Last updated: July 12, 2017
Birchbark Brigade: A Fur Trade History, by Cris Peterson. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2009.
The American fur trade began only a few decades after Christopher Columbus first sailed west from Europe, and it continued for over three centuries. Author Cris Peterson draws on episodes from the diaries of explorers and traders and a lifetime of experience living in the heart of what once was fur country. Birchbark Brigade is a juvenile title, but is an excellent introduction to the fur trade for any history buff or general reader.
At its height, the fur trade was big business as well as a means of exploring North America and, eventually, opening the path to European settlement. The first half of Peterson’s well-researched account tightly packs a great deal of exploration (Columbus, Cabot, Cartier, Champlain, Joliet, Marquette, LaSalle, Duluth, Frontenac, Washington, Pontiac, Mackenzie) into six chapters. The second half of the book, with its firsthand accounts of the voyageurs, settlers, and Native Americans, is stunningly effective.
Birchbark Brigade is a visual feast. Throughout this excellent book, black-and-white photos of sites and reproductions of period artwork, maps, and documents illustrate the text and sidebars. Peterson’s visuals truly make history come to life in this book.
The book also includes a detailed time line, notes for the many quotes, a source bibliography, a suggested reading list, and descriptions of a dozen places to visit. This fur trade history will provide children and adults alike with much information and strong visuals and will entice many to read further about this fascinating chapter in history.