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Hudson’s Bay Company

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Hudson’s Bay Company

"Hudson's Bay" redirects here. For the body of water, see Hudson Bay. For the store owned by the HBC, see Hudson's Bay (retailer).

Hudson's Bay Company
Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson
Traded as HBC
Founded 2 May 1670
Headquarters Simpson Tower
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Key people Richard Baker,[2] Governor & CEO
Bonnie Brooks, Vice Chairman[3]
Liz Rodbell, President [3]
Revenue $7.0 billion CAD (Decrease $59.7 million FY 2009)
Owner(s) NRDC Equity Partners
Parent NRDC Equity Partners
Divisions Hudson's Bay
Lord & Taylor
Home Outfitters
Saks Fifth Avenue (pending)

The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC)' (French: Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson), commonly referred to as "The Bay" ("La Baie" in French[4]) is the oldest commercial corporation in North America (in continuous operation for over 340 years) and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today the Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada and the United States, including Hudson's Bay ("La Baie d'Hudson" in French), formerly The Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters and Lord & Taylor. The company's head office is in the Simpson Tower in Toronto, Ontario,[5] and is owned by the New York-based firm NRDC Equity Partners.

The company was incorporated by English royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay and functioned as the de facto government in parts of North America before European states and later the United States laid claim to some of those territories. It was at one time the largest landowner in the world, with the area of the Hudson Bay watershed, known as Rupert's Land, having 15% of North American acreage. From its long-time headquarters at York Factory on Hudson Bay, the company controlled the fur trade throughout much of the English and later British controlled North America for several centuries. Undertaking early exploration, its traders and trappers forged early relationships with many groups of aboriginal peoples. Its network of trading posts formed the nucleus for later official authority in many areas of Western Canada and the United States. In the late 19th century, with the signing of the Deed of Surrender, its vast territory became the largest component in the newly formed Dominion of Canada, in which the company was the largest private landowner.

With the decline of the fur trade, the company evolved into a mercantile business selling vital goods to settlers and prospectors in the Canadian West who "quickly introduced a new type of client to the HBC - one that shopped with cash and not with skins"; the retail era had begun as the HBC began establishing retail stores across cities in the prairies.[6] With the sale of its Northern Stores and Fur Sales Departments in 1987, the HBC completely removed itself from the fur trade.[7]

The Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBCA), a collection of the company's many records and maps, are located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Along with company records, the HBCA also manages collections of private records which includes the records of "related and/or subsidiary companies and individuals."[8] The HBCA is a division of the Archives of Manitoba.

In July 2008, the company, after a series of change of ownership, was eventually acquired by the American private equity firm, NRDC Equity Partners, which also owned department store chain Lord & Taylor.[9] From 2008 to 2012, the HBC was run through a holding company of NRDC, Hudson's Bay Trading Company, which was dissolved on 23 January 2012.[10] On 29 July 2013, the HBC announced a friendly takeover of Saks, Inc., operator of the Saks Fifth Avenue department store chain, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.[11] The HBC is now directly managed by NRDC and it oversees the operations of Lord & Taylor in the United States in addition to its Canadian subsidiaries Hudson's Bay (formerly The Bay), Zellers and Home Outfitters.[10]


17th century

In the 17th century, the French had a monopoly on the Canadian fur trade. However, two French traders, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers (Médard de Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers), Radisson's brother-in-law, learned from the Cree that the best fur country was north and west of Lake Superior and that there was a "frozen sea" still further north.[12] Assuming that this was Hudson Bay, they sought French backing for a plan to set up a trading post on the Bay, thus reducing the cost of moving furs overland. According to Peter C. Newman, "concerned that exploration of the Hudson Bay route might shift the focus of the fur trade away from the Saint Lawrence River, the French governor", Marquis d'Argenson, "refused to grant the coureurs de bois permission to reconnoiter the distant territory."[12] Despite this refusal, in 1659 Radisson and Groseilliers set out for the upper Great Lakes basin. A year later they returned from their expedition with premium furs, evidence of the potential of the Hudson Bay region. Subsequently, they were arrested for trading without a licence and fined, and their furs were confiscated.

Determined to establish trade in the Hudson Bay, Radisson and Groseilliers approached a group of business men in Boston, Massachusetts to help finance their explorations. The Bostonians agreed on the plan's merits but their speculative voyage in 1633 failed when their ship ran into pack ice in Hudson Strait. This came to the attention of Boston-based English commissioner Colonel George Cartwright, who brought the two to England to elicit financing.[12] Radisson and Groseilliers arrived in London in 1655 at the height of the Great Plague. Eventually, the two met and received the sponsorship of Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert also introduced the two to his cousin, King Charles II.[13] In 1668, the English acquired two ships, the Nonsuch and the Eaglet, to explore possible trade into Hudson Bay. The Nonsuch was commanded by Captain Zachariah Gillam, who was accompanied by Groseilliers, while the Eaglet was commanded by Captain William Stannard and accompanied by Radisson. On 5 June 1668, both ships left port at Deptford, England, but the Eaglet was forced to turn back off the coast of Ireland.[14]

