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Fur Trading on a Frozen Land

Think of a shopping centre today and the image in the below photograph does not immediately spring to mind. This photograph is of a remote shopping centre in Canada owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the early 1900s. The Hudson’s Bay Company is still in existence today but ran as a fur trading business for much of its existence. Developing trading posts and buying land, the Hudson’s Bay Company came to dominate the Canadian fur trade by the eighteenth century.

Looking through this album of photographs from the University of Alberta for our upcoming resource, China, America and the Pacific, the difficult life of a fur trader became abundantly clear. Canadian winters can be long and cold; cold that would have penetrated the remote cabins of traders and snowfall that created hazardous conditions to trap and collect furs. Traders worked with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, many of whom were trappers, learning their valuable hunting skills and ways to survive the winter. Competition between trappers could be fierce and men loaded down with fur pelts were vulnerable to attack. With the post taking at least 10 days to arrive and the nearest rail station a mere 400 miles away, help was a long way off.

Many journeyed into the wilderness to work; the positives of good pay and a secure job outweighing the negatives. The coming of spring and the cracking of the frozen land would have been a welcome relief from the frosty conditions, seen in the photograph below, traders endured.

These photographs are from a collection at the University of Alberta and will be featured in our upcoming resource, China, America and the Pacific.

 





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