Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841


422 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-0829-5
DDC 382'.41911'09795




Reviewed by Barry M. Gough

Barry M. Gough is a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and
author of The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and
Discoveries to 1812.


For a brief time in the history of the North American Northwest Coast
the sea otter was king, and attracted entrepreneurs from India, China,
Britain, the United States, Russia, and elsewhere. The sea-otter fur
trade linked ports of the world, and brought Native peoples from Alaska
to California to the Hawaiian and Marquesas islands into a global
trading network. This historical geography of the trade, and all its
sidelights, is well worth the serious attention of any student of
Western history. The book is a detailed critique of price structures and
trading relationships, and includes new information on Native sexual
activities and indigenous social and cultural mores. Based on a thorough
reading of the existing literature, including numerous ship logs, this
book explores a remarkable period in the history of North America. Both
in theme and in execution this is a work of great importance from a
distinguished scholar. Illustrations, a bibliography, and an index
provide additional value to a comprehensive survey of a subject hitherto
unaddressed in such a way.


Gibson, James R., “Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,