The Nonsuch continued to James Bay, the southern portion of Hudson Bay where its explorers founded the first fort on Hudson Bay, Charles Fort (later Rupert House, now Waskaganish, Quebec[15]), at the mouth of the Rupert River. Both the fort and the river were named after the sponsor of the expedition, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, one of the major investors and soon to be the new company's first governor. After a successful trading expedition over the winter of 1668–1669, the Nonsuch returned to England on 9 October 1669, with the first cargo of fur resulting from trade in Hudson Bay. The bulk of the fur - worth £1,233 - was sold to Thomas Glover, one of London's most prominent furriers. This and subsequent purchases by Glover made it clear that the fur trade business in Hudson Bay was indeed viable.[16]

The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson's Bay was incorporated on 2 May 1670, with a royal charter from King Charles II.[17] The charter granted the company a monopoly over the region drained by all rivers and streams flowing into Hudson Bay in northern Canada. The area was called Rupert's Land after Prince Rupert, the first governor of the company appointed by the King. This region, the drainage basin of Hudson Bay, constitutes 1.5 million square miles (3.9×10^6 km2), comprises over one-third the area of modern day Canada and stretches into the north central United States. The specific boundaries were unknown at the time. Rupert's Land would eventually be Canada's largest land purchase in the 1800s.

The HBC established six posts between 1668 and 1717. Rupert House (1668,southeast), Moose Factory (1673, south) and Fort Albany, Ontario (1679, west)were erected on James Bay; three other posts were established on the western shore of Hudson Bay proper: Fort Severn (1689), York Factory (1684) and Fort Churchill (1717). Inland posts were not built until 1774. After 1774, York Factory became the main post because of its convenient access to the vast interior waterway systems of the Saskatchewan and Red rivers. Called "factories" (because the "factor," i.e., a person acting as a mercantile agent did business from there), these posts operated in the manner of the Dutch fur trading operations in New Netherlands.

During the fall and winter, First Nations and trappers did the vast majority of the animal trapping and pelt preparation. They travelled by canoe and on foot, to the fort to sell their pelts. In exchange they typically received popular trade goods such as knives, kettles, beads, needles, and the Hudson's Bay point blanket. The arrival of the First Nations trappers was one of the high points of the year, met with pomp and circumstance. The highlight was very formal, an almost ritualized "Trading Ceremony" between the Chief Trader and the Captain of the aboriginal contingent who traded on their behalf.[18] During the initial years of the fur trade, prices for items varied from post to post. With the adoption of Standard of Trade in the 18th century, the HBC ensured consistent pricing throughout Rupert's Land. A means of exchange arose based on the Made Beaver (MB); a prime pelt, worn for a year and ready for processing: "the prices of all trade goods were set in values of Made Beaver (MB) with other animal pelts, such as squirrel, otter and moose quoted in their MB (made beaver) equivalents. For example, two otter pelts might equal 1 MB".[19]

The early coastal factory model contrasted with the system of the French, who established an extensive system of inland posts and sent traders to live among the tribes of the region. In March 1686, the French sent a raiding party under the Chevalier des Troyes over 1,300 km (810 mi) to capture the company's posts along James Bay. The French appointed Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who had shown great heroism during the raids, as commander of the company's captured posts. In 1687 an English attempt to resettle Fort Albany failed due to ruses and deceptions by d'Iberville. After 1688 England and France were officially at war. D'Iberville raided Fort Severn in 1690 but did not attempt to raid the well-defended local headquarters at York Factory. In 1693 the company recovered Fort Albany; d'Iberville captured York Factory in 1694, but the company recovered it the next year. In 1697, d'Iberville again commanded a French naval raid on York Factory. On the way to the fort, he defeated three ships of the Royal Navy in the Battle of Hudson's Bay, the largest naval battle in the history of the North American Arctic. D'Iberville's depleted French force captured York Factory by a ruse; they laid siege to the fort while pretending to be a much larger army, the French held all of the outposts except Fort Albany until 1713. (Fort Albany was again unsuccessfully attacked in 1709 by a small French and Indian force.) The economic consequences of the French possession to the company were significant; it did not pay any dividends for more than 20 years. See Anglo-French conflicts on Hudson Bay.

18th century

The war ended in 1713 with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht. Among its many provisions, the Treaty required France to relinquish all claims to Hudson Bay, which again became a British possession.[20] The Kingdom of Great Britain had been established (following the union of Scotland and England in 1707. After the treaty, the company built Prince of Wales Fort, a stone star fort at the mouth of the nearby Churchill River. In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, a French squadron under Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse captured and demolished York Factory and Prince of Wales Fort.

