Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Interpreting The Rocky Mountain Fur Trapper 1825-1840.

Rocky Mountain Fur Trappers 1825-1840.

This is just a short article on the Mountain Men of the far west. This is not within my period, but the recreating of the Mountain Man life is a popular interpretation, and I think it requires some clarifying.

Firstly the fur trade Rendezvous only lasted 15 years, from 1825 to 1840. This was the hay day of the beaver trade, and this trade dropped off after silk top hats became the fashion and beaver fur was not so popular. Fur prices dropped, and it was no longer viable for fur trade companies to travel to the far west to trade for furs.

Facts about Mountain Man interpretation:

• You will need at least two horses or a horse and a mule or two mules. Rocky mountain fur trappers did NOT travel on foot unless they lost their horses.

• The western Mountain Man did NOT use a percussion gun, he used a flintlock. The flintlock was far more reliable and the percussion caps were hard to come by. If the caps got damp, they were no longer of any use.

• From what I have read the Mountain Men preferred linen and wool clothing when they could get it. When they started trapping they were dressed much the same as the eastern woodsman. The frock that the woodsman wore was still in use during the mid 19th century and with frocking added it was still in use in the mid 20th century. Leather clothing apparently was worn when other clothing wore out.

• The Mountain Man used steel traps to catch the beaver, this is one of the reasons he needed horses, to carry the traps and the furs.

• The western Mountain Man existed to trap beaver and collect other furs as the opportunity was offered. He was not there to roam as he pleased without working. He may have loved the wilderness, but he could only stay there providing he trapped beaver and was able to trade that beaver.

• Links to information:






• "A Trappers equipment in such cases is generally one Animal upon which is placed...a riding Saddle and bridle a sack containing six Beaver traps a blanket with an extra pair of Moccasins his powder horn and bullet pouch with a belt to which is attached a butcher Knife a small wooden box containing bait for Beaver a Tobacco sack with a pipe and implements for making fire with sometimes a hatchet fastened to the Pommel of his saddle his personal dress is a flannel or cotton shirt (if he is fortunate to obtain one, if not Antelope skin answers the purpose of over and under shirt) a pair of leather breeches with Blanket or smoked Buffalo skin, leggings, a coat made of Blanket or Buffalo robe a hat or Cap of wool, Buffalo or Otter skin his hose are pieces of Blanket lapped round his feet which are covered with a pair of Moccasins made of Dressed Deer Elk or Buffaloe skins with his long hair falling loosely over his shoulders complete the uniform."

Osbourne Russel.



By Osborne Russel.


Mike Oscar Hotel said...

I've been reading Firearms, Traps, and Tools of the Mountain Men by Carl Russell - interesting that you would post this. One of the things that he stressed was that if a mountain man lost his horse, he was quick to steal another one. If he stole from a white man, the common response was, "Oops, I mistook you for an indian." GREAT POST! Thanks! Mike Oscar Hotel - www.thesharpenedaxe.blogspot.com

Le Loup said...

Wow, you were quick off the mark! I only just posted this one.
Thank you for the feedback & the info. Appreciated.

Mike Oscar Hotel said...

I've said it once and I'll say it again, I love your blog, Le Loup!

Le Loup said...

Thank you, it is good to know I am doing something right.

grimbo said...

excellent thanks.

EJD said...

You might be interested in the new book, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. See www.ericjaydolin.com. Thanks.

Le Loup said...

Hi Eric. I should imagine there will be quite a lot of interest shown in your new book, it sounds good. I have posted your video on our group's forum.
Thanks for the link, and I wish you the best of luck with this book.
Regards, Le Loup.