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America's Frontier Fur Rush

Centuries before PETA campaigned for animal rights, the fur trade built America. We hear the remarkable history of how fur shaped a nation.

Buffalo hides in Dodge City, Kansas. Photograph April 4, 1874. (Kansas Historical Society)

What first built America? The Bible and the beaver, said an earlier historian. 

My guest today is laying out the remarkable history of the American fur trade — how three centuries of trade in beaver pelts, and sea otter and buffalo, opened up mile after wilderness mile of the American continent to European settlement. 

Today, fur draws a complicated reaction. For 300 years, it drew explorers, traders, trappers, mountain men. It drew political lines and battle lines – and built some of the biggest fortunes in American history. 

This Hour, On Point: fur, fortune, and the origins of North American empire.

Guests:

Eric Jay Dolin, author of “Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America.” He also wrote “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.” You can read an excerpt. He’s a former program manager at the Environmental Protection Agency, and a former policy analyst at the Marine Fisheries Service.

Mac Burns, executive director of the Clatsop County Historical Society in Astoria, Oregon.

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Aug 28, 2015
WDBJ-TV7 meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner, right, wipes his eyes during the early morning newscast as anchors Kimberly McBroom, center, and guest anchor Steve Grant deliver the news at the station in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, while on assignment in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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Aug 28, 2015
Lightning first ignited the Meadow fire on July 20, 2014 in Yosemite. By September 8, the fire had charred 2,582 acres. Bernie Krause has recorded soundscapes of national parks destroyed by large areas of forest fires. Listen below.  (National Park Service)

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Aug 28, 2015
WDBJ-TV7 meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner, right, wipes his eyes during the early morning newscast as anchors Kimberly McBroom, center, and guest anchor Steve Grant deliver the news at the station in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, while on assignment in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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