In its trade with native peoples, the Hudson's Bay Company exchanged wool blankets, called Hudson's Bay point blankets, for the beaver pelts trapped by aboriginal hunters. By 1700, point blankets accounted for over 60% of the trade.[21] The number of indigo stripes (aka points) woven into the blankets identified its finished size. A long-held misconception is that the number of stripes is related to its value in beaver pelts.[22]

A parallel may be drawn between the HBC's control over Rupert's Land with the trade monopoly and government functions enjoyed by the Honourable East India Company over India during roughly the same period. Viewed as a major competitor, the HBC invested £10,000 in the East India Company[23] in 1732.

The Hudson's Bay Company's first inland trading post was established by Samuel Hearne in 1774 in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan.[24]

In 1779, the North West Company (NWC) was founded in Montreal as a seasonal partnership to provide more capital and to continue competing with the HBC. It became operative for the outfit of 1780 and was the first joint stock company in Canada and possibly North America. The agreement lasted one year. A second agreement established in 1780 had a three-year term. The company became a permanent entity in 1783.[25] By 1784, the NWC had begun to have a serious impact on the HBC's profits.[26]

HBC sternwheelers and steam ships

  • Beaver (1835–1874)
  • Otter (1852-1895[27] )
  • Anson Northup (1859-1860[28] )
  • Caledonia (1891–1898) -- She ran aground on rocks at Port Simpson during a storm and her hull was destroyed. Her engines were put into the Caledonia 2
  • Caledonia (2) (1898–1909) -- Her machinery was from the Caledonia 1.
  • Mount Royal (1902–1907)
  • Princess Louise (1878–1883)
  • Strathcona (1900)
  • Port Simpson (1907–1912)
  • Hazelton (1907–1912)
  • Distributor (1920-1948[29] )

19th century

In 1821, the North West Company of Montreal and the Hudson's Bay Company merged. Their combined territory was extended by a licence to the North-Western Territory, so it reached to the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Before the merger, the employees of the HBC, unlike the North West Company, did not participate in its profits. After the merger, with all operations under the management of Sir George Simpson (1826–1860), the company had a corps of commissioned officers, 25 chief factors and 28 chief traders, who shared in the profits of the company during the monopoly years. Its trade covered 7,770,000 km2 (3,000,000 sq mi), and it had 1,500 contract employees.[30]:8–23

The progression for officers, together referred to as the Commissioned Gentlemen, was to enter the company as a fur trader. Typically, they were men who had the capital to invest in starting up their trading. They sought to be promoted to the rank of Chief Trader. A Chief Trader would be in charge of an individual post and was entitled to one share of the profits of the company. Chief Factors sat in council with the Governors and were the heads of districts. They were entitled to two shares of the profits or the losses of the company. The average income of a Chief Trader was £360 and that of a Chief Factor was £720.[31]:690

Although the HBC maintained a monopoly on the fur trade during the early to mid-19th century there was competition from James Sinclair and Andrew McDermot (Dermott), independent traders in the Red River Colony. They shipped furs by the Red River Trails to Norman Kittson[30]:60–72 a buyer in the United States. In addition, Americans controlled the Maritime fur trade on the Northwest Coast until the 1840s.

Throughout the 1820s and 1830s, the HBC controlled nearly all trading operations in the Pacific Northwest, based at the company headquarters at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Although authority over the region was nominally shared by the United States and Britain through the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, company policy, enforced via Chief Factor John McLoughlin of the company's Columbia District, was to discourage U.S. settlement of the territory. The company's effective monopoly on trade virtually forbade any settlement in the region. It established Fort Boise in 1834 (in present-day southwestern Idaho) to compete with the American Fort Hall, 483 km (300 mi) to the east. In 1837, it purchased Fort Hall, also along the route of the Oregon Trail, where the outpost director displayed the abandoned wagons of discouraged settlers to those seeking to move west along the trail.

The company's stranglehold on the region was broken by the first successful large wagon train to reach Oregon in 1843, led by Marcus Whitman. In the years that followed, thousands of emigrants poured into the Willamette Valley. In 1846, the United States acquired full authority of the most settled areas of the Oregon Country south of the 49th parallel. McLoughlin, who had once turned away would be settlers as company director, then welcomed them from his general store at Oregon City and was later proclaimed the "Father of Oregon". The company retains no presence today in what is now the United States portion of the Pacific Northwest.

During the 1820s and 1830s, HBC trappers were deeply involved in the early exploration and development of Northern California. Company trapping brigades were sent south from Fort Vancouver, along what became known as the Siskiyou Trail, into Northern California as far south as the San Francisco Bay Area. These trapping brigades in Northern California faced serious risks, and were often the first to explore relatively uncharted territory.

Between 1820 and 1870, the HBC issued its own paper money. The notes, denominated in pounds sterling, were printed in London and issued at the York Factory, Fort Garry and the Red River Colony.

