Adapting to altered circumstances : Trade Commissioner Joseph Wrigley and the Hudson's Bay Company, 1884-1891

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Stardom, Eleanor Jean
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The post-1870 period was one of rapid change in Hudson's Bay Company history. Where it had once governed the vast expanse of Rupert's Land, in accordance with the original charter of 1670, the Deed of Surrender had reduced it to the status of a private company, forced to compete in an open market under the jurisdiction of the Canadian government. With the transfer of a major portion of its territory to the Dominion Government, the nature of the Company's trading operations altered significantly over the next decades. As the focus of attention shifted northwards to the fur resources of the distant Athabaska and Mackenzie River regions, the consequent spiralling transportation costs prompted attempts to streamline the entire fur trade system. Greater emphasis was placed on developing more efficient routes and adopting less labour-intensive methods of inland transportation, such as steamers, which enabled heavy cargoes to be moved at a fraction of previous costs. In southern regions, consolidation measures inaugurated by Governor Simpson were continued. Winnipeg was designated as the major depot, leaving York Factory and Norway House to function as mere trading posts serving the immediate district. On the prairies the surge of new settlers which followed the completion of the railway dramatized the potential of the Company's retail trade that was becoming an increasingly important part of its operations by the 1880's.