America was growing and expanding, the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark Expedition proved that, and the mountain men that worked for these new upstarts were individualistic, determined, and not one to let something like a little competition stand in their way, just like the country they represented.
The American Fur Company
One of the biggest reasons for the American Fur Company’s success was all of the anti-British fervor that followed American independence. Astor was able to gain control of many previously held British fur-trapping areas and trading routes. The company expanded rapidly, but in the end could not survive the demands of a changing marketplace, and they went belly-up in 1842.
The Missouri Fur Company
The fort would become the first trading outpost of its kind on the upper-Missouri, and in 1809 Lisa gathered together some other like-minded individuals and officially formed the Missouri Fur Company. The company proved quite successful for many years, but in the end it suffered the same fate that befell the other fur trading companies, and it barred the outpost gates for the last time in 1830.
The Rocky Mountain Fur Company
Andrew Henry was Ashley’s partner in the company, and he devised a clever and quite destructive way to squeeze more profits from the fur trade. His traders were instructed to trade large quantities of alcohol with the Indian tribes they conducted business with, both in exchange for furs and services, as well as to get them too drunk to negotiate competently.
This strategy also worked in pulling Indians away from the Hudson’s Bay Company when they held their yearly rendezvous, or when they just blatantly entered the other company’s territory. The Hudson’s Bay Company eventually undercut the Rocky Mountain Fur Company’s profits, and that, coupled with the changing demands of Europe, spelled the end of the company’s shady practices in the 1830s.
Billington, Ray Allen; Ridge, Martin. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. No Publisher Listed, 2001. p 93-106.
Malone, Michael Peter; Roeder, Richard B.; Lang, William L. Montana: A History of Two Centuries. The University of Washington Press, 1976. p 47-50.
Wishart, David J. The Fur Trade of the American West: 1807-1840. The University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, 1979. p 141-161.