In 1670 Charles II gave a charter to the Hudson's Bay Company. The territory it was given encompasses some 40 per cent of modern Canada, from the Arctic to the Great Lakes. In return for settling and developing the colony, the charter granted the Hudson's Bay Company a monopoly on the region's natural resources. Its first governor was Charles Bayley, a Quaker, who was released from the Tower of London and deported to Canada. Over the next nine years Bayley established trading posts at the mouths of rivers. He also arranged trade with the local Cree tribe.
By the 18th century the Hudson Bay Company dominated the fur trade in Canada and Oregon. It obtained furs from local Native Americans in exchange for goods shipped from England. This was highly profitable and in 1784 the North West Company was formed in Montreal. This led to violence and open warfare between the two companies.
A third company the American Fur Companywas established by John Jacob Astor in 1808. He established Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon but this was eventually taken over by the North West Company and renamed Fort George.
In 1821 John McLoughlin was placed in charge of Fort William on Lake Superior. Three years later McLoughlin became chief factor for the Hudson Bay Company and supervisor of the Columbia District. He was originally based in Fort George but was later moved to Fort Vancouver. This now became the administrative headquarters and main supply depot for the Hudson's Bay Company's fur trading operations. McLoughlin was responsible for shipping our furs valued at up to $150,000 a year.
In the late 1830s Fort Vancouver became the terminus of the Oregon Trail. When American immigrants arrived in the Oregon Country during the 1830s and 1840s, and despite the instructions from the Hudson's Bay Company that the fort should not help Americans, he provided them with essential supplies to begin their new settlements. This included tools, seeds, wood, cattle and food. Much of this was on credit and by 1844 John McLoughlin had spent $31,000 of the company's money on 400 settlers. In 1846 the Hudson Bay Company lost Oregon to the United States.
In 1870 the Hudson Bay Company sold its rights in Canada for £300,000. The company retained its trading posts and continued in the fur trade.