The pelts, although very light, are tough and durable, hence their good reputation for linings for ladies' walking or driving coats.
The French adventurers, bent on finding either a "North-west passage" or some land route to the Pacific (which they believed to be no farther west than the Mississippi), naturally went west by the water routes of Wisconsin; as a fine field for their bartering and trading with water-courses by which they could convey their pelts and skins back to Montreal, the region attracted the coureurs de bois and fur traders; and it seemed promising also to the zealous French Catholic missionaries.
During the 18th century a considerable trade in sheep, wool, wine and pelts developed, chiefly with Chihuahua and with the Indians of the plains.
The manufacture of fur into a felt is of comparatively modern origin, while the use of fur pelts as a covering for the body, for the couch, or for the tent is coeval with the earliest history of all northern tribes and nations.
Hunters and fishermen frequented its innumerable rivers, returning home laden with rich store of fish and pelts, while runaway serfs occasionally settled in small communities beneath the shelter of the fortresses built, from time to time, to guard the 'southern frontiers of Poland and Muscovy.
It is only the pressure of increasing demand that makes marketable hard pelts with harsh brittle hair of nondescript hue, and these would, naturally, be the last to attract the notice of dealers.
Russian dressing is seldom reliable; not only is there an unpleasant odour, but in damp weather the pelts often become clammy, which is due to the saline matter in the dressing mixture.
For straight seams the machines are excellent, making as neat a seam as is found in glove work, unless, of course, the pelts are especially heavy, such as bears and sheep rugs.
It is, however, to the great value attached to the pelts of these animals that their importance to man is chiefly due.
Moreover the export of sheep skins and pelts was valued at £680,000 in the lastmentioned year.
193,625 A brief account of the different qualities of the pelts, with some general remarks as to their customary uses, follows.
The pelts are exceedingly fine and close in texture and, although of little weight, are very durable, and articles made of them produce a sensation of warmth immediately they are put upon the body.