Skip to main content

tv   History Bookshelf  CSPAN  November 7, 2015 4:00pm-4:53pm EST

4:00 pm
contest on tv, the radio, and online. www.c-span.org history bookshelf features popular american history writers and airs every weekend at this time. dolinauthor eric jay discusses the american fur trade in his book "for, fortune, and empire." he highlights key players in such as john jacob astor and thomas jefferson. i remember very clearly the moment at which the idea for this book came to me. ofwas back in the spring 2007. i was reading "the founding of new england."
4:01 pm
it was written in 1921. adams had alolow passage in there saying the "bible and the beaver" where the two mainstays of the nation and those years.. i have no idea why he had thrown the beaver into the mix. back on the curious. i quickly discovered for the better part of a decade, the main source of income for the pilgrims was trading beaver pelt with local indians and selling them in london. backup a wondering what else i didn't know about the american fur trade. i went down to my local library and started reading books about the firsfur trade. there was a fascinating history there that could be used to tell an equally fascinating story about american history, using
4:02 pm
trade to talk about how america was transformed into a transcontinental nation. now that i have written a book, i am convinced that if you do not understand the basics of the history of the fur trade in america, you cannot really understand american history. it has that big of an impact. what i will do now is give you a whirlwind tour through my book, " fur, fortune, and empire." in prehistoric times, americans to protect them from the elements. 1500s, the enormous demand for for in europe -- for fur had stripped europe of
4:03 pm
beavers. there was a new source in america. wealthst to witness that or the explorers and fishermen who came in the 1500s. in between fishing and exploring, they traded pelts with local indians. i the end of the 1500s, the french had established the first fur trading colonies in in canada. , an employee of the dutch, sailed up the river -- henry hudson, an employee of the dutch, sailed up the river that now has his name to sell and trade fur. they established new netherlands, the heart of which was new amsterdam, what we know as manhattan in the city of new york. of all the first the dutch wanted to trade for, t --he furs
4:04 pm
for,utch wanted to trade none was more valuable than the beaver fur. ,hey traded with the iroquois the mohawk, and other indian nations. they were not the only ones in the new world looking for pelt. pilgrims andhe puritans, as well as the french canada, and and surprisingly, the swedes on the delaware river in the 16 30's. i had no idea there was a swedish colony. it lasted for 20 years and was founded as a for trading outpost. outpost.ading they traded a variety of goods , theding guns and alcohol
4:05 pm
latter of which had a devastating impact on indian culture. with the colonies of four empires competing for fur, it is not surprising they came to blows. the first to strike was the netherlands,ew known as "old pegleg." upwas not somebody who put with fools likely. -- lightly. dubbed him "big belly." new sweden had only 200 individuals, but the reason the indians were a thorn in their orn in theirthron in
4:06 pm
side was because they were taking furs. he would have liked to of dealt with the new englanders to the north, but new england was a mighty assemblage of colonies, whose population dwarfed them. the english started expanding in population and swept into the connecticut river valley, into long island, putting the swedes on the dutch. in 1664, the british, the english, they deposed the dutch and transformed new netherlands into new york. and aan into the french, flashpoint between the two empires was always the first fur trade.
