Canada's History

History Matters

As the HBC’s 350th anniversar­y approaches, we invite readers to share their memories of North America’s oldest company.

- by Janet Walker Send your recollecti­ons and/ or digital photograph­s, plus contact informatio­n, to HBC350@CanadasHis­ Please do not send original or valuable materials.

As HBC celebrates 350 years of business, we ask readers to share their stories, recollecti­ons, and photograph­s of North America’s oldest company.

History is about people. Here at Canada’s History Society, we also believe it’s about fostering inclusion, mutual success, and a collective ambition to share, to listen, to remember, and to understand.

The Hudson’s Bay Company was chartered on May 2, 1670, when King Charles II granted exclusive trading rights of the Hudson Bay watershed to “the Governor and Company of Adventurer­s of England Trading into Hudson Bay.” The fledgling company entered into a complex and ancient trade system establishe­d by Indigenous peoples throughout the continent, and the enterprise flourished as European and Indigenous traders embarked on an unpreceden­ted period of social, economic, and cultural exchange. Over the next three centuries, the HBC grew into a fur-trading giant and a global fashion retailer. Today it remains the oldest corporatio­n in North America.

Yet the real wealth of this daring endeavour lies not in land, and forts, and furs. The true bounty lies in the community of people whose legacy of insight, communicat­ion, courage and unyielding determinat­ion helped to shape our country.

You can hear their voices in the company records, ship logs, newsletter­s, and correspond­ence, now carefully preserved at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg. You can find traces of their lives in the objects and artifacts in the Hudson’s Bay Company Gallery at the Manitoba Museum in the same city.

Canada’s History Society carries on the tradition of publishing Canada’s His

tory magazine, successor to The Beaver, an employee journal establishe­d by the HBC in 1920 to commemorat­e the company’s 250th anniversar­y. While the magazine now operates independen­tly, it remains committed to honouring its origins.

Together, these historical legacies are the HBC’s gift to Canada and a window into our country’s past.

From the earliest voyageurs, trappers, and traders, to governors, clerks, and conservati­onists, the HBC saga includes a storehouse of individual journeys, mapping an adventure of opportunit­y and change, of loneliness and hardship, of optimism and endurance.

Young George Fowlie, who joined the HBC in 1923 as an apprentice clerk, made the journey from Scotland to York Factory, where he worked with dogsled teams in the Nelson River district. Fowlie carefully preserved the handmade objects he acquired during his six years in the community, which were passed down to his daughter, Marjorie Medford. Since 2018, the pieces have been part of the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection.

In 1904, when Athabasca, in what is now Alberta, was struck by severe flooding, HBC mailman Billy Loutit was dispatched to Edmonton to get help. The Métis man ran more than 150 kilometres over flooded roads and undevelope­d terrain to deliver the message. His great-granddaugh­ter, Shannon Loutit, shared his story with us and relayed news of an annual reenactmen­t of the run that takes place in Alberta.

As we mark 350 years of the HBC, we encourage you to share your personal historic connection­s to the company. Send us your HBC-related memories or family photos, and we will share them online at CanadasHis­ Help us to commemorat­e the people of the HBC, whose contributi­ons created richer and deeper connection­s among so many Canadians.

 ??  ?? A family in Winnipeg enjoys an HBC department store’s display of mechanical toys in 1961.
A family in Winnipeg enjoys an HBC department store’s display of mechanical toys in 1961.

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