This is the "Overview" page of the "Fur Trade in Minnesota" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Fur Trade in Minnesota   Tags: 1700s, 1800s, american indians, business, ojibwe  

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Overview Print Page

Research Options

  • Visit the MNHS Library
    Original materials, records, and newspapers on microfilm are available on site and reference staff can help with research.
  • MNHS Research Services
    Order copies of records, articles, or other specific materials from the MNHS collections.
  • Interlibrary Loan
    MNHS loans out most microfilm materials. Contact your local library for more information and assistance with this service.
  • Online Research
    Some items such as newspapers, articles, photos and objects are available online. Look for links within this guide.
  • Other Libraries
    Many books listed in the Secondary Sources page can be borrowed from other libraries.

Related Research Guides & Webpages



The fur trade was one of the earliest economic exchanges in North American history. In the early years—roughly 1500 to 1800—the French dominated the trade of animal pelts in exchange for European goods such as rifles, alcohol, cured tobacco, and iron tools. In contrast to the British, Spanish, and Americans, the French were less interested in conquering territories, and therefore, they maintained amicable relationships with various Native American tribes.

Starting in Montreal and Quebec City, French voyageurs made their way as far west as the present day Dakotas and Montana using rivers and the Great Lakes. The journey took several months each way and required that traders winter in the west among Native Americans and build their own forts. Many of these forts are still standing today.

In 1754, the British and French warred over establishing a fur-trade monopoly in what became known as the French-Indian war. British companies began to compete with one another after the French lost both the war and their domination of the fur trade in 1763. Because of fierce competition, over-trapping led to the decimation of many fur-bearing animals.

In the 1830s silk was introduced to England, lowering the demand for and price of beaver fur. Combined with over-trapping, this lowered demand greatly changed the the fur trade and the relationships between traders and Native Americans. By the 1870s, fur trading had mostly died out.


MHS Reference Staff

reading room bookshelves

Gale Family Library
MN Historical Society Library
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Contact Us:
By Phone (651-259-3300)
By Email

Library Hours
Tuesday: 9am to 8pm
Wed. to Sat.: 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday: Closed
Holiday Hours


Guide Author

Sara Norlin

Reference Staff

Minnesota Historical Society Library • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300

Loading  Loading...