4:07 pm
this map shows why the empires were on a collision course. if you look at the green areas on the eastern seaboard, those were claimed by the english. the green area in the center is the land around hudson bay, also claimed by the english. the french claimed the pink and yellow areas. the frontier is where they met the most violence. a boiling point was reached in valley andhe ohio sparked thehere french and indian war (also kn own as the 7 years war). the big question now is what would the british do with the land they conquered? this cartoon is actually the first political cartoon ever by benjaminica, franklin, used to rally the
4:08 pm
colonies to act and defeat the french and indians. many americans look forward to expanding the fur trade. mainmerican fur trade insignificant up to the 1770's. the british wanted to protect the indians and give canadian montreal theut of upper hand. landkept americans out of they had shed their own blood to retrieve. fuel ther helped american revolution. does anybody know what this engraving is? the boston massacre, by paul revere. they called it the "bloody massacre" at the time. the british did
4:09 pm
not mean the americans, such as benjamin franklin shown here in his favorite fur hat, would have free reign over the fur trade. the british maintained control of all the fur trading posts around the great lakes and along the mississippi and the ohio valley. they kept the americans out. during the late 1700s and early 1800s, there was a bright spot for the trade, and it was a long the pacific northwest coast where the sea otters landed in blue-green waters. cook visited the pacific northwest coast. traded buttons and nails for sea otter helped with local indians -- pelt with local indians. those were taken to china, where the men discovered that those
4:10 pm
pelts were great demand by the mandarins in china. forold for as much as $150 a fine specimen, at a time in america when an average labor might make only a couple of dollars per day. mutiny ontated into the part of cook's men to go back to the coast and get more help. -- pelt. they went on to england. on board the ship was a man named john ledger. after the market revolution, he came back to the united states and returned to connecticut and wrote a book about his adventure with captain cook. it happened to be the first book copyrighted in the united states. in it, he spent a couple of pages talking about the riches that can be had by those who would enter into the pacific
4:11 pm
northwest sea otter trade. in 1787, a group of boston the voyage ofnced the columbia and the lady washington to the pacific northwest coast. the columbia, captained by robert ray, he came the first american shift to circumnavigate the globe. when it returned it to boston, it earned its backers a sum of $175,000 by trading in china. many of you as probably know, later gained more claim to immortality by, and being theck and first person to go to the mouth of the columbia river.
4:12 pm
the american sea otter trade thrived, and the americans led the way. the indians refer to the white man as either king george's men or boston men. boston have monopolized the trade. the greed of the trappers and traders had cause to the near extinction of the local otter population. not just here, but the russians were forcing-- by the 1820's, the trade came to an end for a while. wow that was progressing, the american fur trade branched
4:13 pm
out to the pacific over st. louis. -- when louisia the louisiana purchase was announced, it expanded the fur trade. traveled to the mouth of the columbia and back again. mission wasl of the to scope out the potential of the western land for the fur trade. referred to this trade as explorers followed in their wake. this map was in their book. i worked with an artist in new york.
4:14 pm
i read a lot of books to write this book. a lot had interesting maps. none of them tried to capture of impacty network the first trade had on the mississippi. thisshows many of the pad that some of the -- paths that famous not men took and key locations of the fur trade. many trappers went to the upper missouri, where they trapped beavers and treated with local indians. they had competition from john jacob astor, an immigrant from waldorf, germany. he finally made it to america -- and a desire to get involved in the fur trade. merchant with a quaker
4:15 pm
and used his commercial savvy to get into the fur trade. by the 1800s, he was the richest man in america, largely as a result of his acumen in fur trading. was to build a series of trading posts over the continental divide down the columbia into the pacific. he planned to open a trading post at the mouth of the columbia. of anunately, his dreams empire were dashed. the tonkin made it around the its way to thede coast-- to -- byme t he tookhe
4:16 pm
the time he took the tonkin to trade, one of the indian chiefs demanded too much. captain thorn took a rolled up helped and slapped him-- pelt him, resulting in a series of actions that resulted in all the men on board being slaughtered. one of them crawled down to the nineof the ship and lit tons of gunpowder, blowing the ship to smithereens and killing 200 indians. that was not a good start for astoria, a fledgling outpost on the columbia. it did establish itself. this is a picture of the outpost around 1813. by the end of the war of 1812, adersritish fofur tr took it over from the americans. , her the war of 1812
4:17 pm
