The people who came to Fort Union over its history had a variety of backgrounds and reasons for visiting.
Managers and Workers
Fort Union's work force included employees of many ranks. The bourgeois, or manager, ran the fort, employed workers, oversaw trading, and received a percentage of the profits. The most famous of Fort Union's managers were Kenneth McKenzie, Alexander Culbertson, Edward Denig, James Kipp, and Charles Larpenteur. Clerks assisted the bourgeois by inventorying the goods that came into and accounting for sales and trades as well as doing the trading when the bourgeois needed him to. Other employees included interpreters, hunters, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, tailors, and engages, the men who did the routine labor.
A number of tribes came to Fort Union to trade and establish ties in the region. In fact, although the fort was built at the request of the Assiniboin, as many as 10 different Northern Plains Tribes in the upper Missouri area traded at the post.
Explorers and Travelers
Many individuals came to Fort Union during its thirty-nine years in operation. Included among them were famous artists, naturalists, and adventurers such as George Catlin, Prince Maximilian of Wied, Karl Bodmer, and John James Audubon. These men and other journeyed up the Missouri River to Fort Union to study the West and the Upper Missouri frontier.
Did You Know?
Northern Plains tribes made up the entire bulk of trade at Fort Union. Camps usually came in the spring to trade buffalo robes and furs for trade goods. This trade did continue throughout the year even though spring was considered trade season.