The Fist in the Wilderness


The Fist in the Wilderness

David Lavender
Introduction by David J. Wishart

498 pages

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May 1998


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eBook (EPUB)

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December 2013


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About the Book

The story of the American fur trade has been told many times from different viewpoints, but David Lavender was the first to place it within the overall contest for empire between Britain and the United States. Rather than offering a simple hagiography of men like Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and other legendary trappers, Lavender relates the story of men such as John Jacob Astor and Ramsay Crooks who competed with Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company for the fur resources of the Great Lakes region and the upper Missouri River country.

Within this framework of contest and competition, Lavender shows how the American Fur Company learned to exploit the needs and wants of Indian tribes to gain a superior economic position over the British. The brutal and bloody rivalry helped Ramsay Crooks develop the techniques for transporting furs, supplying trappers, and selling pelts that made fur trapping such an integral economic activity in early U.S. history.

Author Bio

David Lavender lives in California. David J. Wishart is a professor of geography at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the author of The Fur Trade of the American West: A Geographical Synthesis, also a Bison Book.


"The finest single-volume history of the fur trade to appear. The author has a bloodhound’s instinct for primary sources, and an above-average storytelling ability. Further, he corrects distortions."—Library Journal

"This book derives its importance not only from describing the fur trade . . . but also from the information it contains about frontier life, economic history, political and diplomatic activities, and, of course, the American Indian. This is a thorough effort of fine research, style, organization."—Choice

"The relations between Astor’s company, its domestic rivals, the government, the Indians, and the North West Company of Canada, are nowhere better described."—Journal of American History

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