Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eric Jay Dolin

From a Q & A with Eric Jay Dolin about his latest book, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America:

Q Why did you decide to write about the fur trade?

A I know the exact moment the idea for this book occurred. It was in the spring of 2007, while I was reading a book about the Founding of New England. The author wrote that “The Bible and the beaver were the two mainstays of” the Plymouth Colony in its early years. I understood the reference to the Bible, but I had no idea why beavers were thrown into the mix. Intrigued, I read more, and soon the reference to beavers made sense. For more than a decade after their arrival in America, the Pilgrims’ main source of income had come from the sale of beaver pelts. Thus, the beaver was critical to the colony’s survival. This discovery was a surprise to me. What else, I wondered, didn’t I know about the American fur trade? My curiosity piqued, I went to my local library and started reading about the fur trade. And within a couple of days, I realized that I could use the history of the fur trade to tell the broader and equally fascinating story of how America evolved into a transcontinental nation. I was hooked.

Many people, when they think of the American fur trade, think only of Mountain men in the Rockies, that is only a small part of the story. “Fur, Fortune, and Empire” spans the continent, from East to West. You cannot fully understand New England’s, or the nation’s history unless you understand the history of the fur trade.

Q What animals were most important to the trade, and what sorts of products were made from their fur?

A The beaver for the production of beaver felt hats; the buffalo, who robes were used a sleigh blankets, bed cover, and as lining for boots; sea otters, whose luxuriant pelts were...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Fur, Fortune, and Empire, and learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue