Silver fox is one of the most valuable of all furs, as much as £480 having been given for an unusually fine pair of skins in 1902.
It was devised by the Hudson's Bay Company for carrying freight, as a substitute for the less serviceable canoe, and was named after their York factory, the centre to which the traders brought down the furs for shipment to England and from which they took back merchandise and supplies to the interior of Rupert's Land.
The river is navigable for 770 m.; grain and a variety of goods conveyed from the upper Kama are floated down, while furs, fish and other products of the sea are shipped up the river to be transported to Cherdyn on the Kama.
The external trade of the Russian empire (bullion and the external trade of Finland not included) since the year 1886 is shown in the following table: The exports rank in the following order :- cereals (wheat, barley, rye, oats, maize, buckwheat) and flour, 49.2%; timber and wooden wares, 7.2; petroleum, 5.8; eggs, 5.4; flax, 5; butter, 3; sugar, 2-4; cottons and oilcake, 2 each; oleaginous seeds, &c., 1.5; with hemp, spirits, poultry, game, bristles, hair, furs, leather, manganese ore, wool, caviare, live-stock, gutta-percha, vegetables and fruit, and tobacco.
Place in corn and flour from the presence of the larvae of the Mediterranean flour moth (Ephestia kuniella); while furs and clothes are often ruined by the clothes moth (Tinea trapezella).
Sealskins and other furs, and whale and seal oil, are exported, and the herring fishery is very productive.
Sometimes a difference of meaning is indicated by difference of spelling though the sounds in the two words are identical, as in furs and furze.
Trade with Persia and India, as also with the Khazars and the Russians, and undoubtedly with Biarmia (Urals), was, however, their chief occupation, their main riches being furs, leather, wool, nuts, wax and so on.
Soon after the first appearance (1580) of the Cossacks of Yermak in Siberia thousands of hunters, attracted by the furs, immigrated from north Russia, explored the country, traced the first footpaths and erected the first houses in the wilderness.
Taxed with a tribute in furs from the earliest years of the Russian conquest, they often revolted in the 17th century, but were cruelly reduced to obedience.
The forests on the Amur yielded a rich return of furs during the first years of the Russian occupation, and the Amur sable, although much inferior to the Yakutsk and Transbaikalian, was largely exported.
In the external trade the exports to Russia consist chiefly of grain, cattle, sheep, butter and other animal products, furs, game, feathers and down.
The town is the centre of a pastoral district and has a large trade in furs, while at Bushy Hill, a mile from the town, is a small gold-field.
The Germans recognized the staple rights of Bruges for a number of commodities, such as wool, wax, furs, copper and grain, and in return for this material contribution to the growing commercial importance of the town, they received in 1309 freedom from the compulsory brokerage which Bruges imposed on foreign merchants.
The merchants of Byzantium, Armenia and Bagdad met in the markets of Itil (whither since the raids of the Mahommedans the capital had been transferred from Semender), and traded for the wax, furs, leather and honey that came down the Volga.
Drawers of cedar or chips of the wood are now employed to protect furs and woollen stuffs from injury by moths.
The staple exports are beans, pulse and peas, marine products, sulphur, furs and timber; the staple imports, comestibles (especially salted fish), kerosene and oil-cake.
Cotton yarn and cloth, petroleum, timber and furs are among the chief imports; copper, tin, hides and tea are important exports; medicines in the shape not only of herbs and roots, but also of fossils, shells, bones, teeth and various products of the animal kingdom; and precious stones, principally jade and rubies, are among the other exports.
M., established there a settlement of miners and continued his mining operations, together with a trade in furs, until his death in 1810.
He conceived that a vast trade with the Iroquois for furs might be established; his report aroused great interest in Holland; and the United Netherlands, whose independence had been acknowledged in the spring, claimed the newly discovered country.
At the beginning of the 19th century black bears were killed in enormous numbers for their furs, which at that time were highly valued.
Other manufactures consist of a strong coarse cotton cloth called kham (which forms the dress of the common people, and for winter wear is padded with cotton and quilted), boots and shoes, saddlery, felts, furs and sheepskins made up into cloaks, and various articles of domestic use.
Bismarck is the headquarters for navigation of the upper Missouri river, is situated in a good agricultural region, and has a large wholesale trade, shipping grain, hides, furs, wool and coal.
From Mongolia come leather, saddlery, sheep and horses, with coral, amber and small diamonds from European sources; from Kham perfumes, fruits, furs and inlaid metal saddlery; from Sikkim and Bhutan rice, musk, sugar-balls and tobacco; from Nepal broadcloth, indigo, brasswork, coral, pearls, sugar, spices, drugs and Indian manufactures; from Ladak saffron, dried fruits and articles from India.
The exports from Tibet are silver, gold, salt, wool, woollen cloth, rugs, furs, drugs, musk.
The pelt or skin is requisite to keep out the piercing wind and driving storm, while the fur and overhair ward off the cold; and "furs" are as much a necessity to-day among more northern peoples as they ever were in the days of barbarism.
This, in brief, has been the history of its use in China, Tatary, Russia, Siberia and North America, and at present the employment of fancy furs among civilized nations has grown to be more extensive than at any former period.
Furs have constituted the price of redemption for royal captives, the gifts of emperors and kings, and the peculiar badge of state functionaries.
The history of furs can be read in Marco Polo, as he grows eloquent with the description of the rich skins of the khan of Tatary; in the early fathers of the church, who lament their introduction into Rome and Byzantium as an evidence of barbaric and debasing luxury; in the political history of Russia, stretching out a powerful arm over Siberia to secure her rich treasures; in the story of the French occupation of Canada, and the ascent of the St Lawrence to Lake Superior, and the subsequent contest to retain possession against England; in the history of early settlements of New England, New York and Virginia; in Irving's Astoria; in the records of the Hudson's Bay Company; and in the annals of the fairs held at Nizhniy Novgorod and Leipzig.
We are dependent upon the Carnivora, Rodentia, Ungulata and Marsupialia for our supplies of furs, the first two classes being by far of the greatest importance.
Although it is a fact that the demand is ever increasing, and that some of the rarer animals are decreasing in numbers, yet on the other hand some kinds of furs are occasionally neglected through vagaries of fashion, which give nature an opportunity to replenish their source.
These respites are, however, becoming fewer every day, and what were formerly the most neglected kinds of furs are becoming more and more sought after.
Opossums and wallabies, good useful furs, come from Australia and New Zealand.
The finest furs are obtained from the Arctic and northern regions, and the lower the latitude the less full and silky the fur, till, at the torrid zone, fur gives place to harsh hair without any underwool.
The sea otter, one of the richest and rarest of furs, especially for men's wear, is an exception to this unhairing process, which it does not require, the hair being of the same length as the wool, silky and bright, quite the reverse of the case of other aquatic animals.
It is found that in densely wooded districts furs are darker in colour than in exposed regions, and that the quality of wool and hair is softer and more silky than those from bare tracts of country, where nature exacts from its creatures greater efforts to secure food, thereby developing stronger limbs and a consequently coarser body covering.
The principal sales of general furs are held in London in January and March, smaller offerings being made in June and October; while the bulk of fur sealskins is sold separately in December.
Chinese furs and ermine.
Of course there are many transactions, generally in the cheaper and coarser kinds of furs, used only in central Europe, Russia and Asia which in no way interest the London market, and there are many direct consignments of skins from collectors in America and Russia to London, New York and Leipzig merchants.
But the bulk of the fine furs of the world is sold at the large public trade auction sales in London.
Since, however, the value of all good furs has advanced, dyers and manufacturers have made very successful efforts with this fur.
Moles are plentiful in the British Isles and Europe, and owing to their lovely velvety coats of exquisite blue shade and to the dearness of other furs are much in demand.
Formerly the fur was only used for hatters' felt, but with the rise in prices of furs these skins have been more carefully removed and-with improved dressing, unhairing and silvering processes-the best provides a very effective and suitable fur for ladies' coats, capes, stoles, muffs, hats and gloves, while the lower qualities make very useful, light-weighted and inexpensive linings for men's or women's driving coats.
Special grease is then rubbed in and the skin placed in a machine which softly and continuously beats in the softening mixture, after which it is put into a slowly revolving drum, fitted with wooden paddles, partly filled with various kinds of fine hard sawdust according to the nature of the furs dealt with.
The Viennese are successful in dyeing marmot well, and their cleverness in colouring it with a series of stripes to represent the natural markings of sable which has been done after the garments have been made, so as to obtain symmetry of lines, has secured for them a large trade among the dealers of cheap furs in England and the continent.
It is a recognized law among high-class furriers that furs should be simply arranged, that is, that an article should consist of one fur or of two furs of a suitable contrast, to which lace may be in some cases added with advantage.
As illustrative of this, it may be explained that any brown tone of fur such as sable, marten, mink, black marten, beaver, nutria, &c., will go well upon black or very dark-brown furs, while those of a white or grey nature, such as ermine, white lamb, chinchilla, blue fox, silver fox, opossum, grey squirrel, grey lamb, will set well upon seal or black furs, as Persian lamb, broadtail, astrachan, caracul lamb, &c. White is also permissible upon some light browns and greys, but brown motley colours and greys should never be in contrast.
With regard to the natural colours of furs, the browns that command the highest prices are those that are of a bluish rather than a reddish tendency.
Perhaps for ingenuity and the latest methods of manipulating skins in the manufacturing of furs the Americans lead the way, but as fur cutters are more or less of a roving and cosmopolitan character the larger fur businesses in London, Berlin, Vienna, St Petersburg, Paris and New York are guided by the same thorough and comparatively advanced principles.
Another great source of inexpensive furs is China, and for many years past enormous quantities of dressed furs, many of which are made up in the form of linings and Chinese looseshaped garments, have been imported by England, Germany and France for the lower class of business; the garments are only regarded as so much fur and are reworked.
With, however, the exception of the best white Tibet lambs, the majority of Chinese furs can only be regarded as inferior material.
One of the most remarkable results of the European intervention in the Boxer rising in China (I goo) was the absurd price paid for so-called "loot" of furs, particularly in mandarins' coats of dyed and natural fox skins and pieces, and natural ermine, poor in quality and yellowish in colour; from three to ten times their value was paid for them when at the same time huge parcels of similar quality were warehoused in the London docks, because purchasers could not be found for them.
The skins are invariably tanned and beautifully sewn, the furs are generally flat in quality and not very strong in the hair, and are retained more as curiosities than for use as a warm covering.
Among the principal imitations of other furs is musquash, out of which the top hair has been pulled and the undergrowth of wool clipped and dyed exactly the same colour as is used for seal, which is then offered as seal or red river seal.
The most usual misnaming of manufactured furs is as follow: - Musquash, pulled and dyed .
Have been preserved in cold storage, but it is only within a recent period, owing to the difficulty there was in obtaining the necessary perfectly dry atmosphere, that dressed and madeup furs have been preserved by freezing.
Furs kept in such a condition are not only immune from the ravages of the larvae of moth, but all the natural oils in the pelt and fur are conserved, so that its colour and life are prolonged, and the natural deterioration is arrested.
Sunlight has a tendency to bleach furs and to encourage the development of moth eggs, therefore continued exposure is to be avoided.
When furs are wetted by rain they should be well shaken and allowed to dry in a current of air without exposure to sun or open fire.
Where a freezing store for furs is not accessible, furs should be well shaken and afterwards packed in linen and kept in a perfectly cool dry place, and examined in the summer at periods of not less than five weeks.
Look there, those are furs! they exclaimed.