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Complete Instructions About Buying, Handling 

and Grading Raw Furs, Including 5ize, 

Color, Quality, as well as When, 

Where and How to 5ell 





Copyright 1915 



NOV 24 1915 

/] I 


PRACTICALLY all books treating upon the subject 
of raw furs heretofore have been from the view or 
standpoint of the large dealer, exporter and 
manufacturer. The author of FUR BUYERS' GUIDE 
not only trapped when a boy, but at the age of 
14 began buying furs in a small way, and a few years 
later traveled horseback and in a two wheeled cart over 
Gallia, Meigs, Vinton, Athens, Lawrence and Jackson 
Counties in Southern Ohio and M? ^n in West Virginia. 
Later I was employed by an Ohio aL \ New York firm 
on a salary to represent them in Southern Ohio, West 
Virginia, Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Penn- 
sylvania. Traveling now was mainly by rail. I kept 
at this job steadily for years — buying furs in the winter 
and hides, pelts, tallow and roots during the balance of 
the year. 

After several years I became tired of traveling and 
gave up my position March i, 1897, going to Gallipolis, 
Ohio, where I started in the fur business on my own 
account the following November. But as the active raw 
fur season there only lasted a few months each year, I 


6 Introduction. 

became interested in the publishing business and in June, 
1898, founded a county newspaper, which led to my 
establishing the HUNTER-TRADER-TRAPPER in 
October, 1900. In the meantime I was buying thousands 
and thousands of dollars worth of furs each season, but 
from 1900 on, my time was largely devoted to the pub- 
lishing business. 

In November, 1904, I disposed of my county paper 
and moved to Columbus, Ohio, with my monthly maga- 
zine. For the next ten years I was in close touch with 
fur dealers, exporters and manufacturers, visiting the 
leading American raw fur centers from one to three 
times each year. 

The various facts as outlined are mentioned only 
to show how wide an experience I have had. I feel that 
those interested in raw furs, whether trapper, country 
buyer, village or town collector will find much of prac- 
tical value in this book. 

Several persons of experience and knowledge of the 
fur industry have furnished facts, which have been used 
in various parts. Mr. J. A. Newton, a trapper and 
buyer of long experience; also Martin Hunter for forty 
years with the Hudson Bay Co., being among the num- 
ber while Mr. C. M. Goodspeed supplied much of the 
information on Ginseng and Golden Seal. Numerous 
photographs have also been especially taken by trappers 
and collectors for this book. 

Introduction. 7 

While there are several varieties or species of some 
of the fur bearing animals, as a rule, no particular dis- 
tinction or reference is here made. My object in giving 
range, description, size and color is for the benefit and 
guidance of the handler of the pelt or fur — not to classify 
the animal. Besides technical facts, grade and sort in 
connection with the buying, handling and selling of furs, 
much more is published, so that anyone at all interested 
in furs or the fur trade, will find something of interest 
in this book. 

^ ^^ ^^^iyl^i^O, 


Chapter page 

I. "Wild" and "Tame" Furs 17 

II. Size, Color, Quality 34 

III. Methods of Grading.:. 50 

IV. The Inspection Room 66 

V. Why Trappers Sell at Home 72 

VI. Buyers and Collectors 79 

VII. Bu3dng and Selling 96 

VIII. Speculating 114 

IX. Prices of Long Ago 130 

X. Miscellaneous Information 139 

XL Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic 152 

XII. Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift 165 

XIII. Mink 178 

XIV. Muskrat 195 

XV. Skunk 208 

XVI. Civet Cat 228 

XVII. The Raccoon : . . . 232 

XVIII. Opossum 246 

XIX. Wolves and Coyotes 254 

XX. Otter ..= 268 

XXL Beaver 276 

XXII. Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar 283 

XXIII. Marten 293 

XXIV. Fisher 301 

(9) . 



