, helpful and reformatory cog-
nizance of all conditions in any wise affecting the busi-
ness locally or at large.

The influence of the Association has been good
and uniformily beneficial, affirming the wisdom of call-
ing it into being, and fully warranting its great value
as a permanent institution.

It was born in troublous times ; fought its way into
existence in conflict with a host of doubts, and fears,
and chilling discouragements, and worse, the too evi-
dent prospect that individual merchants, standing alone,
each a law unto himself, would sooner or later — not
much later — ^be swirled into deep waters by antagonisms
within and conscienceless methods in outlying fields.

In unity strength has been developed — the strength
always existed, and only needed to be merged to be-
come mighty — harmony has succeeded discord; per-
verse conditions have given place to progressive
methods ; what was good has been retained and merged
into that which is better, and each successive step is
toward the attainment of the best.

Application for membership, at the meeting of
organization, was signed by the following firms: Jos.
Steiner & Brothers, Becker Brothers & Company, Bayer
Brothers, H. A. Schoenen, M. F. Pfaelzer & Company,
Milton Schreiber, Joseph Ullmann, George I. Fox, F. N.
Monjo, James S. Hanson, L. Briefner & Sons, David
Blustein & Brother, Leopold Gassner, L. Rabinowitz,
Marquis Fur Company, Harry Levy, Max Wulfsohn,
J. L. Prouty's Sons, L. A. Rubenstein Company, M.
Sayer & Company, Struck & Bossak, Inc., Samuel Lewis.


Under the above title a large number of influential
fur manufacturers of New York City organized in
August- September, 191 1, and incorporated in 1912, for
purposes herein set forth in detail; the first business
meeting of the completed organization was held in Jan-
uary, 1912, and the following officers and directors were
elected: Max Thorn, president; Alexander Heilbroner,
first vice-president; Leo D. Greenfield, second vice-
president; William Ames, third vice-president; Fred-
erick Kaufman, secretary; Nathan Sobel, treasurer.
Directors: William Ames, Herman Baehr, Frederick
Kaufman, Adolph Engel, Nathal Sobel, S. N. Samuels,
Max Thorn, L. M. Borden, Alexander Heilbroner, Max
Cohen, Leo D. Greenfield, Frederick P. Kamholz, S. J.
Manne, Hugo Jaeckel, Jr.

The purposes of the Association are:

To foster trade and commerce and promote the
interests of those individuals, firms and corporations
who are engaged in the manufacture of furs and skins
and the sale of goods made therefrom.

To co-operate for the improvement of all conditions



relating to such industries; to regulate and correct
abuses relative thereto, and to secure and maintain
freedom from unjust and unlawful exactions.

To secure, preserve, diffuse and interchange ac-
curate and reliable information valuable to the members
and to establish uniformity and certainty in the customs
and usages of trade, and

Generally to promote the interests of those engaged
in such business and establish and promote a more en-
larged and friendly intercourse among them and to do
such other and further acts and things relating thereto,
as may be found necessary or convenient so far as the
same are permitted by the laws of the State of New
York to corporations similarly organized.

The purposes of the organization have been care-
fully and consistently carried into effect with very great
advantage to the entire membership; conditions un-
favorably affecting the trade locally and at large have
been wisely changed and definitely corrected; and
methods which threatened the stability of the fur busi-
ness have been supplanted by proper mercantile prin-
ciples of action — results which could not have been
achieved other than by the united efforts of the firms
in interest.

A Credit Bureau, efficiently conducted in connec-
tion with the work of the Association has been in suc-
cessful operation for some time past ; its usefulness may
be measurably gauged by the fact that some eighteen
thousand reports were sent out in 191 6.


In order to effectually harmonize the interests of
firms and individuals engaged in the various branches
of the business, the Board of Trade of the Fur Industry
was organized March 3, 1914; the officers chosen at
that time were : Samuel Ullmann, chairman ; Alexander
Heilbroner, vice-chairman; I. Harold Stern, secretary;
Edward M. Spear, treasurer.

The Board of Trade of the Fur Industry consists
of the following organizations : Fur Merchants' Credit
Association of the City of New York, Associated Fur
Manufacturers, Inc., Fur Dressers' and Fur Dyers' As-
sociation, Inc., Raw Fur Merchants' Association of the
City of New York, Inc.

Each of these organizations may be represented at
a meeting of the Board by five delegates, thus insuring
perfectly just action relative to the interests of the re-
spective branches.

It is, among other things of moment, the purpose of
the Board of Trade to foster mercantile interests, de-
velop more effective co-operation among the existing
associations, reform abuses, settle terms and differences,
and equitably adjust all matters pertaining to the wel-
fare of the various branches of the fur industry.



The vicious war in Europe beginning in August,
1914, involving all the continental powers and into which
England was soon drawn, began within twelve weeks of
the active opening of the American raw fur season of
that year; the immediate commercial effect .was the
blotting out of the London Public Fur Sales as by fire ;
all foreign markets were closed as instantaneously and
eif ectually as though depopulated by a devastating earth-
quake; the American trade was stunned, prices on raw
furs declined sharply, trapping was discouraged, and
widespread disaster, which none cared to estimate, was
regarded as inevitable.

Fear centered in the prospect of a collection of
skins far in excess of possible domestic consumption;
and as in the circumstances no standard of values
existed, no one knew the amount that should or could
be paid for peltries in the new season's catch so as to
avoid incurring a minimum loss, which all considered
certain, on surplus supplies.

Low quotations and advices to trappers to restrict
their operations resulted in modifying the collection to
some extent; and as the days sped by American pluck
and competition characteristic of the raw fur trade re-
vived somewhat, and the catch of fur was taken up.
Near the close of the trapping season, April i, fashion
leaders announced that furs, particularly neckwear,
were to be worn during the summer of 191 5; this new
fad rapidly spread over the entire country, and afforded
material relief to the trade, as many thousands of skins
were worked up in meeting this unexpected demand.



Raw fur merchants were somewhat heartened, but
the more thoughtful among them reaHzed that the cus-
tom of wearing furs all the year round could not reason-
ably be expected to endure, and that some sound method
of determining values, which were "all at sea," must be
devised; the problem was studied in all its phases, and
before the collection season of 191 5 opened it was wisely
decided to offer skins of the new season's catch in
quantity at public sale, open to interested merchants
from all parts of the world, for the double purpose of
ascertaining the possible volume of consumption, and
establishing a uniform standard of values. To carry
the matured plans into effect that New York Fur Sales
Corporation was organized in November, 191 5, and in
due course was incorporated under the laws of the State
of New York with one million dollars capital, with full
authority to receive furs from any part of the world
and sell the same at auction in New York City, the
logical fur center.

All necessary arrangements were duly perfected,
and the first public sale was held in the Metropolis in
January, 191 6; the offerings included all classes of
American raw furs in large lots ; the attendance of buy-
ers was unprecedented in number and purchasing power,
and prices much above expectations were realized. The
sale, considered from every standpoint, was a veritable
triumph; the succeeding auction in March duplicated
the remarkable record.

The New York Fur Sales Corporation, with the
support of public spirited fur merchants and manufac-
turers, not only revived but definitely made the fur trade
of America what it is to-day — in everything, the really
worth while, is not what was, but what is.



From an Old Print


Foreign trade at the port of New York for the
fiscal year ending June 30, 191 5, reached the aggregate
value of $2,255,672,244, and for the year ending June
30, 1916, the total was $3,805,882,189. The foreign

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 3 of 34)