Wednesday, April 27, 2011

52 Trade Houses Part 4: Hudson's Bay Company of Canada

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Over the course of the next year, we'll be detailing the history of 52 companies that sold branded fishing tackle. 52 trade houses in 52 weeks -- some obscure, some famous, and all available exclusively here on the Fishing for History Blog! If you have any items from the week's entry you'd like to share with us, please send it my way and I'll make sure it makes it on the blog.

For a discussion of what exactly trade tackle is, Click Here. Enjoy the 52 for 52!

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Trade House Tackle, Part 4:

Hudson's Bay Company of Canada--

The Oldest Tackle Trade House in the World

Perhaps the most legendary of all corporations in America is also the oldest commercial store in North America, and one of the oldest in the world--the Hudson's Bay Company of Canada. Founded on May 2, 1670, this legendary firm was so important in the history of America that for many parts of Canada it served as a functioning government for 100 years or more. At one point it owned 15% of all land in North America.

Best known for its fur trading in the early days, when it declined in the mid-19th century, Hudson's Bay became a mercantile empire, setting up shops all across Canada. Eventually by the turn of the twentieth century, the company became a department store franchise (the first actual department store opening up in 1881 in Winnipeg).

Lake Winnipeg Hudson's Bay store ca. 1884.

Almost certainly, from the earliest days the Hudson's Bay Company stocked fishing tackle in the form of fish hooks, a very valuable trade commodity for the first nations of Canada. Such hand-forged iron fish hooks have been found in nearly all provinces of Canada, proof of the demand for such tackle in the fur trade. These hooks would have been made in Britain and sent to Canada through the enormous volume of shipping the Hudson Bay Company undertook each year.

Modern fishing tackle would have emerged with the onset of the Hudson's Bay Department stores ca. 1900. It is not known how much tackle they branded with their own name, but it is certainly known that they did sell tackle with the legendary HBC moniker. Numerous period Canadian newspapers carry ads touting Hudson's Bay fishing tackle.

This ad from the July 28, 1939 Winnipeg Free Press touts fishing tackle at "The Bay," on the Main Floor no less.

Here's a neat example of a piece of Hudson's Bay Co. marked fishing tackle. It is a neat line spool dating ca. 1954 for Super Flyte brand nylon casting line. It has the "Hudson's Bay Company" name in the classic English script. It even has the company tag on the front label as well.

There has to be other HBC marked tackle, but alas, it does not reach America very often if it does come to market. I suspect our Canadian collector friends would have some HBC trade tackle socked away in their collections.

Hudson's Bay Company is still alive and doing well today, operating a number of department stores including the linear descendant of the firm known as The Bay. For more on the Hudson's Bay Company, Click Here.

I'll try and include some other non-U.S. trade houses in the 52 for 52. And anyone with any Hudson's Bay trade tackle give me a shout!

-- Dr. Todd

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