OTD: North West Company founded

On today’s date in 1779, the North West Company (NWC) was created in competition with Montréal’s fur-trading interests as well as the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), which was granted an exclusive trading monopoly over the entire Hudson Bay drainage basin about a century earlier.

According to the Canadian Museum of History, British and Anglo-American businessmen established several small independent fur-trading companies in Montréal after the fall of New France in 1763.

On April 24, 1779, several of these independent companies merged to form the NWC. What began as a loose association of merchants eventually grew to control about 80 per cent of the northern fur trade by the end of the 18th century. After exploring the western and Arctic regions of North America, the company was taken over by its rival, the HBC, in 1821.


In 1820, the NWC issued copper and brass tokens, each worth a single beaver pelt. Most known examples have a small hole at the top because they were often worn around the neck as adornments. Used to promote the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest, these tokens (Breton 925) were struck in Birmingham, England by John Walker and Co.

According to Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) CoinFacts.com, most surviving examples are “either worn, corroded (sometimes heavily), or both.”

“These tokens are very scarce and popular, primarily because of the beaver that appears on the reverse,” writes Guth. “Though not a true Colonial coin (it was issued well after the United States had been formed), they are an important part of American numismatic history.”

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