quickly expanded his operations around the great lakes and up the missouri river, hiring a small army of traders, and establishing dozens of posts. went in a newur direction. travelers headed into the rocky mountains, staying there year-round, and meeting each summer at predetermined locations called rendezvous where they would trade pelts for supplies. during the rendezvous, they would gather with old friends, drink, and have a righriotous time. they were expectant capitalists. they wanted to earn a living, but many of them blew their rendezvous ine
4:18 pm
about of debauchery. they sometimes lasted as long as a month, and more than a thousand would attend. here is a representation of the archetypical mountain men. among them were jim bridger, who is credited as being the first white man to see the great salt beckworth, kid carson, who became a mountain men, and jeopardize jebediah smith. the era came to an end around 1840, due to the increasing use of silk. the real downfall toward the end of the 1830's was because the
4:19 pm
mountain men and their canadian counterparts, the trappers, who had come below the 49th parallel , did their job too well. the rockies were stripped of beaver. their time on the national stage was brief, but their impact on american history was significant, especially in the realm of exploration. many of the paths they first walked were important to the settlers who headed west. they are credited with being the first white man to discover these paths, they were following the paths indians had followed for many centuries. canada'spetition with hudson bay company and the earlier expeditions of lewis and clark, robert gray's discovery of the columbia river mouth, all
4:20 pm
helped to strengthen america's claim on the oregon country, inding ito its cession 1846. were not for a lot of these key for a lot- it's not of these key factors, we might be standing right now on canadian land. while the rocky mount trade were swing, plenty of animals were being trapped and sent to st. louis. this as if a trail opened for business in 1821 as word about the beaver windfall in new mexico spread. many headed west along the santa fe trail from st. louis, using small towns in the mountains to the northeast of santa fe as the base of their operations.
4:21 pm
while beaver populations in the southwest and upper missouri and americanwindled, the fur trade headed in a new direction. buffalo robes from the west had been a part of the trade, but now they took center stage. they were widely used as blankets, bedcovers, and lined boots. this did not take off after 1812. the relatively small herds east could bessissippi found on the coast of the atlantic, but they had been decimated. in the great plains, it was a different story. there were millions available. path took a turn
4:22 pm
for the worse with the coming of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. during construction, the many eat--o needed to the corporation hired hunters, including william cody, or buffalo bill. buffalo bill cody alone single-handedly killed 40280 buffalo. number of buffalo killed to feed railroad workers pales in comparison to the number killed by the flood of people who would ride the rails west to hunt for pleasure and profit. during the 1870's, shooting buffalo from the cabins of passing trains and leaving them rot becamees tins to
4:23 pm
a fad. people touted the pleasures to be had by riding the train and shooting these monarchs of the prairie as you went flying by. tourists ande sportsmen, the railroad brought thousands of professionals. market hunters of the planes. many killed the animal only for tongue, salted and put in barrels and sent east and sold as delicacies to restaurants. came for thenters hide, which, due to attending procedures, could be used to make leather, which helped turn the wheels of industry. the scope of the slaughter was staggering. 3 .7en 1872 and 1874, million buffalo were killed.
4:24 pm
85% were killed by market hunters. in 1889, there were only 8000 buffalo left. at one time, there was many as 3 0 million. the destruction of the buffalo was a tragedy for the in dians. their existence was x essentially links to this bash -- was existentially linked to this animal. they were forced to give up their way of life, their land, and their independence. throughout the 20th century and
4:25 pm
up to the present, there still has been an active fur trade worldwide. in the united states, there are trappersart-time fur and many mink farms. the international trade still generates revenues of 10 billion to $15 billion per year. this is not the subject of "for, fortune, and empire." it ends with the conservation movement in the early 20 a century. -- 20th century. of a much symptom larger problem facing american society. the 19th-century was called the age of extermination, for good reason. an astounding number of animals were killed for food, fashion, sport, and a result of habitat loss. numerous species were reduced in numbers. some were pushed to extinction.
4:26 pm
a few were wiped off the face of the earth, the passenger igeon. shown here int is yoyosemite. the conservation movement had a major impact on the fur trade. longer first time, no would market forces dictate the course of the fur trade. there were regulations such as closed seasons and acbag limits. it is this transition point at which we leave off and another story begins, one which will be written by someone else. that is the end of my formal presentation. i would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the trade.
