Fur traders from New England : the Boston men in the North Pacific, 1787-1800 : the narratives of William Dane Phelps, William Sturgis, and James Gilchrist Swan /
edited, with notes and introduction by Briton C. Busch and Barry M. Gough.
Spokane, Wash. : Arthur H. Clark Co., 1997.
137 p. ; 25 cm.
0870622617 (alk. paper)
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1997-11:
This brief volume consists of an introduction, a reprint of "Solid Men of Boston in the Northwest," and three related appendixes. Co-editors Busch (Colgate Univ.) and Gough (Wilfrid Laurier Univ.) rank the first manuscript "as among the great texts of American maritime enterprise," and Busch concludes that it was written by Boston sea captain William Dane Phelps. The manuscript attributed to Phelps is an account of the interlocking trade in furs, sandalwood, metal, and other items along the Pacific northwest coast of North America, Russian Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands. From the 1790s until the 1820s, the trade was dominated by Americans, primarily from Boston, so much so that in the jargon of the coast anything American was called Boston. The three appendixes--two written by Boston sea trader William Sturgis--offer similar information. The introduction is helpful, and the Phelps manuscript is published in book format for the first time. This book could be read beneficially in conjunction with Richard S. Mackie's Trading beyond the Mountains (CH, Oct'97). Upper-division undergraduates and above. P. T. Sherrill; University of Arkansas at Little Rock
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 1997
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Main Description
"Boston Men." The term was used generically by native peoples for years to refer to any American trading furs in the Pacific Northwest. Why? Because the first Americans to engage in fur trading on the North Pacific Coast were all from Boston-pioneers in the trade long before Americans made the first overland trek to the Pacific. The earliest accounts of the Northwest fur trade comprise this new work, prepared and edited by two top scholars in the field. They have gathered original narratives of the earliest stages of the fur trade: William Dane Phelps' "Solid Men of Boston," William Sturgis' "The Northwest Fur Trade," "William Sturgis on the American Vessels and the Maritime Fur Trade," and "Account of the Vessels Engaged in the Sea-Otter-Fur-Trade on the Northwest Coast from 1787 to 1809," compiled by William Tufts, Esq., from his own memoranda. These rare documents are brought together under one cover to reveal the the inner-workings and alliances on which the early fur trade depended. William Dane Phelps' "Solid Men of Boston" ranks as among the great texts of American maritime enterprise, and is published here in book format for the first time. It was the first history of the Northwest coast fur trade, compiled from original documents, invaluable ship logs, letters, journals and personal narratives. The first description of the pioneer American vessels fitted out of the Northwest Coast trade, the Columbia and the Lady Washington, is presented by Phelps. His is the only description of the voyages of the O'Cain and the experiences of the Winships. "Solid Men of Boston" clarifies the link between Yankees and the Northwest Coast, and with the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska, and Alta California. The Columbia River colonization experiment figures prominently in Phelps' narrative. It was the first American attempt to establish a base on the Northwest coast, just months before Astor's famous Tonquin voyage to Astoria. John Kendrick's many alliances with Northwest Coast peoples are treated in detail. The validity of the Kendrick deeds and their consequences still inspire controversy. "The Northwest Fur Trade," William Sturgis' original account, accompanies Phelps' text. It is an important recollection of the operation of the commercial fur hunt. Before Phelps' own "Webfoot" adventures, Sturgis had sailed on four voyages in the Boston maritime fur trade. The Sturgis history recounted here set down a tradition of early fur-trade narratives. The final two appendices contain a further account by Sturgis on American vessels in the Northwest trade, and William Tufts' list of American vessels on the Northwest Coast, 1787-1809, drawn from James G. Swan's The Northwest Coast, or Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory (1875). The historical introduction to the work provides a detailed background to the text, supporting and clarifying its conclusions. A full bibliography and analytical index enhance the presentation.
Main Description
For more than a century the history of the American Frontier, particularly the West, has been the speciality of the Arthur H. Clark Company. We publish new books, both interpretive and documentary, in small, high-quality editions for the collector, researcher, and library.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 9
Solid Men of Boston in the Northwestp. 31
The Northwest Fur Tradep. 85
William Sturgis on the American Vessels and the Maritime Fur Tradep. 103
Account of the Vessels Engaged in the Sea-Otter Fur-Trade on the Northwest Coast Prior to 1808p. 121
Bibliographyp. 127
Indexp. 133
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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