We’re the fur trading companies of early America considered good or bad by trappers?

Aug 2014
9
US
#1
How did fur trappers feel about fur trading companies? We’re they like greedy corporations that ruined the trade and practice or were they a benefit to get sales and money easier from furs? How did this relationship work? We’re the companies always accessed at fur trapping rendezvous locations?
 
Aug 2011
153
The Castle Anthrax
#2
The companies offered opportunity to men who wanted to earn a living and/or get out of their living situation and into the vast wilderness. That said, the trappers aspired to independence where they could keep all of their profits despite the possibility that their loses could also be greater. The relationship between the trappers and their companies was really no different that that of employee and employer today. One usually begins their career working for the man, but at some point realizes that greater profits and overall satisfaction can be had by working for one's self. I believe the trappers generally respected the knowledge of the companies, their ability to trap, but over time grew to resent the restrictions imposed on them and yearned to trap on their own terms. As an industry, the fur trade collapsed because of dwindling demand rather than cooperate greed. So I don't believe there was any irritation towards the companies there. The companies were accessed at forts or outposts. There the trappers would sell their furs as late in the season as they dared. The rendezvous where part trade show and part party where the trappers would meet at the end of the season, share information about their seasons and generally network. Indians would also come to trade for goods and others who had an interest in the activities and region would also at times be present to pick the trappers' brains. Of course it was also a time to have a good time. The rendezvous for many would be the most time that they would send around other people.
 
Likes: Niobe
Aug 2014
9
US
#4
Interesting thank y’all. Side question is there a movie that accurately captures fur trapping and trading? I’ve already seen the revenant and big sky but they didn’t really get into the trapping part.

Appreciate it.
 
Jan 2013
956
Toronto, Canada
#6
Interesting thank y’all. Side question is there a movie that accurately captures fur trapping and trading? I’ve already seen the revenant and big sky but they didn’t really get into the trapping part.

Appreciate it.
A realistic portrayal of trapping does't really lend itself to movies. Frontier is about the competition over the fur trade, but it does all the usual things to simplify and speed up the story - compressed timelines, composite characters, etc.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,655
#7
Fur trapping without the companies was a small business. Setting up outposts and the logistics to fund even a few hundred men with no other infrastructure wasn't something individuals could manage on their own. The vast majority of actual trapping was done by native peoples with the French and English merely trading for those furs and then shipping them back to Europe.
 
Aug 2011
153
The Castle Anthrax
#8
I'm not aware of any Indians that trapped. At least not west of the Missouri. I vaguely recall hearing that Indians back east began to harvest beaver, to the dismay of the elders, once they realized the white people's appetite. Metis did trap, but the Indians viewed the trappers with curiosity. They, following the large game, had no use for the beaver and were often obliging in pointing out the areas saturated with beaver.

Although it is true that trapping without the companies was a small business, that did not prohibit some trappers from earning a living doing it on their own. Certainly the money was indeed made by the companies and people like Astor who never trapped an animal in his life.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,655
#9
I'm not aware of any Indians that trapped. At least not west of the Missouri. I vaguely recall hearing that Indians back east began to harvest beaver, to the dismay of the elders, once they realized the white people's appetite. Metis did trap, but the Indians viewed the trappers with curiosity. They, following the large game, had no use for the beaver and were often obliging in pointing out the areas saturated with beaver.

Although it is true that trapping without the companies was a small business, that did not prohibit some trappers from earning a living doing it on their own. Certainly the money was indeed made by the companies and people like Astor who never trapped an animal in his life.
That was the main purpose of all the outposts and forts the Hudson Bay Company set up- you can have a few hundred European trappers going out every year and setting traps along all the waterways and constantly monitoring but even if they catch 10 beaver a day that is only a million or so per year- at the height of the beaver trade it was more like 20+ million a year. That occurred when trappers offered natives trade goods to bring them furs. It wasn't during the entire fur trade that natives were trapping for the traders but for a good 50 years at the height of the trade it was certainly happening in the English areas. I am not as sure how the French operated as they do seem to have travelled more and used the rivers to send furs back without setting up trade posts and factories all over like the English.
 
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