4:27 pm
thank you. [applause] >> did any of the mountain men at least, well, getting out of the trade was some kind of security, or did they all squander whatever they had and were lost in the mist? eric: i don't have specific statistics. the vast majority ended up having what they had when they went in, if not less. some made some money and were smart enough to get out of it. contrary to the popular perception, they were well educated given the standard of today. not all of them stayed out there for 15 years. dissipatehem did their rent having too much fun
4:28 pm
in the wilderness. some walked away with something. it was amazing how this cycle repeated itself year after year. astor? happened asketo eric: he stayed in the trade until the 1830's. stayed until he thought soak wood overcome the trade of pelt-- silk would overcome the trade of pelt. he started buying real estate in manhattan. his friends made fun of him for buying the land, but when he sold it for hundreds of thousands of dollars, no one was laughing. died, he said the one
4:29 pm
thing he would do if he could start all over again was by more land in new york. he stayed in the trade until the 1830's and exited thinking he would die soon. he labored on and lived until 1846. when he died, he had $20 million, much of which came from the sale of pelt. >> to have any idea of how many mountain men were in the beaver trade? eric: yes. i look at the journals kept by various companies that went to the rockies. the best estimate is that during the entire era, the 15 year span, there were probably 3000 men who participated in one way or another. >> i have a hard time believing, could have exterminated the beaver. they were in streams setting
4:30 pm
traps. it's not like the buffalo where you had rifles. i have a hard time believing that 3000 people could have done that much to the beaver, which was spread all over the west. eric: you have to look at it differently. it was 3000 people over a few years. they were aided in this destructive path by many canadian voyageurs and mountain men that came down. to the south, there were many couctrappers. there's a debate over how many beaver there were north america. some estimates are 60 million. that seems high to me. the one thing i relied on is the first-hand accounts. the mountain men, the
4:31 pm
naturalists, they were all writing in the 1820's and 1830's that beaver were hard to find. i find it hard to believe that they would not only be writing that but also leading the trade and in the 1840's abandoning it completely when they were still desired in europe. the hudson bay company, which was much more conservational maintained a very active beaver trade throughout the 1800s. i came to the conclusion, as most did other -- as most other people did, that the main downfall of the beaver trade was the decimation, at least, the commercial decimation.
4:32 pm
there were not driven to extension. there were so few of them that they were so inaccessible that commercially they were not profitable to be pursued. >> in the british in the washington and oregon territory try to trap the beaver to keep americans from coming in to preserve a political hold? eric: absolutely. they were trying to create a "fur desert." hudson bay company theory was shat of trappers came, settler follow. desertnted to create a so there was no economic imperative. the canadians did a good job. it was a "fur desert." in the end, they did not succeed . the line did not hold. trappers came into those areas up until the bitter end.
4:33 pm
they helped to guide many sellers over the oregon trail and the california trail and ultimately allowed america to put tracks on the ground in other areas. 6000, 7 thousand, 8000 settlers came in, and the british their ability to maintain hold of the area was slipping. any other questions? the talk about the trapping and hunting contribution. i understand the conservation bookend. my curiosity is specifically with the modern fur farming encounterd you fur faents of rming? eric: it did start to crop up in
4:34 pm
the 1800s. with the rise of the conservation movement. it was no longer, "get it while they last." one alternative was to raise them yourself. rightrming did come about as the end of the trade era came to a close. i'm not extremely knowledgeable farming. i stopped the book because i thought it was a natural and. and i did not want to write a 700 page book. the more recent political debates over the moral ethics and practicality of wearing fur, interest forttle me. other people are more passionate and deserve and should write about that. >> thank you.
