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George Simpson, The Little Emperor
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Trade Giants Merge
In 1821, exhausted by the competition and violence, two fur-trading giants which had helped shape the western interior joined forces.
George Simpson brought modern business practices to the fur trade in the years following the 1821 merger of the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies. (As portrayed by Benedict Campbell in Canada: A People's History)
George Simpson brought modern business practices to the fur trade in the years following the 1821 merger of the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies. (As portrayed by Benedict Campbell in Canada: A People's History)
The long fight between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company was over.

The merger brought an end to the hostilities and lawsuits but the new company, using the Hudson's Bay name, was now burdened by duplication and inefficiency.

The expanded HBC also had new competitors; the Americans and the Russians were both trading along the Pacific coast. The company needed to prepare itself for this fresh threat.

The job of making the company lean and efficient fell to George Simpson, a veteran of the sugar trade.

Simpson was born in the Scottish Highlands, an illegitimate child who was raised by his aunt and sent to London for his education. He was a compact, autocratic man who had enormous physical stamina and a natural passion for efficiency in all things: travel, business and romance.

One of his first acts as Governor was to bring together 73 employees from the former North West Company and the HBC for a banquet at York Factory in an effort to get rid of the lingering ill will.
Two of his guests had recently fought a duel with one another.

As trader John Tod remembered"...they had hacked and slashed at each other with swords only a few months before... one of them still bore the marks of a cut on his face, the other it was said on some less conspicuous part of his body. I shall never forget the look of utter scorn and utter defiance with which they regarded each other the moment their eyes met."

But Simpson's diplomacy softened the old enmities.
The message from the dinner was unmistakable. The two sides may never come to love each other - but they must work together. Simpson, nicknamed the Little Emperor, also made it clear who was in charge. Then the streamlining began.

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