Canadian Geographic
Left navigation image
Fur trade

1821 - 1870

During the period 1821-70 virtually all aspects of life in the northwest were coloured by the all-pervasive effects of the fur trade.

Beaver remained the mainstay of the trade, accounting in the early 1820s for 40% of the value of western fur production. Muskrat were the most common skins in virtually all districts. Beaver, muskrat, and marten comprised 84% of the value of the company’s exports. Although beaver returns were highest in the most recently developed districts, and although some local areas were severely depleted after years of competitive trapping, fur returns in the early 1820s and later years indicate the long-term resilience of populations of furbearing animals.

The post-1821 stability was to some extent upset in the latter part of the period by the free-trade movement emanating from the Red River settlement, the United States, and the mission settlements that had arisen throughout most parts of the northwest. One result of this increased competition was the proliferation of posts towards the end of the period as the Hudson’s Bay Company tried to neutralize the effects of the free traders. This proliferation occurred mainly in the Lac-la-Pluie and Swan River Districts, the two districts flanking the free-trade haven of the Red River settlement, and around Fort Edmonton in the Saskatchewan District, where there was a concentration of Métis and mission settlements.


This interactive piece allows users to select from a series of species to view graphs that depict the levels of fur production between 1821 and 1870.


On the next page:

In the Cordillera, 1821-1857

Go now!  Go now!
Quiz :

Which First Nation did Champlain believe would be an important trading partner?