profile of a piece of white coral found in an archaeological dig at Fort Vancouver

Hawaiian coral found in an archaeological excavation at the fort. Coral was utilized by the HBC in various construction projects onsite.

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.

Dig Deeper

  • For a good overview, access the park's site bulletin Hawaiians & Fort Vancouver by clicking here.
  • To learn more about the connection between Fort Vancouver and the Hawaiian Islands, click on one of the links below to connect to the next section of the eight part series written by Dr. Edward and Alice Beechert, historians specializing in Hawaiian history.

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