The Fashion of Fur
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The Fashion of Fur
The Fashion of Fur
By the 1600's, the beaver hat was the fashion rage in Europe driving adventurous entrepreneurs to seek out the fur rich lands of North America.

The underwool from the beaver pelts was used to make the beaver hat.
The fur trade was based on the barter system and in the late 1700s a blanket was worth seven prime beaver pelts, a gun cost 14 pelts. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The fur trade was based on the barter system and in the late 1700s a blanket was worth seven prime beaver pelts, a gun cost 14 pelts. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
(Underwool is soft, dense fur closest to the skin of the animal.)

Although the North American natives traded beaver pelts to the Europeans, they thought the strangers' desire for beaver was frivolous.

In 1634, Father Paul le Jeune, the superior of the Jesuits at Quebec observed, "I heard my (Indian) host say one day, jokingly, 'The Beaver does everything perfectly well, it make kettles, hatchets, swords, knives, bread; in short, it makes everything.' He was making sport of us Europeans, who have such a fondness for the skin of this animal and who fight to see who will get it; they carry this to such an extent that my host said to me one day, showing me a very beautiful knife, "the English have no sense; they give us twenty knives like this for one Beaver skin."

The beaver trade was big business for both the natives and Europeans.
A number of large fur trading companies thrived in North America. Companies like the Hudson's Bay Company and later the North West Company were responsible for much of the exploration and mapping of the continent.

The beaver hat remained fashionable for centuries but was eventually supplanted by the silk hat in the 1800's. By the 1860's, the beaver hat was no longer the height of fashion and the fur trade was in decline.

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