Keep Calm and Beaver On

By: Lily Kilgore


When most people think of beavers they imagine one of these cute little animals with a long silly looking tail and large teeth that build dams, but they are so much more than that. From the late 1500s to the early 1800s, they were the top of the line in the fur business and quiet possibly the entire fashion industry for over 200 years (Dolin 13). Who would have thought that this cute little animal could spark a fashion MUST have?

Countries around the world could not get enough of beaver hats and an unfathomable number of beavers were hunted and killed for their fur pelts each year, all in the name of fashion and vanity (Dolin xvi). Beaver pelts were not only fashionable but also durable. In fact, beavers were so well liked that they were pushed to the brink of extinction in Europe and Russia, but America came to the rescue when beavers were discovered in its lands, and so began the rebirth of the beaver pelt fashion (Dolin 22). Thus, beyond a popular fashion trend, beaver pelts also forged new relationships between Americans, Indians, Russians, Asians, and Europeans.

Suggested Readings:

  • Dolin, Eric Jay. 2010. Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.