Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Artifact of the Week - HBC Fur Press

Our featured artifact this week is the Hudson's Bay Company fur press, used in Peace River until 1955. After that, Leonard McArthur, a former fur buyer for the Hudson's Bay Company, kept it on his farm. When Bruce McPhail bought the McArthur farm, he decided to donate the press to the Peace River Museum and Archives.

This fur press was made in the 1880s in England and sent to Canada for use in the Peace River Hudson's Bay Company Store. It was used to press fur from various animals into bundles (sometimes called 'packs') that were sent out of the Peace Country and all the way to England. Someone would have to climb up on top of the press and turn the top bar of the screw mechanism. Turning that top bar pushed a plate down on top of the furs, compressing them into 90 pound bails. 

In the 80 years that the furs were transported out of this area, 47 million pelts made their way from the Peace Country to England. Beaver was the most desirable of the pelts, though fox and marten were also trapped. Beaver pelts were made into fashionable hats in England, while fox and marten furs were made into fashion accessories. 

PRMA 68.11 - The fur press set up with furs in the Mackenzie Gallery.  
The fur press is on display in the Mackenzie Gallery at the Peace River Museum and Archives. Near the fur press lurk several animals that trappers would have been keen to capture during the days of the fur trade.

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