Kirkus Star


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This ""informal history of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company"" by the author of Track (1960)- a novel, by the way, that deserved a far wider market than it reached- is, in our opinion, the best book on the fur trade since Chittenden's unforgettable American Fur Trade of the Far West (1902). It is a fascinating account of the Company (1822-34) and of the men controlled it, worked for it and fought it. The area is confined to that part of our present U.S.A. west of the Missouri and south of the Canadian border -- the field worked by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company (RMC) and its rivals, Hudson's Bay and Astoria. RMC started when Gen. Ashley, a St. Louis politician, and Major Henry advertised for 100 young men to be the first of the ""free trappers"" or ""mountain men"". Turned back by Indians in 1823, Ashley led his young men to the mountains by way of the Platte; by 1825 RMC was firmly established, to survive brilliant leadership in the face of cut-throat competition until 1834. Its then owner, Bill Sublette, sold the company to Astor's American Fur Company, to his own great profit; it is the author's theory that he bought it for that purpose. Far more than the story of RMC is here:- the true old American West; keelboats and beaver hostile Blackfeet and thieving Crows the wild rioting of the yearly rendezvous; Bridger and Fitzpatrick, Ogden and McKenzie, Jedediah Smith and many others. Carefully documented from contemporary records, supplementing Chittenden with later sources, written with the skill of a novelist and the judgment of an historian, this is a delight for scholars and any interested in the pre-TV West.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1961
Publisher: Harper