Canadian Geographic
Left navigation image
Fur trade

In the Cordillera, 1821-1857

In the distant, unfamiliar territory of the Cordillera the Hudson’s Bay Company inherited a novel set of problems: persistent commercial and geopolitical competition from the Americans and the Russians, indigenous trading networks that took advantage of this competitive situation, and severely extended supply lines. In the interior the Hudson’s Bay Company responded by expanding its system of posts and, south of the Columbia River, trapping out the beaver. On the coast it established posts and deployed trading vessels, including the steamer Beaver (1836.) Diversification into agriculture, fisheries, and lumber-supplying local and export markets consolidated the Hudson’s Bay Company’s position. By 1841 the Hudson’s Bay Company had eliminated competition from American trading vessels, and, after an agreement with the Russian American Company, had gained access to the Alaska panhandle. Direct sailings from London reduced supply problems. Furs were collected at Fort Vancouver (1825) to coincide with the arrival of the annual supply vessel. Coasting vessels and brigades - using canoe routes and trails - distributed trade goods to the posts.

This trading regime was disrupted by the Oregon Treaty (1846) and the California gold rush (1848). Extension of the international border along the 49th parallel to the coast (1846) obliged the Hudson’s Bay Company to orient its transportation system to the lower Fraser River and the new regional headquarters at Fort Victoria. Establishment of Vancouver Island as a proprietary colony (1849), to counter further American expansion, brought settlers and more economic diversification.

To further explore trade in the west, click here.


This interactive piece exhibits the varying level of fur production from 1828 to 1850, along the coast of the Pacific. By clicking on various regions, a bar graph fluctuates according to the fur production for various species produced in that area.


On the next page:

End of section

Go now!  Pointer disabled
Quiz :

When did the French begin exploring the rivers draining into the St Lawrence?

Mid 18th century
Early 17th century
Late 17th century