The American Fur Trade of the Far West, Volume 1

The American Fur Trade of the Far West, Volume 1


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The American Fur Trade Of The Far West, Volume 1 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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In this first of two volumes chronicling the American fur trade in the trans-Mississippi west, Hiram Chittenden masterfully describes the outrageous characters, defines the business and offers his opinions of the fur trade from 1807 to 1843. His primary contention is that the epoch of the fur trade was the real romantic era in western history. He paints the fur trappers as frontier heroes; rough and tumble men who preferred to live a solitary life in wilderness fraught with peril, rather than enslave themselves to the tedium of industry or settlement. In addition, Chittenden believes that stellar events such as the Mexican War, Mormon Immigration and the California Gold Rush, drew attention away from the importance of two concurrent events. The return of Lewis and Clark, and the founding of the privately owned Fort Bridger on the Oregon Trail, he contends, marked the official beginning of far west immigration. Forty years after the Louisiana Purchase, the mountainous regions west of the Mississippi remained virtually uninhabited by the American populace. The only commercial use of the territory was fur trade. Only the fur traders had thoroughly explored every inch of this frontier on foot and by horseback. These are the men the author points to as the real ¿pathfinders of the west.¿ He states that after 1840 no land was ever discovered by government explorers that hadn¿t already been traveled extensively by fur traders. Brigham Young founded his community at Salt Lake on advice received from fur traders. During the Mexican War, trappers served as military scouts, guiding the army through the wilderness into the territory of New Mexico where they had long traded. Immigrants to California and Oregon followed trader¿s trails. Chittenden argues that the work of researchers such as Maximilian, Nuttall, Audubon, Nicollet and Catlin would have been impossible without invaluable assistance of fur traders. Perhaps most importantly, Chittenden contends that the trader-Indian relationship achieved more toward harmonious existence between the races than any Indian agent or soldier ever could. He speculates that if the government had utilized fur traders to transact official business with the tribes, their practical knowledge, respect, and kinship with the Indians would have brought about a more peaceful and satisfying outcome for both races. Furthermore, he blames private commercial traders licensed to trade with the Indians under the government¿s `factory system¿, for the eventual failure of U.S.-Indian relations. He claims it was these men who persisted in smuggling alcohol into Indian Country long after it was prohibited by law, were largely responsible for dispossessing the tribes and inciting them to turn against all white men. Chittenden¿s comprehensive history is divided into five main sections, each containing sub-narratives of events and characteristics of the fur trade. It contains photos of notable traders and a map of the trans-Mississippi territory of 1843. It is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in American history, and inspires students of the American West to consider the critical importance of the fur trade on the development of the western frontier.