The Fur Trade

What was the fur trade?

In the late 1500s, men’s hats made from beaver fur became very fashionable in Europe. French fishermen who fished for cod around what is now Newfoundland and Nova Scotia began trading with the Native people for beaver pelts. European beavers had been trapped almost to extinction, but there were plenty of beaver furs to be found in the St. Joseph River valley region.

Can you find Newfoundland on the map below:

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Can you find Nova Scotia on the map below:

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An old picture showing the different styles of hats that could be made with beaver pelts

As the fur trade developed and people realized that there was money to be made, more and more fur traders came to New France. In 1627, the French king gave fur-trading rights to one company. It was called the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of One Hundred Associates). In exchange, the company promised to bring settlers to New France. The company also promised that it would help the French Catholic priests convert the Aboriginal people to Christianity.

Many of the fur traders in New France had no intention of settling. Some of the early colonists found it too hard to settle and clear the land and plant crops. They left the colony and headed west to trade for furs. They were called “coureurs des bois”. These “runners of the woods” came to know the Native people, especially the Potawatomi and Miami. They learned Indian ways of hunting, trapping and canoeing, as well as how to use plants as medicine. Often the French coureurs de bois married Indian women and had families.

What kinds of animals did fur traders trap?

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Beaver

Can weigh up to 60 pounds!
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Bobcat

Still in wooded areas within Indiana
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Badger

No longer in Indiana
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Bison or Buffalo

Male bison can weigh 2,000 pounds!
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Black Bear

Last seen in Indiana-1830
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Elk

Last seen in Indiana-1830
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Lynx

Still seen within Indiana
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Red Fox

Still seen within Indiana
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Grey Fox

Still seen within Indiana
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Mountain Lion or Cougar

A few sightings reported in Michigan.
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Mink

Still in Indiana, but in very small numbers.
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Fisher

Last seen in Indiana-1859
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Opossum or Possum

Have you seen one of these?
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Whitetail Deer

Deer are present on all continents except Antarctica.
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Grey Wolf

Last seen in Indiana-1908

Primary Document

This is an actual page out of Lathrop Taylor’s 1835 ledger book. This shows that Topinabee, the Potawatomi chief, bought some items from Taylor’s trading post.

Can you read two of the items that Topinabee bought?

What was the total cost for the two items you picked?

Trading Post Prices

Values of Pelts at Coquillard’s Trading Post in South Bend in 1830  

Beaver

Whitetail Deer

Raccoon

$2.00 (prime quality)

$1.00 buck; $.50 doe

$.25

Muskrat

Mink

Bear

$.25

$3.00

$2.00-$3.00

Prices of Goods at Coquillard’s Trading Post in South Bend in 1830  

Axe

Beaver Trap

Black Silk Handkerchief

Breech Cloth

Bridles (for horses)

Chain for Securing Traps

Combs

File for Sharpening Axes

Flannel Cloth

Gun Flints

Hand-Size Mirrors

Heavy Wool Cloth (Stroud)

Garden Hoe

Horn Full of Gunpowder

Horses

Wool Cloak or Shawl

$6.00

$8.00

$2.00

$3.00

$2.00-$10.00

$.75 per 6-feet

$1.00 a pair

$2.00

$1.00 per yard

$1.00 per 15

$.25

$10.00 per yard

$2.00

$1.50

$35.00-$50.00

$4.00

Large Copper Kettle

Lead

Lead Shot for Guns

Medium Copper Kettle

Mink Spear

Mink Trap

Muslin or Calico Shirt

Ordinary Butcher Knife

Iron Kettle

Small Copper Kettle

Spurs

Tin Kettle

Flint-Lock Long Gun

Tomahawk

Wool Blanket

$30.00

$.20 per 1 pound

$1.00 per 5 pounds

$10.00

$2.00

$5.00

$3.00

$.50

$10.00

$3.00

$6.00 per pair

$14.00

$20.00-$25.00

$1.50

$4.00

Use the Above Trading Post Prices

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