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Trade Silver - The Beaver

By Library and Archives Canada    |   Monday, 29 March 2004

The North American First Nations for many years made ornaments of bone, shell and stone. The coming of the Europeans introduced them to ornaments made of brass, copper and silver. The early French fur traders soon learned that the Aboriginals were more than willing to exchange their furs for metal ornaments, especially silver. A lucrative trade developed in what came to be known as "trade silver.'' The English fur traders, and later the American fur traders, were not long in imitating their French competitors and trade silver played an important part in the fur trade in the last half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries.

The silver ornaments took the form of finger rings, earrings, head bands, bracelets, armlets, brooches and pendants. Some of the ornaments were manufactured in France and England but most were produced by the early silversmiths of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New York and Pennsylvania. In the course of time, fairly firm exchange values were given to various ornaments. A round silver brooch, the size of a shilling was rated at a shilling and a larger brooch, the size of a silver dollar, was rated at one Spanish dollar. Beaver pendants, approximately 1/2 inch in length were valued at one beaver skin and a large silver beaver such as the one illustrated, was valued at ten beaver skins. The illustrated piece, which is part of the National Currency Collection, Bank of Canada, is two inches wide and five inches long.

Trade Silver - The Beaver
Trade Silver - The Beaver

This article represents a portion of the the article titled Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada

Source : Library and Archives Canada

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