Fur Trade Illustration Project Papers, Artifact of the Month for July 2012
September 18, 2012
The project originated with Carl P. Russell, who was Chief Naturalist of the National Park Service in the 1930s. Russell's interest in the fur trade led him to write two classic books on the subject: Guns on the Early Frontiers: A History of Firearms from Colonial Times Through the Years of the Western Fur Trade; and Firearms, Traps, and Tools of the Mountain Men: A Guide. Russell began fifteen years of intense study to prepare to write these books in 1930, traveling to libraries, museums, and private collections in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The one thing that Russell lacked for his project was illustrations. At about this time, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial needed similar illustrations for its new exhibits on westward expansion, and Russell suggested the Fur Trade Illustration Project as a way to benefit the museum and to illustrate his books. He lent his considerable expertise to the project and the National Park Service provided the artists.
Russell received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1952 to continue his work on the fur traders and trappers. He finished and published his book, Guns on the Early Frontiers in 1957, the year in which he retired from the National Park Service. His Firearms, Traps, and Tools of the Mountain Men: A Guide was published posthumously in 1967. Unfortunately, Dr. Russell did not have the chance to complete the final book of the planned trilogy. His papers are located at the Washington State University Library in Pullman, Washington.
Two Peace Medals by William Macy, V107-37
Types of Beaver Hats by James Mulcahy, V107-177
Some of the material in this article was taken from Ralph Lewis, Museum Curatorship in the National Park Service 1904-1982. Washington D.C: National Park Service, Curatorial Services Division, 1993, p. 118.
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