4:35 pm
eric: yes? animals were being decimated across the country. what were the native people doing in response to that? they had shown where the animals were and traded. then, their whole culture has changed. eric: absolutely. it was fundamentally changed. what happened is the trade spread from east to west and a number of animals diminished, many tribes who had become accustomed to trading with the pelts rance the turned to the only other resource the whites wanted, their land. came of the loss of land
4:36 pm
from their desire to continue to receive goods, but they did not have the pelt to get them. that was a tragic consequence. as the buffalo was decimated, one of the main forms of sustenance for the indians was destroyed. it was part of military and government policy to destroy buffalo. they knew if he took that pillar out, the indians would start to crumble and it would be easy to manipulate them and pushed them on reservations and do things the government was doing. i want to make one thing clear. of people long list and organizations who have acted absolutely abysmally toward the indians. it is a sad, tragic story. won a lot of people know. i would not put traders and trappers at the top of the list. in many cases, although some of decentre not the most
4:37 pm
people, many treated the indians liked clients and customers. they realized they were competitors. the traders and trappers did not disposess them of their land. many traders and trappers married into indian society. 30% of the mountain men had indian wives. they are not blameless. they introduced guns and alcohol, which had a devastating impact. it was not the traders and trappers who forced them onto reservations and took a their land wholesale, who slaughtered them in great numbers, who broke treaties. of bads a long list cultureowards indian
4:38 pm
through american culture, but i do not believe the fur traders are high on the list. mountain men are virtually the only group of white men american history who basically accepted the indians. do agree with that? -- you agree with that? eric: i cannot say they're the only one. there are parts of american history i'm not as the money with. -- familiar with. looking at them in isolation, there is no doubt that many of the mountain men and voyagers were interacting with the indians on a daily basis. many of them respected their trading partners and married into the culture. they were one of the few segments of the american population to have an intimate understanding of inning culture. -- indian culture.
4:39 pm
they often viewed them in a very favorable light. i think a good argument can be one of thehey were groups that was really interacting with the indians in a positive rather than integrating way -- in a degrading way. >> are you familiar with john kliner? you may want to take a trip over there. he's got a museum with some great paintings of this era. eric: it's funny. whenever i write a book, i always want to buy something at the end of the process to remember the book. for my book about whaling, i-5 buy scrimshaw. i did not realize how expensive it was. the present i got myself was a map of the sewage system o.
4:40 pm
my wife forced me to take it down. [laughter] eric: this book was harder. i purchased one thing. skurchased a beaver ll, because i was fascinated with it as an animal. that is why devoted an entire chapter in the book to the beaver, nature's engineers. i'm sure i couldn't afford one of the paintings. >> he's got quite a collection. i found the beaver's goal once and thought i had a sabertooth tiger -- skull once and thought i had a sabertooth tiger. [laughter] eric: they keep growing all the time. odey must keep gnawing wo
4:41 pm
to keep the edge. the outer edges very hard enamel. dentine. edges soft i saw one picture of a beaver who did not take good care of his teeth and it kept growing and it grew and grew and curled around. he died of starvation. i find it hard to believe, but sometimes the teeth can puncture the skull. you'd have to wait a couple of weeks for it to grow. it is one of the most amazing in the animalomy kingdom. it is amazing. anymore questions? >> did you do a lot of research at brown? eric: no. >> they have the biggest americana collection. research was my
4:42 pm
done, and this is a reflection of the change in society, i went theome key libraries, like massachusetts historical society, the philips library in salem, and a few others. i also befriended a few people on the east coast who are fur afficianados. me 30 or 40oaned books. i is the internet to buy used books -- use the internet to buy used books. i purchased 160 out of print have a little library in the basement, or as my kids call it, the cave where i go to write. i willternet provided-- make a pitch for google and google books.
