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Topic – Hudson’s Bay Company

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Hudson’s Bay Company

The oldest company in North America, and one of the oldest companies in the world, the Hudson’s Bay Company has a very long history in Canada.

The Company of Adventurers

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), or The Bay

Although today you will find Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), or The Bay, stores on the main streets of most large Canadian cities, this company had its beginnings in the fur trade. The original name of the company was “The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay.” It was set up in 1670, so the company is almost 350 years old.

When the company started, it had many rights and powers. These included exclusive fur trading rights in the huge area of land covered by all the rivers that flow into Hudson Bay. That is how the company got its name. Back in the 1600s, the company owned all that land, which made it the world’s largest landowner. The area was called Rupert’s Land, named after a cousin of the British king who was interested in fur trading.

HBC and Indigenous Peoples

Fur clothing

From York Factory on the west coast of Hudson Bay, HBC controlled the fur trade through much of what is now Canada. The company’s traders and trappers depended on the country’s Indigenous peoples, not just to supply them with furs, but to teach them how to survive in Canada. HBC traders and trappers worked with Indigenous peoples to trap animals, transport the furs, and explore Canada.

HBC traders explored much of Canada, searching for more furs. They created maps that later explorers and settlers used. They also helped develop the country by exploring and set up trading posts. In the late 1800s, the vast territory owned by HBC became part of the new and developing country of Canada.

HBC Today

Hudson’s Bay, Toronto, Canada

In many areas, HBC not only traded for goods but was also the government. When the fur trade became less important, the company evolved into a store that sold goods to settlers and prospectors. These new clients paid with cash, not furs, although much of the business was still carried on at the HBC trading posts.

Today, there are about 100 Bay stores across the country. These department stores link Canadians to their past. The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives is a collection of the company’s many records and maps. Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they tell part of Canada’s story and provide a great deal of information for researchers.

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