Hudson Bay Company

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  5. DVD video: Canada: A People's History produced by Mark Starowicz (2001).
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The following article was researched and written by Manpreet Batoo. More contributors.

Hudsons Bay Company Coat of Arms

Significance of The Hudson Bay Company

The Hudson Bay Company is significant to Canadian history as it is Canada's first major retail business and has now been operating for over 300 years' and is still running strong. The mere fact that it is Canada's largest enterprise is enough to be proud of shopping at this company. With four major divisions, The Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters and, one can see that this is a well-rounded company and has achieved great success. As well, the Hudson Bay Company was one of the only existing Canadian companies that was not bought out by an American corporation until 2006.

The Hudson Bay Company

The Hudson Bay Company was founded in 1670 by a group of British merchants who were interested in exploring northern Canada. The Hudson Bay Company's main interest was fur trade, exploration and settlement. (HBC archives. 2002:1)

The Hudson Bay Company began as a simple fur-trading enterprise and evolved into a trading exploration company that reached to the west coast of Canada and the United States, south to Oregon, North to the Arctic and east to Ungava Bay in North Quebec, with agents in Chile, Hawaii, California and Siberia. The Hudson Bay Company was occupied with not only fur trading but it was also a land development company with vast holdings in the Prairie Provinces; a merchandising, natural resources and real estate development company. Today HBC is Canada's oldest corporation and one of its largest retailers. (Newman, 1989:28)

The HBC faced many struggles and challenges to be where it is today. At first the French wanted the company out of Quebec. The French and English warships both fought over the company's trading posts. This finally came to an end in favor of the HBC, by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Queen Anne of England and King Louis XIV of France in the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Utrecht. The treaty ended hostilities between the two nations in both Europe and North America. Under the terms of the treaty, England gained the Hudson Bay Territory, Newfoundland and Acadia from France. (Hudson Bay Company archives, 2002:1)

The Hudson Bay Company Fur Trade Routes

HBC faced stiff competition from the Northwest Company, which was based in Montreal. For many years the competition between the two companies was very intense. The Northwest Company took over French trade routes and took the fur trade deeper into the Northwest. This came to an end when HBC overtook its competitor and the two companies merged. (The Canadian Encycolpedia, 2002:3)

In 1821, the parliament for the British colony of Canada implemented a monopoly trading area, which allowed the company to do business in certain areas. Many did not like the concept of the monopoly because there was misuse of the monopoly power by merchants and traders.

In 1912, the company decided to focus on retail and planned a chain of department stores in Western Canada. This chain of stores began Canada's largest non-food retail chain, the HBC. It is now known for its nationwide department stores including, the Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters and HBC's head office in located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.