Museum of the Fur Trade
Pulling into the parking lot of the Museum of the Fur Trade I had my doubts. Was this worth the time and admission fee? The sign, building and nearly empty parking lot did nothing to entice but we had driven out of our way to get there so felt compelled to pay a visit. I’m so glad we did.
The museum is filled with artifacts telling the story of the North American fur trade economy. Decades before any gold rush, trappers and traders followed water routes into the continent’s interior seeking furs which were in demand in Europe and the Eastern US. A short video, played upon request, sets background for a museum visit. While not all the displays are exhibited to their best advantage the quality of the collections are without question.
My husband was impressed with the firearms collection focusing on guns made for trade with the Indians, known as North West Guns. I found the textile room particularly impressive and comprehensive; including a 1775 point blanket, 19th-century Navajo chief blankets, Rio Grande serapes and calicos – popular trade cloth with the native population.
The museum is built on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post established for the American Fur Company in 1837. A reconstructed post built on the original foundation is recognized on the National Registry of Historic Places. A short path circles past the trading post (stocked with typical trade goods of the period), a storeroom, fur press and red-topped tipis symbolizing the Sioux who camped here when they came to trade. Gardeners will find the Heirloom Indian Garden with plantings of midget Mandan tobacco, Assiniboin flint corn and Arikara watermelon of interest. Any surplus seeds are available for purchase.
The gift shop was another pleasant surprise with the quality and variety of authentic wares. There was a rare carved Patty Fawn bracelet I had a hard time passing up even though it didn’t fit. I have since noted that many items are available to purchase online, a resource to remember. The book selection on all related subjects is extensive.
Was it worth it? Let’s just say we were there until closing and I would go back in a heartbeat.
When You Go: Museum of the Fur Trade, located 3 miles east of Chadron, Nebraska on US Highway 20, http://www.furtrade.org.