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The Beaver, Vol. I, No. 4, January 1921 by Company

When a lot of musquash containing 1600 skins


_Furs Sold at "Per Skin" Rate_

Most lots are sold "at per skin"--that is to say, when a lot of musquash containing 1600 skins, for instance, is put up, the auctioneer needs to register the price of only one skin--the value of the lot being 1600 times that figure.

Although sitting for weeks in the saleroom buying sundry lots of skins from this catalogue and that may seem a dull job, yet the buyer with imagination finds the fur trade fascinating. He realizes that the skins he buys have taken months of patient toil and careful handling to assemble from the uttermost parts of the earth.

To him, the sale mark "MKR" denotes not merely a particular quality of fur, but suggests the mighty river of the great Northwest threading its lonely way from the plains to the Arctic Sea. It is this sense of the world-wide ramifications of the fur trade, and the knowledge that the Company's organization has played, and still plays, a notable part in its development that make one feel proud to belong to the Hudson's Bay Company.

An American Account of an Ancient Selkirk Settlement Caravan

The Public Archives of Canada at Ottawa contain the following characteristic description of a Red River Caravan from the old Selkirk Settlement, as printed in the _Wisconsin Herald_ of September 15th, 1847:

style="text-align: justify;">"On the 10th of July, there appeared at the village of St. Paul, on the Upper Mississippi, the most novel and original caravan that has ever appeared since Noah's ark was evacuated. Our readers are aware that there is an isolated settlement of several thousand inhabitants in a high latitude of British North America, known as the 'Selkirk Settlement.' Cut off from the commerce of the world, they rely entirely upon their own resources, their farms, their flocks and fishing for support--being a community, so to speak, of Robinson Crusoes. Their crops having failed the last two seasons, they have been forced to break out of the wilds again and seek food in the markets of the great brawling world. Formerly their chief point of contact with commerce was Toronto; but now, owing to the increase of supplies on the Upper Mississippi, and the abundance of game and forage on that route, they trade at St. Paul, and the head of steamboat navigation on the Mississippi River.

"Into St. Paul they came, on the 10th of July, a caravan of one hundred and twenty carts, in a single file, wearily moving along by moonlight. Long after the head of the caravan had reached the village, the lengthened train of followers could be seen moving over the undulating prairie, partly visible and partly hidden between the billowy ridges of the extended plain, crawling onward like some huge serpent, the extreme rear still invisible and partly hidden in the dimness of the distance. They had travelled southward over the prairie six hundred miles, having been nineteen days on their way, through a region abounding in buffaloes--encamping at night in a tent, around which the carts were drawn in a circle, to fence in the cattle.... They brought along a large elk, a bear, and some other animals they had captured on their way--and many packages of furs. They had a very choice lot of buffalo robes, well dressed, which they sold at St. Paul by the lot at $3.50 each.

"They had with them also an abundance of specie, and waited a few days at St. Paul for the arrival of a steamboat load of flour and groceries. The caravan was made up of men and boys of all ages, kindreds, tongues and complexions.... Their dresses were as various as could be imagined, being uniform in only a single article of apparel--all wore moccasins. The carts were made wholly of wood and hides, the hubs being covered with bandages of green hide, drawn on while soft and then shrinking until they became nearly as tight as bands of iron. Some of these odd two-wheeled vehicles were drawn by little horses, and others by oxen, each animal--horse or ox--being geared in a harness of green hide. They are now again on their way back to the frozen wilds of the North, many of them probably never again to commune with the great world."


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