The Guillaume Sayer Trial in 1849 contributed to the end of the HBC monopoly. Sayer, a Métis trapper and trader, was accused of the illegal trading of furs. The Court of Assiniboia brought Sayer to trial, before a jury of HBC officials and supporters. During the trial, a crowd of armed Métis men led by Louis Riel, Sr. gathered outside the courtroom. Although Sayer was found guilty of illegal trade, having evaded the HBC monopoly, Judge Adam Thom did not levy a fine or punishment. Some accounts attributed that to the intimidating armed crowd gathered outside the courthouse. With the cry, Le commerce est libre! Le commerce est libre! ("Trade is free! Trade is free!"), the Métis loosened the HBC's previous control of the courts, which had enforced their monopoly on the settlers of Red River.

Another factor was the findings of the Palliser Expedition of 1857 to 1860, led by Captain John Palliser. Although he recommended against settlement of the region the report sparked a debate. That ended the myth publicized by the Hudson's Bay Company that the Canadian West was unfit for agricultural settlement. In 1863, the International Financial Society became the majority shareholders of the HBC.

In 1869, the company approved the return of Rupert’s Land to Britain which in turn gave it to Canada and loaned the new country the £300,000 required to compensate HBC for its losses. The deal, known as The Deed of Surrender, came into force the following year. The resulting territory, now known as the Northwest Territories, was brought under Canadian jurisdiction under the terms of the Rupert's Land Act 1868, enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Deed enabled the admission of the fifth province, Manitoba, to the Confederation on 15 July 1870, the very same day that the deed itself came into force.[32]

Rent obligation under charter

Under the charter establishing the Hudson's Bay Company, the company was required to give two elk skins and two black beaver pelts to the English king, then Charles II, or his heirs, whenever the monarch visited Rupert's Land. The exact text from the 1670 Charter reads:

"...Yielding and paying yearly to us and our heirs and successors for the same two Elks and two Black beavers whensoever and as often as We, our heirs and successors shall happen to enter into the said Countries, Territories and Regions hereby granted."[33]

The ceremony was first conducted with the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) in 1927, then with King George VI in 1939, and last with his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 and 1970. On the last such visit, the pelts were given in the form of two live beavers, which the Queen donated to the Winnipeg Zoo in Assiniboine Park.[10] However, when the company permanently moved its headquarters to Canada, the Charter was amended to remove the rent obligation.[11] Each of the four "rent ceremonies" took place in or around Winnipeg.[34]

Notable HBC explorers, builders, and associates

  • James Knight (ca. 1640 – ca. 1721) was a director of the Hudson's Bay Company and an explorer who died in an expedition to the Northwest Passage.
  • Henry Kelsey (c. 1667 – 1 November 1724), aka the Boy Kelsey, was an English fur trader, explorer, and sailor who played an important role in establishing the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. In 1690, Henry Kelsey embarked on a 2-year exploration journey that made him the first white man to see buffalo.
  • Thanadelthur (c. 1697—5 February 1717) was a woman of the Chipewyan nation who served as a guide and interpreter for the Hudson's Bay Company.
  • Samuel Hearne (1745 – 1792) was an English explorer, fur-trader, author, and naturalist. In 1774, Hearne built Cumberland House for the Hudson’s Bay Company, its first interior trading post and the first permanent settlement in present Saskatchewan.
  • David Thompson (30 April 1770 – 10 February 1857) was a British-Canadian fur trader that worked for both the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Trading Company. He is best known for his extensive explorations and map-making activities. He mapped almost half of North America between the 46th and 60th parallels, from the St.Lawrence and Great Lakes all the way to the Pacific.
  • Thomas Douglas, Lord Selkirk (20 June 1771 — 8 April 1820) was a Scottish peer. He was a Scottish philanthropist who, as HBC’s majority shareholder, arranged to purchase land at Red River to establish a colony for dispossessed Scottish immigrants.
  • Isobel Gunn or Isabella Gunn (c. 1780? – 7 November 1861), also known as John Fubbister or Mary Fubbister, was a Scottish labourer employed by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), noted for having passed herself as a man, thereby becoming, not just a pioneer of feminism, but the first European woman to travel to Rupert's Land, now part ofWestern Canada.
  • George Simpson (1787 – 7 September 1860) was the Canadian governor of the Hudson's Bay Company during the period of its greatest power, a period which began in 1821 following the company’s merger with the North West Trading Company.
  • Dr. John Rae (Inuktitut Aglooka ᐊᒡᓘᑲ English: "long strider") (30 September 1813 – 22 July 1893) was a Scottish doctor who explored Northern Canada, surveyed parts of the Northwest Passage and reported the fate of the Franklin Expedition.


The HBC is the only European trading company to have survived and outlived all its rivals.

