NPS Photo by John Edwards
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC) Fort Vancouver had a unique relationship with
the Hawaiian or “Sandwich Islands,” the nineteenth century trade hub of the Pacific. Sailing vessels worldwide stopped regularly at “Owyhee” for recreation, supplies and ship repair, simultaneously developing a “lively exchange of commodities” amongst nations.
The HBC exchange might include trading furs for Boston’s knives and copper pans, swapped for Hawaiian sandalwood or whale oil, bartered for Cantonese silk and tea for Northwest use. Hawaiian imports included items such as hogs, sugar cane, salt, molasses, coffee, wicker baskets, and sweet potatoes. By the 1830s, Fort Vancouver exported produce, wheat, flour, lumber, and salmon. Northwest timber built Hawaii’s European style homes, while Hawaiian coral supplied lime for fertilizer and whitewash, and mortar for the Fort’s chimneys. Meanwhile, the now traditional lomi lomi salmon served at present-day luaus remains a forgotten legacy of the fur trade era.