The Fur Trade Collection
Two methods of searching are possible: retrieval based on keywords (e.g. bead, kettle, firesteel) in the descriptions of objects, OR browsing by type of item (e.g. brass items, textiles, trade axes).
About the Collection
The "fur trade" refers to the commercial activities engaged in by Europeans in North America with the objective of obtaining animal products through barter from the Native populations for resale, primarily in Europe. The time periods and cultural contexts encompassing the "fur trade" are defined by the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) within their overall "Broad Statewide Contexts" as "Contact Period (165 A.D.-A.D 1837)." This period is further broken down into Euro-American: French (1650 A.D.-A.D 1803); British (1763 A.D.-A.D. 1816); Initial United States Presence (1803 A.D.-A.D. 1837).
This time period covers the entire European exploration and history of the Native American/European fur trade in Minnesota. Highlights of the Minnesota Historical Society archaeological collections related to the fur trade during the Contact period include a collection of over 7500 objects recovered during test excavations at the site of Fort St. Charles, constructed in 1732 as a Jesuit mission and fur trading post, dating to the French Period. The British fur trade period is represented by two collections recovered from the N.W. Co. wintering post of 1804-05 located on the Snake River in Pine County. The American Fur Co. Headquarters, located at the Sibley House (1835) in Mendota, falls within the Initial United State Presence.
The contexts, as defined by the SHPO, are useful in defining the fur trade in Minnesota because by 1837 the fur industry had almost completely moved further west due to diminished populations of fur bearing animals remaining in Minnesota.
Within the Minnesota Historical Society's archaeological collections there are a total of 19,132 objects relating to the fur trade. This large collection of archaeological objects recovered from land and underwater proveniences specifically related to fur trade sites forms one of the major research collections related to the fur trade in North America.
The objects from the Fur Trade Collection represent a sample of the broad spectrum of items that will be available and are now accessible through the library catalog. Each description contains a link to an image of the object.
Photograph copies of the objects may be ordered by submitting a Photograph Order form to the Society's Collections Department. Permission and license to use photographic reproductions is granted via a Request for Permission form and may involve a use fee for commercial use. Please check the Artifact Collection price list for other available services as well as current pricing.