Years Company Fate
1551–1917 Muscovy Company taken over by the Soviet Union
1581–1825 Levant Company dissolved
1600–1858 Honourable East India Company dissolved
1602–1800 Dutch East India Company went bankrupt
1621–1791 Dutch West India Company bought by the Dutch government
1672–1752 Royal African Company replaced by the African Company of Merchants
1711–1850s South Sea Company abolished
1779–1821 North West Company merged with the HBC
1799–1867 Russian-American Company folded with the sale of Russian America to the U.S. and commercial assets in North America sold to Hutchinson, Kohl & Company (now as the Alaska Commercial Company)
1808–1842 American Fur Company folded

Modern operations

Department stores and diversification

By the late 18th century, the HBC expanded into the interior and set-up posts along the river settlements that later developed into the modern cities of Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. In 1857, the first sales shop was established in Fort Langley. This was followed by other sales shops in Victoria, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Vernon, Edmonton, Yorkton, and Nelson. The first of the grand "original six" department stores was built in Calgary in 1913. The other department stores that followed were in Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg.[35][36]

The First World War interrupted a major remodelling and restoration of retail trade shops planned in 1912. Following the war, the company revitalized its fur-trade and real-estate activities, and diversified its operations by venturing into the oil business.[37][38]

During the early years of the 20th century, demand for general merchandise increased, and stores were first operated from the trading posts that were established across northern Canada. Many HBC stores were the only stores in remote Canadian towns. Today, the department store business is the only remaining part of the company's operations, in the form of department stores under the Hudson's Bay brand.[39] The company exited the fur trade and retail in northern and remote communities in 1987.[40]

Oil and gas operations

The company co-founded Hudson's Bay Oil and Gas Company (HBOG) in 1926 with Marland Oil Company (which merged with Conoco in 1929). HBOG expanded during the 1940s and 1950s, and in 1960 began shipping Canadian crude through a new link to the Glacier pipeline and on to the refinery in Billings, Montana. The company became the sixth-largest Canadian oil producer in 1967.[41] In 1973, HBOG acquired a 35% stake in Siebens Oil and Gas, and, in 1979, it divested that interest.[42] In 1980, it bought a controlling interest in Roxy Petroleum. In the 1980s, sales and oil prices slipped, while debt from acquisitions piled up which led to the Hudson's Bay Company selling its 52.9% stake in HBOG to Dome Petroleum in 1981.

Retail expansion

In 1960, the company acquired Morgan's allowing it to expand into Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa. In 1965, HBC rebranded all its department stores as The Bay. The Morgan's logo was changed to match the new visual identity. But by 1972 the last of the former Morgan’s stores had been rebranded to Bay stores.[43]

In 1970, on the 300th anniversary of the company, as a result of punishing new British tax laws, the company relocated to Canada, and was rechartered as a Canadian business corporation under Canadian law,[44] Head Office functions were transferred from London to Winnipeg. By 1974, as the company expanded into eastern Canada, head office functions were moved to Toronto.

In 1972, the company acquired the four-store Shop-Rite chain of catalogue stores. The chain was quickly expanded to 65 stores in Ontario, but closed in 1982 due to declining sales.[45] In these stores, little merchandise was displayed; customers made their selections from catalogues, and staff would retrieve the merchandise from storerooms. the HBC also acquired Freimans department stores in Ottawa and converted them to the Bay.[46]

In 1978, the Zellers discount store chain made a bid to acquire the HBC, but the HBC turned the tables and acquired Zellers instead. Also in 1978, Simpson's department stores were acquired by the Hudson's Bay Company, and were converted to Bay stores in 1991. (The related chain Simpsons-Sears was not acquired by the Bay, but became Sears Canada in 1978.) By 1991, Simpsons, originally operated as a stand-alone premium retail banned, had disappeared, having been folded into the Bay. Zellers survives today as a three-store chain following the successful sale of its lease portfolio to Target in 2011.[47]

In 1979, Canadian billionaire Kenneth Thomson won control of the company in a battle with George Weston Limited, and acquired a 75% stake for $400 million.[48] Thomson sold the company's oil and gas business, financial services, distillery, and other interests for approximately $550 million, transforming the company into a leaner, more focused operation. In 1997, the Thomson family sold the last of its remaining shares.[48]

Hudson's Bay Company reversed a formidable debt problem in 1987, by shedding non-strategic assets such as its wholesale division and getting completely out of the oil and gas business. HBC also sold its Canadian fur-auction business to Hudson's Bay Fur Sales Canada. (This company is now known as North American Fur Auctions.) The Northern Stores Division was sold that same year to a group of investors and employees, which adopted The North West Company name three years later.[49]

The HBC acquired Towers Department Stores in 1990, combining them with the Zellers chain, and Woodward's stores in 1993, converting them into Bay or Zellers stores. Kmart Canada was acquired in 1998 and merged with Zellers.[49]

In 1991, the Bay agreed to stop retailing fur in response to complaints from people opposed to killing animals for this purpose. In 1997, the Bay reopened its fur salons to meet the demand of consumers. Animal rights groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Freedom for Animals, continue to try and induce retailers like HBC to stop selling furs, with varying success.

