ROLE OF BEAVERS IN WESTERN HISTORY

 

When the Europeans first came to America, they started trading with the Native Americans. The Native Americans were excellent hunters, trappers,and traders and this was one of the first businesses in Western North America during the early 1800's. Many trading posts were opened along the rivers of the West and Midwest, so that traders could move supplies, food and other necessities by water and easily ship out the fur pelts.

 

Trading was based on the fashion of the time in America and Europe. The trappers would collect beavers and skin them or trade the dried skin with Native Americans. These would be shipped either to Europe or Eastern America. The clipped fur from the beaver pelts were used to make felt hats because their fur had a microscopic barbed quality that allowed individual hairs to hold together. The beaver fur therefore matted easily in the process of making an attractive felt. For more than two centuries the fashionable ladies and gentlemen in Europe demanded these beaver fur felt hats,

so beavers from North America were in high demand. The beaver pelts were given a standard value that all other furs were based on. The units of trade were set once a year and they were known as "Made Beaver," a form of currency such as the dollar. Since they were in such high demand, and were worth a lot in the trade industry, many people hunted and trapped beavers.

By the middle 1800's the beaver population was almost extinct due to such a high demand. The fashion industry changed to silk, and caused the price of beaver pelts to fall. The fashion industry no longer needed the beaver pelts to produce felt hats and the hunt for beavers crashed. This decrease was also due to the lack of beavers in streams of

western North America. Eventually the government realized that the beavers were disappearing from the continent and decided to monitor the trading of their pelts. They now have trapping regulations on how many beavers can be hunted a year and the use of a permit is needed in order to do this.

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