The Fur Trade of the American West: A Geographical

The Fur Trade of the American West: A Geographical Synthesis [Reading] ➾ The Fur Trade of the American West: A Geographical Synthesis By David J. Wishart – In stressing the exploitation and destruction of the physical and human environment rather than the usual frontier romanticism David Wishart has provided for students of the trans Mississippi fur trad In Trade of the American PDF \ stressing the exploitation and Trade of eBook ✓ destruction of the physical and human environment rather than the usual frontier romanticism David Wishart has provided for students of the trans Mississippi fur trade a valuable service Journal of the Early Republic A standard reference work that should be reuired reading for all students of the American west Pacific Historical Review The The Fur PDF \ whole fur trade system is traced out from the Green River rendezvous or the Fort Union post to the Fur Trade of the American PDF or trading houses of St Louis and the auctions in New York and Europe Such factors as capital formation shifting commercial institutions the role of advanced market information and the nature kinds costs and speed of transportation are all worked into Fur Trade of MOBI ☆ the story as is the relationship of the whole fur trade to national and international business cycles This is an impressive achievement for a book so brief It opens out onto new methodological vistas and paradigms in western history William H Goetzmann New Mexico Historical Review David J Wishart is a professor of geography at the University of Nebraska Fur Trade of the American PDF or Lincoln He is the winner of the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize for distinguished books in American geography sponsored by the Association of American Geographers for An Unspeakable Sadness The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians also available in a Bison books edition.

