The fur trade
At the heart of the colony’s development
The entire development of New France revolved around the fur trade: from explorations and populating the first settlements, to trading and forming alliances with Native nations.
The French wanted furs to make felt hats, which were very fashionable in Europe at the time. Felt is made from beaver fur. In Europe, beavers had been so over hunted that they were becoming extinct. The French preferred the fur from beavers that had been hunted in the winter because it was silkier and more beautiful. If the skin had been worn by a Indigenous person, that was even better. This type of fur was called winter fat beaver and was the most expensive fur of all. In addition to beaver, other fur-bearing animals were also popular, such as otter, marten and fox.
Video narration in French at
A network of trades
It was the Indigenous people who provided the French with furs. They were the ones who hunted the animals. The Indigenous people bartered; in other words, they exchanged the furs for European products. Indigenous people especially valued metal objects such as pots, knives and axes. They also liked European wool clothing because it offered more advantages than leather. Clothes made of wool protected from the cold better and dried faster after it rained.
See also – Traces of the past:
French (If available)