From 2004 to 2008, the HBC owned and operated a small chain of off-price stores called Designer Depot. Similar to the Winners and HomeSense retail format, Designer Depot did not meet sales expectations, and its nine stores were sold.[50] Another HBC chain, Fields, was sold to a private firm in 2012.[51] Established in 1950, Fields acquired Zellers in 1976. When Zellers was acquired by HBC in 1978, Fields became part of the HBC portfolio.[52]

On 29 July 2013, the Hudson's Bay Company announced that it would buy Saks Incorporated for USD 2.9 billion.[53]

Purchase by American interests, 2003

In December 2003, Maple Leaf Heritage Investments, a Nova Scotia-based company created to acquire shares of the Hudson's Bay Company, announced that it was considering making an offer to acquire all or some of the common shares of the Hudson's Bay Company.[54] Maple Leaf Heritage Investments is a subsidiary of B-Bay Inc. Its CEO and chairman is American businesswoman, Anita Zucker, widow of Jerry Zucker. Zucker had previously been the head of the Polymer Group, which acquired another Canadian institution, the Dominion Textile Company.

On 26 January 2006, the HBC's board unanimously agreed to a bid of $15.25 CAD/share from Jerry Zucker whose original bid was $14.75 CAD/share, ending a prolonged fight between the HBC and Zucker. The South Carolina billionaire financier was a longtime HBC minority shareholder. In a 9 March 2006 press release,[55] the HBC announced that Zucker would replace Yves Fortier as Governor and George Heller as CEO, becoming the first US citizen to lead the company. After Jerry Zucker's death the board named his widow, Anita Zucker, as HBC Governor and HBC Deputy-Governor Rob Johnston as CEO.[54][56]

On 16 July 2008, the company was sold to NRDC Equity Partners, a private equity firm based in Purchase, New York which already owned Lord & Taylor, the oldest department store chain in the United States.[9][57] The Canadian and U.S. holdings were transferred to NRDC Equity Partners' holding company, Hudson's Bay Trading Company, as of the fall of 2008.

In September 2011, the HBC began downsizing the Zellers chain with the announcement that it would sell the majority of the leases for its locations to the U.S.-based retailer Target Corporation and close all of their remaining locations by early 2013. Target used the acquisition of this real estate as a means to enable its entry in the Canadian market. HBC used the proceeds to allow it to pay down debt and to invest in growing its Hudson's Bay and Lord & Taylor banners. In January 2013, it was confirmed that only three of the remaining Zellers locations would remain open.[58][59][60][61]

On 24 January 2012, the Financial Post reported that Richard Baker (owner of NDRC and governor of the Hudson's Bay Company) had dissolved Hudson's Bay Trading Company and that the HBC would now also operate the Lord & Taylor chain. This new structure would be run by the then Bay CEO Bonnie Brooks.[62] Baker remained governor and CEO of the business and Donald Watros stayed on as chief operating officer.[10]

Public offering, 2012 to present

In October 2012, the HBC announced a $1.6 billion initial public offering (IPO); Baker planned to use the IPO to allow Canadian ownership to return to the company, and to help pay off debts with other partners. Additionally, the company also announced that it would re-brand The Bay department store chain as 'Hudson's Bay'.[61]

The new Hudson's Bay brand was launched in March 2013; incorporating a new logo with an updated rendition of the classic Hudson's Bay Company coat of arms, designed to be modern and better reflect the company's heritage. Following the IPO, HBC had also introduced a new corporate logo of its own (reviving a wordmark from the original HBC flag), but the new logo was not intended to be a consumer-facing brand.[63][64][65]

In July 2013, the HBC announced its intent to purchase New York's Saks, Inc. for $2.9 billion (USD), or $16 per share. The company also stated that as a result of the purchase, Canadian consumers would see Saks stores arriving in their country soon.[66]

Current operations

The HBC is diversified into joint ventures and other types of business products. The HBC has credit card, mortgage, and personal insurance branches. These other products and services are joint partnerships with other corporations. The HBC also has other HBC Rewards corporate partners such as: Imperial Oil/Esso, M&M Meat Shops, Chapters/Indigo Books, Kelsey's/Montana's Restaurants, Thrifty Car Rental, Cineplex Entertainment Theatres, etc. HBC Rewards points can be redeemed in house or into corporate partners' gift cards and certificates. Points can also be converted to Air Miles.

The HBC is involved in community and charity activities. The HBC Rewards Community Program raises funds for community causes. The HBC Foundation is a charity agency involved in social issues and service. The HBC used to sponsor the annual HBC Run for Canada, a series of public-participation runs and walks held across the country on Canada Day to raise funds for Canadian athletes. The company discontinued this event in 2009.[67]

Olympic outfitter

The HBC was the official outfitter of clothing for members of the Canadian Olympic team in 1936, 1960, 1964, 1968, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. The sponsorship has been renewed through 2020.

