A Fort Built on Fashion.
In the 1800s, every respectable European gentleman sported a shiny felt top hat. These hats were a status symbol, the height of fashion, and luckily for Edmonton, made from beaver pelts. It was this demand for beaver pelts that prompted the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish a trading post called Edmonton House in 1795. The sole purpose of the post was to trade European goods to the local Cree, Blackfoot and other Aboriginal people in exchange for valuable beaver pelts.
By 1846, Fort Edmonton was the most important Hudson’s Bay Company post west of the Red River Settlement at Fort Garry (near modern Winnipeg). The Fort not only traded furs, but produced goods and supplied other smaller posts. The population of Edmonton House varied according to the season, but generally visitors could find approximately 110 men, women and children taking residence.
Each spring, the men at the Fort would stock the York Boats with ninety-pound bales of pelts.
Joined by boats from other posts, the “brigades” would paddle through swift, freezing currents to Hudson Bay. There, they loaded the furs onto ships that sailed back to England. After a brief stay, the men would reload their boats with trade goods to replenish the post trade store and begin their long journey back to Edmonton.
While at the Fort you can:
- Explore the Fort from top to bottom, from bunkhouse and stables to the Indian House filled with furs and goods for trade.
- See the giant York boats and find out how they were made.
- Watch a demonstration of the fur press.
- Play traditional Aboriginal games.
- Visit a Cree encampment and learn about trading furs for goods.