4:43 pm
they put out-of-print books on your screen. it is a boon to researchers. in set of having to travel to a single library in the midwest that has one of five copies of the book printed in 1796, i can search for it and find the entire digitized version of that book online. that saved me a lot of time. he created a problem. problem.reated a i had a flood of information. 12 years ago, i did not use the internet. i also had more sources. decisionsres more about which resources to trust and use. i did not use brown's library. may be indirectly. did you print the mockery them on the screen -- print them
4:44 pm
off or read them on the screen? eric: on the screen. you can cut and paste the text. there were other books that were in print, but i did not touch those. these are books that no one would reprint. ,> you done whaling and fur what's next? eric: i bump into things. the whaling book started because of the cleanup of boston harbor called "political waters." i wanted to be shocked to still when i grew up -- jacques cousteau when i grew up. as looking at a box my friend looking ate -- i was
4:45 pm
a box my friend had given me painted with a beautiful picture of a whale being harpooned. dramatic. i decided to write a book. it came out of my research on trade.a otter americans had to get up and stand on their own two feet economically, and one of the places they wanted to go was had fallenuse they in love with tea. i thought it was a neat story. the book ends with today. do not likeat i writing about modern history or politics, why not write about the first time americans were involved in the china trade?
4:46 pm
that's what i'm working on now. yes? >> can you pick a siegel individual that you admire the most in the -- a single individual that you admire the most in the fur trade? eric: thomas morton. or thatgs not to admire he came to the shore of the a for harbor and set up trading post in the mid-16 20's to compete with the pilgrims. they did not like that. they were somewhat straightlaced. thomas morton, who claimed to be outpost, started an ount."they dubbed "merrim he would have raucous parties with drinking and singing and songs about having sex. they were having a lot of fun.
4:47 pm
he put an 80 foot pole with antlers out to be a mark for everyone to know he was having a big party. they would drink a lot and trade with indians. that not what i admire about him. [laughter] that he wasre sticking it to the pilgrims a little bit. he broke about his adventure -- wrote about his adventure. him theg i admire about most is that he wrote extensively about the indians in such a unique way. he truly respected the indians he met. he said that if he had a choice, he would live with the indians. he said they respected their elderly, had no jails, no crime, they are kind to each other, they are joyful. it is an extended essay in
4:48 pm
praise of indian culture. i like that. that's what i like about him. what you think of jedediah smith? eric: i think he is a great character. i don't know some of the back story. i know there are various theories about his background and what he actually did out there. purely from an exploratory perspective, i think he is a giant in the history of the firsfur trade. he seems to be a man of high character and integrity. when you read his letters to his family, he is somewhat selfless. he was dependable. his peers liked him. when i focus on -- what ik is how he
4:49 pm
focus on in the book is how he had the bravery to go where no one had gone before. he is like captain kirk. he likes going places and exploring as much as he did gath ering pelt. if his map had survived, he'd be the most famous of western explorers. went tony mountain men their graves without sharing their information. particular, jedediah smith. he was killed by the comanches. everything he knew died with him. history is written by the winners. john poulter is another character.
4:50 pm
thomas morton, nothing is known about him in england. he was like one of the first capitalists in america. that's how i look at thomas morton. he believed totally in free trade, and free love. [laughter] what is the name of his book. it was published in 1637. it's available somewhere. maybe you will find a funny story. whenever i pick out a book to excited for two years, and as you see, might has a lot of words and information in it. people are constantly amazed that i can write a book and afterwards forget a lot of the facts. people ask me questions.
4:51 pm
i am totally blanking on it. [laughter] there.rust me, it's in already thinking about the china trade. >> it must've been something else. i'm sure you've read a couple of --se where the indians eric: they were tough. there is no doubt that the mountain men were tough. if they weren't tough, they were gone. any other questions? thank you very much for coming. [applause] eric: if any of you would like your books on, stand over here, please. -- signed, stand up here please
4:52 pm
. >> this weekend, we export the and literary life of sacramento. o shares herat family's story of the toression, being swept off internment camps. how sacrament to earned its reputation as the wettest city in the nation, and the book " dead," aing, all biography of the wife of george custer." elizabeth was the first to come to his defense and say that is not what happened. i kth

40 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on