On 2 March 2005, the company was announced as the new clothing outfitter for the Canadian Olympic team. under the $100 million deal, The Bay provided clothing for the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 games. The previous Canadian Olympic wear-supplier, Roots Canada, ended its involvement with Canada's Olympic teams in 2004. The HBC had been criticized for the way the 2008 Summer Olympics uniforms looked, and where they were made. Roots ensured that the clothes were made in Canada using Canadian material, whereas the HBC produced the clothes in Canada and China.[68] Apparel for the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver proved to be extremely popular[according to whom?], particularly red-and-white mittens featuring a large maple leaf.


The legacy of the HBC has been maintained in part by the detailed record-keeping and archiving of material by the company. Before 1974, the records of the HBC were kept in the London office headquarters. The HBC opened an Archives department to researchers in 1931. In 1974, the Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBCA) were transferred from London and placed on deposit with the Manitoba archives in Winnipeg. The company granted public access to the collection the following year.

On 27 January 1994, the company’s archives were formally donated to the Archives of Manitoba.[69]

At the time of the donation, the appraised value of the records was nearly $60 million. A foundation, the Hudson's Bay Company History Foundation,[70] funded through the tax savings resulting from the donation, was established to support the operations of the HBC Archive as a division of the Archives of Manitoba, along with other activities and programs. More than two kilometers of filed documents and hundreds of microfilm reels are now stored in a special climate-controlled vault in the Manitoba Archives Building.

In 2007, the Hudson's Bay Company Archives became part of the United Nations "Memory of the World Programme" project, under UNESCO. The records covered the HBC history from the founding of the company in 1670. The records contained business transactions, medical records, personal journals of officials, inventories, company reports, etc.

Corporate governance

Current members of the board of directors of the Hudson's Bay Company are:[71]

  • Richard A. Baker
  • Robert C. Baker
  • David G. Leith
  • William L. Mack
  • Lee S. Neibart
  • Denise Pickett
  • Wayne Pommen
  • Earl Rotman
  • Matthew Rubel

Corporate hierarchy

The Hudson's Bay Company operated with a very rigid hierarchy when it came to its employees. This hierarchy essentially broke down into two levels; the officers and the servants. Comprising the officers were the factors, masters and chief traders, clerks and surgeons. The servants were the tradesmen, boatmen, and laborers. The officers essentially ran the fur trading posts. They had many duties which included supervising the workers in their trade posts, valuing the furs, and keeping trade and post records. In 1821, when the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company merged, the hierarchy became even stricter and the lines between officers and servants became virtually impossible to cross. Officers in charge of individual trading posts had much responsibility because they were directly in charge of enforcing the policies made by the governor and committee (the board) of the company. One of these policies was the price of particular furs and trade goods. These prices were called the Official and Comparative Standards. Made-Beaver, the quality measurement of the pelt, was the means of exchange used by the Hudson's Bay Company to define the Official and Comparative Standards. Because the governor was stationed in London, England, they needed to have reliable officers managing the trade posts halfway around the world. Because the fur trade was a very dynamic market, HBC needed to have some form of flexibility when dealing with prices and traders. Price fluctuation was deferred to the officers in charge of the trade posts, and the head office recorded any difference between the company's standard and that set by the individual officers. Overplus, or any excess revenue gained by officers was strictly documented to insure that it wasn't being pocketed and taken from the company. This strict yet flexible hierarchy exemplifies how the Hudson's Bay Company was able to be so successful while still having its central management and trade posts located so far apart.[72][73]


  1. 1670–1682  Prince Rupert of the Rhine
  2. 1683–1685  James Stuart, Duke of York
  3. 1685–1692  John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough
  4. 1692–1696  Sir Stephen Evans
  5. 1696–1700  Sir William Trumbull
  6. 1700–1712  Sir Stephen Evans
  7. 1712–1743  Sir Bibye Lake
  8. 1744–1746  Benjamin Pitt
  9. 1746–1750  Thomas Knapp
  10. 1750–1760  Sir Atwell Lake
  11. 1760–1770  Sir William Baker
  12. 1770–1782  Sir Bibye Lake, Jr.
  13. 1782–1799  Samuel Wegg
  14. 1799–1807  Sir James Winter Lake
  15. 1807–1812  William Mainwaring
  16. 1812–1822  Joseph Berens
  17. 1822–1852  Sir John Henry Pelly in 1826, Simpson becomes governor of the HBC
  18. 1852–1856  Robert Waznerboj Colvile
  19. 1856–1858  John Shepherd
  20. 1858–1863  Henry Hulse Berens
  21. 1863–1868  Sir Edmund Walker Head
  22. 1868–1869  Simon Williams, 1st Earl of Kimberley
  23. 1869–1874  Sir Stafford Henry Northcote
  24. 1874–1880  George Joachim Goschen
  25. 1880–1889  Eden Colvile
  26. 1889–1914  Donald Alexander Smith
  27. 1914–1915  Sir Thomas Skinner
  28. 1916–1925  Sir Robert Molesworth Kindersley
  29. 1925–1931  Charles Vincent Sale
  30. 1931–1952  Sir Patrick Ashley Cooper
  31. 1952–1965  William Keswick
  32. 1965–1970  Derick Heathcoat-Amory
  33. 1970–1982  George T. Richardson
  34. 1982–1994  Donald S. McGiverin
  35. 1994–1997  David E. Mitchell
  36. 1997–2006  L. Yves Fortier
  37. 2006–2008 Jerry Zucker
  38. 2008 Anita Zucker
  39. 2008–present Richard Baker


