Expand MapShrink MapThe Growth of the Fur Trade
HBC’s fur trade begins with the establishment of forts on Hudson Bay. The Bay men wait for Aboriginal traders to come to them to conduct their business. But as HBC’s competitors move inland and establish trading posts along waterways that are closer to where Aboriginal traders reside, HBC follows the same strategy and begins to establish inland posts close to water routes. Eventually, HBC merges with its major competitor, the North West Company, taking over their business. HBC now has forts across Canada and continues to build forts in western Canada. In the early twentieth century, HBC opens forts in the Arctic.
The map highlights the trade routes and locations of forts and posts used in the HBC fur trade. The trade routes show the impact of the fur trade on the development of Canada and its growth as a nation. The routes indicate the journeys of the fur traders that link to corresponding events in HBC’s story.
Expand MapShrink MapTrading on Hudson Bay
The demand for felt hats in Europe and what appeared to be an endless supply of beavers in Canada draws Radisson and des Groseilliers to the fur trade. The French control of the St Lawrence and Great Lake trade routes motivates Radisson and des Groseilliers to convince the British to seek an alternative route into Hudson Bay in 1668. The successful voyage of the Nonsuch results in the formation of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 and the construction of forts on Hudson Bay where the Cree come to trade beaver pelts. Primary modes of transportation are the canoe, York boats and tall ships.
The First 100 Years (Video)
Expand MapShrink MapInland Competition and the North West Company
The southern fur trade routes are established by the French prior to the Quebec Act of 1763. After that, the routes are taken over by British business interests who continue to employ voyageurs and establish posts closer to where Aboriginal peoples reside. In 1779, competition increases with the creation of the North West Company. In response HBC opens inland trading posts and forts.
The First 100 Years (Video)
Expand MapShrink MapMerger and Western Expansion
In 1821, HBC and the North West Company merge under the leadership of George Simpson who streamlines fur trade operations. Simpson calls his new regimen "economy." Further expansion occurs under Donald Smith as HBC becomes more than just a fur trade company.
Fur Trade to Retail (Video)
Expand MapShrink MapArctic Posts
Although HBC starts exploring Arctic regions in the 1850s it is not until the early twentieth century that trading posts are opened in the Arctic. Initially ships are used to carry trade goods; later the use of bush planes improves the flow of trade goods and opens up a market for Inuit art in the south.