OTD: HBC trader George Simpson appointed associate governor of Rupert’s Land

On today’s date in 1820, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) fur trader George Simpson was appointed as the associate governor of Rupert’s Land, which comprised a third of present-day Canada and served as the company’s exclusive commercial domain from 1670-1870.

Born in Scotland in 1787, Simpson first moved to London, England, before eventually settling in what’s now Canada, where he rose up through early Canadian society as a fur trader. He eventually earned the rank of HBC governor during the height of the company’s 200-year reign of power.

Fur trading had a significant influence on Canada’s development by allowing the nation to spread both west and north with increased interactions between Indigenous communities and European settlers.

In 1820, Simpson received a Beaver Club medal.

Simpson also received a Beaver Club medal in 1820. (Photo by the Manitoba Museum)

1820 BEAVER CLUB MEDAL

Simpson received a Beaver Club medal in 1820 – one year before the amalgamation of the North West Company and the HBC – in honour of his membership in the club.

Members of the Beaver Club included fur traders who spent at least one year on the frontier, and the club’s motto, “Fortitude in Distress,” is engraved on the reverse of the medal. Members were required to wear their medals at meetings and special occasions.

The reverse legend of Simpson’s medal reads “George Simpson/1820” while the obverse depicts a beaver gnawing a tree and the words “Industry and Perseverance.” The obverse legend reads “Beaver Club instituted Montreal/1785.”

1928 ELKINGTON & CO. MEDAL

In 1928, Simpson was featured on the obverse of an Elkington and Co. medal. The medal commemorated the 100th anniversary of Simpson’s voyage from York Factory, an HBC trading post in northeastern Manitoba, to Fort St. James, B.C., in 1828.

An uncirculated example of the 1928 Simpson medal hammered down for $400 at the 2014 Toronto Coin Expo Spring Sale by Geoffrey Bell Auctions.

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