French Trapper

Fur trade was one of the most significant industries in North America. It was important to many, including someone such as a French trapper. French trappers had to obtain fur pelts, travel in wild areas, and were the reason behind the success of fur trapping from the 1500's to the late 1800's.

This would be a typical beaver pelt in the picture above. The beavers itself were typically captured by the use of iron traps.

Fur trading began in the 1500's as an exchange between the Europeans and Indians. Fur trading was widely popular with the Europeans and Indians because the Indians would trade fur for goods such as weapons and tools. Beaver traps started the Mountain Man and the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Trappers were labeled as "Mountain Men" because they would travel in places such as the Rocky Mountains in search of fur. The most valuable of all furs was beaver fur. Beaver fur was used mainly for felt hats, which were popular at the time. Even today most trappers sell their pelts. A fur trapper would rome native areas of the Rocky Mountains in search of fur and could capture their animals in different ways. One way a trapper could capture their animal was by using the iron trap, which did not become widely popular until the early 1800's. The iron trap would usually be set out about ten feet deep in the water and was placed away from the bank. It would be coated in mud to cover the iron jaws of the trap and also would be dipped in a container of castoreum. The smell of the castor would attract the beaver, luring it into the trap. According to David Thompson, the Northeast Indians were the first to use castoreum. French explorers and fishermen were the earliest fur traders in North America. During the early 1600's, when the demand of fur increased, English settlers established a fur trade in places that are now known as New England and Virginia. English traders formed an alliance with the Iroquois Indians later on  and extended their trading. By the 1700's the French and British fought over trading rights in the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. This was one of the conflicts that contributed to the start of the French and Indian war in 1754. France's colonial empire in North America was taken over by Great Britain when they won the war in 1763. Fur trading began to decline in Eastern United States by the late 1700's. Fur-bearing animals became scarce and more land was being cleared, which made it difficult for trappers to obtain the furs they needed. In addition to this, silk hats became popular around the mid 1800's and by 1870 most fur-trading had come to an end.

This image shows a kind of iron trap called the Early Newhouse Trap. This trap was one of the earliest traps and was favored by trappers.
This image shows major plains tribes of the Fur Trade that trappers would travel along.

                                                         Works Cited

Brubaker, Danika. "The French Fur Trade." |Turning Points in Wisconsin History. Accessed November 20, 2014.

Eddins, O.Ned. "Fur Trade Supplies Historical Facts Pictures Maps." Fur Trade Supplies Historical Facts Pictures Maps. Accessed November 21, 2014.

Ellis, Elisabeth. Esler, Anthony. World History: Connections to Today. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

"Fur Trade." Old Montana Prison Museums. November 21, 2014.

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