1740 - 1755
In 1744 war between France and Britain (War of the Austrian Succession) cut short supplies to New France. After Louisbourg fell in 1745, the British blockaded the St Lawrence. Making the best of this opportunity, British traders moved into the Ohio country where they offered goods at one-third to one-quarter the French price. Attempts by the French post commanders to forbid their native allies to trade with the British led to sullen resentment, then to open conflict. In 1744 the Miami sacked Fort Miami. The Huron burned the mission at Détroit and began attacks on French traders. The entire Wabash-Lake Erie area became unsafe for travel.
When the war ended in 1748, the French cut the price of trade goods by half and in 1749 ordered troops under Céloron de Blainville to tour the Ohio and eject British traders. The effect of this tour was slight. In 1751 the Miami destroyed Fort Vincennes and declared open support for the British.
In the northwest French trade also suffered. Although La Vérendrye and his sons had pushed trade and exploration to the Saskatchewan River, wartime scarcity and high prices induced many native groups to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The lessons of the previous ten years were not lost on the French. The Ohio-Wabash country was of little economic value for the fur trade but was strategically of the highest importance. The French recognized that, if the lower Great Lakes natives were alienated, the Mississippi colonies would be cut off from Canada, and in time the upper Great Lakes First Nations would drift to the British. Without native support, affirmed through treaties, competitive prices, and a show of strength, the interior would be lost.
In 1752 treaties with the eastern Dakota permitted the vigorous expansion of trade along the upper Mississippi. In the same year the French coerced the Miami back into the French alliance when [delete: an Indian] a native party assisted by French soldiers destroyed the Miami’s main village, built around a British post at Pickawillany. In 1753-4 French troops occupied four new posts in the upper Ohio, an area always claimed by France. Henley House, a Hudson’s Bay outpost on the Albany River, was destroyed in 1755 by natives. For a time the French had secured the interior of North America.
This piece tells the story of the French fur trade circa 1755. It features an interactive pie chart that users can click to access the product breakdown for the Hudson’s Bay, Louisiana, and Canada trade districts.