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Stump The Beaver: July/August 2014

Jul 25, 2014 12:35AM ● Published by Erik Dittmann

Happy Birthday to NASA on July 29!

By: The Beaver 

Tracy from Orlando asks:  I understand that beavers are skillful builders of canals, lodges and dams.  Are beavers responsible for anything else of importance?

Answer:   Well, beavers are largely responsible for the exploration of North America, and according to Harold Innis, who wrote The Fur Trade in Canada:  An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, the beaver fur trade helped determine the boundary between the US and Canada.   And that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here are a few more indicators of the incredible importance of beavers:

1.  Beaver pelts, used in the manufacture of hats, were the first great American trade commodity.  

2.  In 1608, French Explorer Samuel de Champlain established Quebec – to trade beaver furs.

3.  The oldest multi-national trading company, the Hudson Bay Company (HBC), was created to supply beaver furs to Europe.  The HBC used a beaver skin, called the "made beaver" as a unit of currency.  

4.  In return for the territory granted to the HBC from the King of England, HBC promised to provide Charles II with two elk and two beavers, whenever he might visit.  Charles never collected, but when Elizabeth II paid a visit to Canada, she was rewarded with a beaver coat.

5.  The beaver was a factor in ensuring the Canadians remained loyal to England – since the prosperity of the Canadians depended upon their beaver fur trade with England.

6.  The beaver is an emblem of Canada and is featured on their nickel.  In addition, their first postage stamp was the "Three Penny Beaver" – which was the very first stamp (that I know of) that depicted an animal rather than a ruler/monarch.

7.  Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out West – in part to enter beaver fur trade treaties with the Native Americans.

8.  Beginning in the mid-17th century, the "Beaver Wars" were fought – an intermittent series of conflicts that were some of the bloodiest in the history of North America.

For additional information, you may wish to curl up with Carl Burger's book:  Beaver Skins and Mountain Men:  The importance of the beaver in the discovery, exploration, and settlement of the North American continent.    

Tracy asks a follow up question:  I've never heard of the "Beaver Wars" before.  Were they fought because all the cool towns in America wanted to be named Beaver Dam?

Answer:  Some would say.

Send your questions to: and check out the Beaver’s weekly updates on  

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