3 thoughts on “The Fur Trade of the American West: A Geographical Synthesis

  1. Rob Bauer Rob Bauer says:

    This is an extended review of this class book on the 19th century fur tradeAndrew Henry William Ashley William Sublette Jedediah Smith and Manuel Lisa Any of these names are familiar to students of the American fur trade of the Rocky Mountains in the first half of the 19th Century The stories of their exploits along with those of other well known contemporaries in the American fur trade are at the heart of the romantic vision of the American West that has come down to students of the fur trade Their hardy and rugged way of life allowed them to survive and prosper in the inhospitable environment of the Rocky Mountains and their efforts helped to pave the way for the advance of American society across the American West Or so we have been led to believeIn The Fur Trade of the American West 1807 – 1840 David Wishart paints uite a different picture than the one described above To begin with he abandons the typical approach of seeing fur trappers as a collection of individuals whose trademark was their freedom of action Instead he chooses a regional approach to describe the fur trade rather than an individual one He further demonstrates that fur trappers did not enjoy great freedom of action but in fact their activities were closely circumscribed by their environment Wishart chooses to organize the American fur trade into two main regions The first is the Northern Great Plains region The trade here is centered on the Missouri River and its tributaries The usual strategy was for the traders to erect a forttrading post in close vicinity to an Indian village and near a major river This convenient arrangement allowed the traders easy and cheap water transport the furs they acuired The fortpost needed to be near the villages of the Native Americans because they were the primary sources of the furs The primary item of trade was the bison robe Though the furs of smaller animals were also traded on the Northern Plains the vast herds of bison that roamed the Plains made the bison robe the trade item of choice In return for killing the bison and making the skin into a robe the Indians were able to trade for various European trade items they desiredThe second region Wishart describes is the Rocky Mountain region Here small fur bearing animals beaver especially were the most common trade item as hunting by the trappers uickly eliminated buffalo west of the Rocky Mountains The beaver were sometimes caught by the fur traders themselves the mountain men of our romantic histories and sometimes by Indians to trade for European goods The furs acuired could be trading at trading postforts as on the Northern Plains but from 1825 to 1840 most trading was done at the yearly rendezvous site The rendezvous was in essence a combination of a trade fair and a carnival Fur trappers would gather once a year to exchange their furs for new supplies to continue the hunt the next year Native Americans would trade their furs for trade items they desired especially guns and powder Following the trading everyone would engage in gambling drinking and various contests of skillSuch is the geographic division that Wishart describes While this is important and useful it does not by itself make for a very compelling argument The real importance of the analysis Wishart provides is in his description of how the fur trader’s choice of action was closely controlled by his environment To begin with hunting beaver could only take place at certain times of the year In winter the streams are frozen and the Rocky Mountains are too cold to operate outside In the summer the beaver pelts would be too thin and thus less valuable So the hunt would mainly take place in the spring and fall In addition some areas were richer in furs than others The Snake River and tributaries and the Three Forks of the Missouri were notoriously good beaver areas while the Great Basin was notoriously poor because it contains fewer streams Another restriction on the trappers was the willingness of the Indians to allow their lands to be trapped The Blackfoot were the implacable enemies of the fur trappers for most of the fur trade period Expeditions to the Three Forks of the Missouri or any other Blackfoot lands needed to be large and well armed for protection against possible Blackfoot attack Others such as the Crow proved willing to trade Indeed Wishart notes on several occasions the exceptional skills of Crow women at preparing furs once the beaver were caughtThe beaver themselves placed restrictions on the trappers Slow to reproduce extensive trapping of the beavers in an area led to population decline in just two or three years Operating from an exploitative mindset rather than a conservationist one trappers made no effort to moderate their hunting to preserve beaver populations This was not a problem for the bison robe traders of the Northern Plains Not that the traders on the Northern Plains cared about treating bison as a renewable resource The bison herds were simply too large to be impacted by the volume of trade in bison robes in the first few decades of the nineteenth century The middle decades of that century are a different story but that lies outside Wishart’s analysisFinally and most importantly Wishart describes the economic constraints imposed on the fur traders In short suppliers had the fur traders by the throat The trade caravan that was sent to the rendezvous once per year was the only chance to acuire supplies for the next trapping season The prices of these goods were marked up to an astronomical level to the point where suppliers could average a 600 percent profit 198 Conseuently few trappers were ever able to profit from their efforts Despite his efforts to shatter the myths surrounding the fur trapper Wishart does acknowledge certain positive contributions they made Foremost among these contributions was the geographical knowledge of the West that they were able to share Through the trappers the locations and descriptions of mountains rivers and other physical features were brought into sharper focus But finally he concludes with this less than complementary statementIn comparison with later stages of frontier settlement the fur trade barely scratched the surface of the West The trappers and traders were too few in number too limited in technology and too focused on their objective of exploitation for it to be otherwise The fur trade did however set the pace for subseuent Euro American activity in the West The attitude of rapacious short term exploitation which was imprinted during the fur trade persisted after 1840 as the focus shifted from furs to minerals timber land and water 212 I found this book to be very enlightening and believe that others both inside and outside the field will find it a useful description of the American fur trade By placing the fur trade in its actual economic and environmental context Wishart helps clarify what the fur trade truly entailed The book contains several useful maps detailing the area being described There are also many tables detailing the volume of trade at various locations the prices paid for goods and so forth There are even diagrams of the standard layout of a trading postfort Combined with Wishart’s clear and thorough narrative these maps and tables help to clarify and uantify the extent of the fur trade The one item I did not find helpful was the spatial diagrams that attempted to explain certain aspects of the fur trade They provided me with confusion instead of clarification The narrative was strong enough that they were unnecessary

  2. Greg Strandberg Greg Strandberg says:

    This is one of my favorite books on the fur trade It goes into great detail both geographically and economically on the trade Wishart is a geographer by trade and is a professor at the University of Nebraska For those that read these books you know that's one of the main universities to put out fur trade historiesThe maps are a real highlight of this book Each chapter or section has one with clear routes rendezvous locations and even how long it took to go up or downriver Really a great resourceI like how the strategy is laid out as well as what happened in various seasons Lots of names and dates that are great for putting a timeline togetherThis is a great resource for historians and an informative read for the general public

  3. Ash Ash says:

    I personally thought it was a terribly dry read that skimmed over things such as the rendezvous that were of much interesting for my focus The transactions of selling a beaver pelt If you are really into fur trappers go ahead and give it a shot However if they aren't really your thing I would urge you to look for a recent published work

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