The Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered by King
Charles II of Great Britain in 1670, was the most significant commercial
enterprise to affect the exploration and development of the Columbia River
Basin. The company’s all-encompassing charter granted it “the sole Trade and
Commerce” in all commodities, including fish, of all land and water that was
adjacent to or flowed into Hudson’s Bay.
the Columbia River Basin, the fur trade, particularly for
beavers, was the company’s primary interest although the company also
operated lumber mills, cattle and dairy ranches and farms. The company
established a series of trading posts throughout the interior Northwest in the
early 1800s, including Fort Colville and
Fort Vancouver. The chief factor, or trader, at
Fort Vancouver, Dr. John McLoughlin,
became one of the most important political and economic leaders in the region.
Fort Vancouver, in the present-day city of Vancouver, Washington, has been
mostly restored and is open to visitors. The Hudson’s Bay Company, meanwhile,
is Canada’s largest department store retailer, with sales in excess of $7.3
billion in 2003, and also the country’s oldest corporation. The Toronto-based
company and its affiliated businesses, which operate in every province in the
country, employ 70,000.