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Retail imageDecember 13, 1621 - First American furs to be exported from America leave for England aboard the Fortune under the care of Robert Cushman; colonists developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins; sold profitably in England to pay the Plymouth Colony's debts and buy necessary supplies.

May 2, 1670 - King Charles II of England grants a permanent charter to the Hudson's Bay Company, made up of the group of French explorers who opened the lucrative North American fur trade to London merchants. The charter conferred on them not only a trading monopoly but also effective control over the vast region surrounding North America's Hudson Bay; highly successful in exploiting what would become eastern Canada. During the 18th century, the company gained an advantage over the French in the area but was also strongly criticized in Britain for its repeated failures to find a northwest passage out of Hudson Bay; after France's loss of Canada at the end of the French and Indian Wars, Montreal merchants and Scottish traders established the North West Company; 1821 - the two companies merged under the name of the Hudson's Bay Company; ruled a vast territory extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and under the governorship of Sir George Simpson from 1821 to 1856, reached the peak of its fortunes. 1867 - Canada granted dominion status, company lost its monopoly on the fur trade, but it had diversified its business ventures and remained Canada's largest corporation through the 1920s.

April 6, 1808 - John Jacob Astor incorporated the American Fur Company; installed himself as the lone stockholder of his New York City-based company and proceeded to make inroads into the fur business; mounted serious challenge to industry leaders like the North West Company; 1810 - created the Pacific Fur Company; 1811 - established the South West Fur Company; 1828 - unrivaled kings of the fur industry.

July 16, 1808 - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (and other experienced fur traders, businessmen Manuel Lisa, Pierre Choteau, Auguste Choteau) formed the St. Louis Missouri River Fur Company to exploit region's abundant fur-bearing animals; 1825 - dissolved.

June 23, 1810 - John Jacob Astor established the Pacific Fur Company to conquer the Pacific Northwest; 1808 - incorporated American Fur Company which dominated trade in the Missouri River valley, Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions; 1811 - used Pacific Fur to found the village, trading post of Astoria, OR; designed to facilitate exchanges with China (curtailed by War of 1812); 1834 - Astor left the business to manage his fortune.

September 8, 1810 - Pacific Fur Company's first ship, Tonquin, left New York for Oregon with 33 employees on board; arrived six months later at mouth of Columbia River, established town of Astoria, OR, began trading for furs with the Indians; late 1813 - Astor's mostly Canadian partners decided to sell out to the British North West Company; British Navy took control of Astoria during the War of 1812. Astor dissolved Pacific Fur Company, focused on American Fur Company (eventually controlled three-quarters of American fur trade). Astor's profits from American Fur Company, War of 1812, large investments in real estate, made him wealthiest American of his day. 

October 23, 1813 - Americans sell the Pacific Fur Company trading post in Astoria, OR (founded in 1811 by John Jacob Astor) to their rivals in the British North West Company (due to threat that a British might seize Astoria as a spoil of War of 1812); December 1813 - Astoria became Fort George; British maintained control of Fort George and the Pacific Northwest fur trade (traders, settlers, Indians) primarily through the royally chartered Hudson Bay Company for the next three decades; 1846 -British agreed to accept American control of the territory below the 49th parallel, ceded to the U.S. the territory encompassing the future states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

November 16, 1821 - Missouri Indian trader William Becknell arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico (from his base in Franklin, Missouri), sells his goods at an enormous profit, makes plans to return the next year over the route that will become known as the Santa Fe Trail (first businessman to revive the American trade with Santa Fe); known as "Father of the Santa Fe Trail," one of the most important and lucrative of the Old West trading routes.

August 2, 1824 - Fifth Avenue, home to upscale commerce, opened in New York. 1906 - Benjamin Altman moved his store into an empty space near the corner of 34th Street. The appearance of a store in their midst wound the area's inhabitants into a snit, to appease them Altman designed business resemble a Florentine palace *even left the name of his store off the outside of the building). New stores also deigned to mesh with the tony neighborhood - Oppenheim Collins (1907), McCreeery's (1913), Tiffany opened a jewelry store with an entrance that closely echoed the Palazzo Vendramini in Venice, new Lord and Taylor building opened (embraced and even praised. Small stores followed suit, retrofitted swank exteriors with large display windows. By the dawn of World War I, however, Fifth Avenue had arrived as a hot-spot for high-class shopping; rents skyrocketed, small businesses crowded out by big stores able to afford prime real estate.

March 26, 1832 - American Fur Company modernized with steamboats; dispatched company's new steamboat Yellowstone to pick up furs in Montana vs. competitors which continued to rely on small, man-powered keelboats to move their furs and trade goods; helped John Jacob Astor eliminate lesser fur companies and the American Fur Company enjoyed a virtual monopoly over the Far Western fur trade.

April 9, 1869 - The Hudson Bay Company agreed to transfer its territory to Canada.