Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

by Eric Jay Dolin
Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

by Eric Jay Dolin


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A Seattle Times selection for one of Best Non-Fiction Books of 2010
Winner of the New England Historial Association's 2010 James P. Hanlan Award
Winner of the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2011 Excellence in Craft Award, Book Division, First Place

"A compelling and well-annotated tale of greed, slaughter and geopolitics." —Los Angeles Times

As Henry Hudson sailed up the broad river that would one day bear his name, he grew concerned that his Dutch patrons would be disappointed in his failure to find the fabled route to the Orient. What became immediately apparent, however, from the Indians clad in deer skins and "good furs" was that Hudson had discovered something just as tantalizing.

The news of Hudson's 1609 voyage to America ignited a fierce competition to lay claim to this uncharted continent, teeming with untapped natural resources.  The result was the creation of an American fur trade, which fostered economic rivalries and fueled wars among the European powers, and later between the United States and Great Britain, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations.

In Fur, Fortune, and Empire, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin chronicles the rise and fall of the fur trade of old, when the rallying cry was "get the furs while they last." Beavers, sea otters, and buffalos were slaughtered, used for their precious pelts that were tailored into extravagant hats, coats, and sleigh blankets. To read Fur, Fortune, and Empire then is to understand how North America was explored, exploited, and settled, while its native Indians were alternately enriched and exploited by the trade.  As Dolin demonstrates, fur, both an economic elixir and an agent of destruction, became inextricably linked to many key events in American history, including the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812, as well as to the relentless pull of Manifest Destiny and the opening of the West.

This work provides an international cast beyond the scope of any Hollywood epic, including Thomas Morton, the rabble-rouser who infuriated the Pilgrims by trading guns with the Indians; British explorer Captain James Cook, whose discovery in the Pacific Northwest helped launch America's China trade; Thomas Jefferson who dreamed of expanding the fur trade beyond the Mississippi; America's first multimillionaire John Jacob Astor, who built a fortune on a foundation of fur; and intrepid mountain men such as Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith, who sliced their way through an awe inspiring and unforgiving landscape, leaving behind a mythic legacy still resonates today.

Concluding with the virtual extinction of the buffalo in the late 1800s, Fur, Fortune, and Empire is an epic history that brings to vivid life three hundred years of the American experience, conclusively demonstrating that the fur trade played a seminal role in creating the nation we are today.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393340020
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/05/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 306,666
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of numerous works in maritime history, including Black Flags, Blue Waters and Leviathan. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, he now lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his family.

Table of Contents

Introduction xv

Part I Furs Settle the New World

1 "As Fine a River as Can Be Found" 3

2 The Precious Beaver 13

3 New Amsterdam Rising 24

4 "The Bible and the Beaver" 37

Part II Clash of Empires

5 Competition, Conflict, and Chicanery 61

6 "Many Hounds Are the Hare's Death" 74

7 Adieu to the French 94

8 Americans Oust the British 117

Part III America Heads West

9 "A Perfect Golden Round of Profits" 133

10 Up the Missouri 166

11 Astoria 189

12 Mountain Men 223

13 Taos Trappers and Astor's Empire 255

14 Fall of the Beaver 279

15 The Last Robe 294

Epilogue: End of an Era 310

Notes 317

Select Bibliography 409

Acknowledgments 413

Illustration Credits 417

Index 421

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