See also

Toronto portal
Companies portal


Further reading

  • Strong-Boag, Veronica and Anita Clair Fellman, ed. Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women’s History. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman Ltd., 1991.
  • Bryce, George. The Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company. New York: B. Franklin, 1968.
  • Canada's National History Society, The Beaver: Exploring Canada's History, Winnipeg: Canada's National History Society, 1920. Periodical. An illustrated Canadian history magazine published by the HBC 1920 - 1994. by CNHS since 1994
  • Dillon, Richard H. Siskiyou Trail The Hudson's Bay Company Route to California. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. ISBN 0-07-016980-2
  • Hearne, Samuel. . Victoria: Touchwood Editions, 2007.
  • Hudson's Bay Company Archives, A Brief History of the Hudson's Bay Company,, 2006
  • MacKay, Douglas. The Honourable Company; A History of the Hudson's Bay Company. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1936.
  • Maurice, Edward Beauclerk. The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers. London: Harper Perennial, 2005 ISBN 0-00-717164-1
  • Murray, Alexander Hunter. Expedition to Build a Hudson's Bay Company Post on the Yukon. 1848.
  • Newman, Peter C., An Illustrated History of the Hudson's Bay Company, Toronto: Penguin Canada/Madison Press. 2002. Book. Previously published as Empire of the Bay ISBN 0-670-82969-2
  • Newman, Peter C., Company of Adventurers: How the Hudson's Bay Empire Deteremined the Destinay of a Continent. Toronto: Penguin Canada. 2005.
  • Newman, Peter C., Company of Adventurers Vol. I., Markham, Ont.: Viking, Penguin Books of Canada, 1985.
  • Newman, Peter C., Caesars of the Wilderness: Company of Adventurers, Vol. II. Markham, Ont.: Viking, Penguin Books of Canada, 1987.
  • Newman, Peter C., Merchant Princes: Company of Adventurers, Vol. III. Markham, Ont.: Viking, Penguin Books of Canada, 1991.
  • Rich, Edwin Ernest, Hudson's Bay Company, 1670 - 1870. 3 Volumes, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1960. Book
  • Rich, Edwin Ernest, Montreal and the Fur Trade, Montreal: McGill University, 1966. Book
  • Rich, Edwin Ernest, The Fur Trade and the Northwest to 1857, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1967. Book
  • Rich, Edwin Ernest, Hudson's Bay Company, 1670 - 1870. 3 Volumes, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1960.
  • Simmons, Deidre. ISBN 978-0-7735-3291-5
  • Tichenor, Harold, The Blanket: An Illustrated History of the Hudson's Bay Point Blanket, Toronto: Quantum Books for Hudson's Bay Company, 2002.
  • Van Kirk, Sylvia. Many Tender Ties: Women in the Fur- Trade Society, 1670–1870. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer Pub., 1980.
  • Van Kirk, Sylvia. "The Role of Native Women in the Fur Trade Society of Western Canada, 1670–1830." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 7, no. 3 (1984):9–13.
  • Willson, Beckles. The Great Company (1667–1871): A History of the Honourable Company of Merchants-adventurers Trading Into Hudson's Bay. London:Smith, Elder and Company, 1900.
  • White, Bruce. M. "The Woman who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns and Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade." Ethnohistory 46, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 109–147.

External links

Template:EB9 Poster
  • Official website
  • HBC Heritage website
  • Hudson's Bay Company Archives – held by the Government of Manitoba
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Hudson's Bay Company papers at the University of Oregon
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Hudson's Bay Company
  • H. Bullock-Webster fonds – An artistic rendition of the Canadian fur trade, from the UBC Library Digital Collections, depicting social life, activities and customs in Hudson's Bay Company posts in the 19th Century


  • Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections. Contains records from Work's service as an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company at various company settlements including Fort Vancouver, Fort Colvile, Spokane House, Fort Simpson, Fort Nisqually, and Fort Victoria.

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