HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY - A Presentation by Ruth Burkholder March 3, 2015
The Fur Trade, which was the impetus for the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company, was the result of a movement in the fashion world. Only the rich and the elegant could afford the felted beaver skin hats that were the latest in men's fashion, and with the movement of the felt makers into Europe, and the resulting scarcity of pelts, particularly beaver pelts by the early 1600s, a new source had to be found.
And it was .... in North America! Jacques Cartier encountered beaver pelts in 1534 when he traded knives for furs from the First Nations people of the Gaspé. Samuel de Champlain was allowed to settle people in New France if he would develop the fur trade. And this brought about the 90-year French and Indian war which started in 1609.
Prince Rupert and fellow courtier-investors applied to British King Charles II for a Royal Charter, and were granted one in 1670, which gave "The Company of Adventurers of England" the trading rights to all the land whose rivers drained into Hudson Bay. This vast territory became known as Rupert's Land. http://firstpeoplesofcanada.com/images/firstnations/fp_metis/map_tradeterritory.jpg as in 1670
Radisson and Groseilliers were two Frenchmen who listened to the Sioux, found lots of beaver in Rupert's Land, but were arrested, had their furs confiscated and were jailed. They decided that they would work with the British starting in 1667.
In 1763, following the Seven Years' War between Britain and France, Britain took control of New France, and the fur trade ... but Montreal merchants wanted part of the action and in 1783 started the NorthWest Company of Fur Traders. Both groups of men kept moving further and further west in search of fur. Alexander Mackenzie crossed the Rockies and reached the Pacific Ocean in 1793.
In 1821 the HBC took over the NWC, and so controlled most of the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific in Canada, and parts of north west USA. They also make and enforced the law in their territory up to 1870. http://firstpeoplesofcanada.com/images/firstnations/fp_metis/map_hbcland_1821_1870.jpg
Shortly after Confederation, Canada sent George Etienne-Cartier to England to ask for the rights to Rupert's Land, which the HCB gave in exchange for other land and money. And so in 1870 Rupert's Land was granted to Canada for future settlement.
So, this "Deed of Surrender" marked the start of a new path for the Hudson's Bay Company ... fur trade with stores, instead of fur trade and trading posts. The first ‘modern' store opened in 1881 in Winnipeg.
HCB was a western company until they bought a chain of stores based in Montreal in the 1960s, and started to call the company The Bay. The head office came to Winnipeg from London England in 1970. No more fur business after 1991 when the last trading posts were sold. Imagine, this story will be 345 years old in 2015.
Places to find information about the Hudson Bay Company:
- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson's Bay Company
- List of Trading Posts: shttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hudson's_Bay_Company_trading_posts
- Hudson's Bay Company Archives: http: //www.gov.mb.ca/ chc/archives/hbca/
If you have family who worked for the HBC, be sure to find the Biographical Sheets.
From this page check out "The Beginnings of the Fur Trade" and "The Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company"
- Not all stories about the company are like this one: http://www.hbcheritage.ca/hbcheritage/history/people/women/isobelgunn