Fur Stores

The Fur Stores are made up of three warehouses for furs. The largest building is one the east side of the main square, and there are two smaller ones behind it. The other name for this complex, "The Pack Stores", comes from the fur trade expression for a ninety-pound (40.5 kg) pack of pressed furs. Ninety pounds was the standard weight for pièces, the parcels transported by canoe and carried on portages.

Each summer the returns in furs from the North West Company's posts came to Fort William.  At the Pack Stores, the furs were unpacked and their value estimated; then they were dried, cleaned, sorted, repressed and packed again into ninety-pound packs for the trip to Montreal.  From Montreal, most of the furs made their way to England and the annual fur auction.

An idea of the vast quantities of furs received at Fort William is found in Alexander Henry's figures for 1806. The number of beaver skins alone totalled 77,500, amounting to 100,031 pounds (45,014 kg), one-third of the year's returns.  While beaer outnumbered other furs, an amazing variety of pelts appear in Henry's list. These include muskrats, marten, otter, mink, fishers, loup-cerviers (lynx), black bear, grizzly bear, deer, wolves, racoon, buffalo, foxes, orignals (moose), and carcajoux (wolverine).

Beaver
The mainstay of the fur trade, the insulating layer of this fur was easily made into strong, attractive felt.  The felt was then made into top hats and bonnets for fashion-conscious Europeans.

Muskrat
Fisher
Arctic Fox
Bobcat
Otter
Badger
Wolverine
Wolf
Red Fox
Cross Fox
Silver Fox
Mink
Marten

Dressed Skins
The skins of the moose, deer and buffalo were known as "Dressed Skins" and used to pack and protect other, more valuable pelts.

Bear

Scales
Used to weigh out furs for packs, standard weight being 90 lbs. per pack.

Screw Press
Used to compact the 90 lb. stacks of fur into manageable packs for shipping.  Because of the weight and bulk of the large iron screw, this sort of press was only in use at Fort William.  Farther west, the lever press (insert photo) was used.