The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site of Canada
History in the Making
"Trader" from Leloir
© Glenbow Collection / Leloir / 67.10.20
From the early days of New France, the fur trade played an important role in the colony's economy. At that time, fur was in fashion in Europe. Clothing was decorated with pieces of fur and people wore beaver hats.
To compensate for the increasing shortage of fur-bearing animals in Europe, the French turned to New France. In the early 1600s, the fur trade truly began at the mouth of the Saguenay River. Over the decades, trappers had to move increasingly further west to find good furs. In the early 1800s (and millions of furs later), a fur Eldorado was discovered in the Northwest: the Lake Athabasca region to the north of the future provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Following the Seven Years' War, New France came under the rule of the British Empire. So after 1760, several British immigrants settled in Canada. Many of them, especially the Scottish, invested in the "oil" of the day: furs. To maximize profits and minimize expenses, these immigrants set up the North West Company in 1779.