Chapter page 

XXV. Lynx 306 

XXVI. Wild Cat or Bay Lynx 313 

XXVn. Cats — House and Ring Tail 318 

XXVIIL Badger 323 

XXIX. Wolverine 327 

XXX. White Weasel — Ermine 331 

XXXL Sea Otter 338 

XXXIL Mountain Lion 342 

XXXIIL Seals — Fur and Hair 345 

XXXIV. Pelts, Hides, Skins 349 

XXXV. Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal 356 



Ranch Raised Silver Black Fox 22 

Three Ranch Raised Prince Edward Island Silver Black.. 23 

Central New York Trapper's Catch 26 

Buyer Inspecting Muskrat Skins 32 

Northern Furs — Otter, Fox, Lynx 35 

Average Sizes Central Western Mink Skins 36 

Northwestern Furs- — ^Wolf, Marten, Mink, Beaver, Etc... 40 

Three Silver Fox Skins 43 

Western and Northwestern Long Narrow Stripe 47 

Seven Fine, Large, Dark No. 1 Coon Skins 51 

Southeast Nebraska Skunk 53 

Western Canada Red and Cross Fox 55 

Large Western and Small Eastern Skunk Pelts 63 

Fur Room of Hudson Bay Company 68 

Large British Columbia Mink 73 

Furs Ready to Market 74 

British Columbia Prairie Wolf and Silver Fox 75 

A Horse-back Fur Buyer 80 

A Country Collector of Furs ■. 82 

Northern Fur Buyers — Mackenzie River District 94 

The Outside of Trapper's Shanty and Furs 97 

The Fall Catch — Undecided When and Where to Sell.... 102 

Two Lynx, Red and Cross Fox Pelts 106 

Low Priced Furs — Muskrat and White Weasel 115 

Speculators or "Free Traders" Going into the North 120 

The Speculators' Return from the North Country 122 

Moose Factory, A Hudson Bay Trading Post.... 132 

Fox Squirrel, Belgian Hare, Brown Weasel 141 

A Canadian Trapper and His Catch 145 

Red, Cross, Silver Fox Skins 153 


12 List of I ' ons. 


Silver Fox Carcass . . , 155 

Twenty-one Silver Fox Skin^ 157 

Twenty-eight Silver Fox Skii 159 

Blue Fox Pelt — Arctic Region 162 

Arctic or White Fox Skin 103 

Well Handled Canadian Red Fox Skins 166 

Ontario Full Furred, Good Color Red 168 

Heavy Furred North Dakota Red 168 

Michigan Reds — Pelt and Fur Out 169 

Central New York Large Red Fox Skin 170 

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Red 171 

Two New Hampshire Reds — Large and Medium 171 

Rocky Mountain Grey Fox Pelt 173 

Virginia Grey Fox Pelt 174 

Southern Grey Fox Pelt 174 

Eastern Grey Fox Pelt 174 

West Virginia Grey Fox Skin 175 

Six Southern Pennsylvania Grey Fox Skins 176 

Swift or Kitt Fox Pelt 177 

Fourteen Northern Wisconsin Mink Skins 179 

New England Prime Mink Skin 180 

Four Lake Erie and Similar Mink • 181 

Southwestern Missouri Mink Skin 182 

Southern or Gulf State Mink 183 

Mink Skin, Large, North Dakota 185 

Two Large Indiana Mink , 186 

Alaska Mink Skin 187 

Southeastern Kentucky Mink Skins 188 

Central Western Canada Alink Skin 189 

Four Northeast Canada Alink Skins 191 

Yukon River Valley Mink Skin 193 

Muskrat Pelts Properly and Improperly Handled 198 

Spring Muskrat Skins 200 

Large and Medium Muskrat Skins 204 

Extra Large Illinois Muskrat Pelt 206 

Twelve Long Narrow Stripes and One Short 209 



Three No. 1 or Bla 210 

No. 1 or Black Skuii 211 

No. 2 or Short Skiinl> 212 

No. 3 or Long- Skunk 212 

No. 4 or White Skunk 213 

Sizes of Maryland Skunk Skins 215 

Iowa Large Skunk Skin 217 

California Long Narrow Stripe 221 

Southeast Nebraska Skunk Pelt 224 

Northern Oklahoma Civet Skin 229 

Civet Cat — Average Sizes 230 

Southeast Nebraska Civet 231 

Raccoon Skins — Well and Poorly Handled 233 

Prime Large and Small Arkansas Coon Skins 235 

Northern and Southern Coon Skins ' 237 

Coon Skin, Early Caught 238 

Heavy Furred Central Western Coon 241 

Prime Northeastern Coon Skins 242 

Wisconsin Coon Skin, Large, Cased 244 

Opossum Skins — Various Sizes 247 

Six Maryland Opossum Skins 248 

Large Central West Opossum 250 

Southern Opossum, Large 251 

Black and Grey Timber Wolves 255 

White Timber Wolf, Northwestern Canada 256 

Northern Large Grey Timber Wolf Skin 259 

Dark and Light Colored Prairie Wolf Skins 261 

Scalped Prairie or Coyote Skins 262 

California Prairie Wolf Skin 263 

Medium and Large Prairie Wolf Skins 264 

Large and Medium Colorado Prairie Wolves 265 

Two Rocky Mountain Section Prairie Wolf Skins 266 

Timber and Prairie Wolf Skins 267 

Northwestern Otter Skin 269 

Central Canada Otter Skin 271 

Northern Michigan Otter and Pelt 273 

14 List of Illustrations. 


Peace River Otter 274 

Northeast Section Beaver 277 

Southern Beaver Skin 277 

Lake Superior Region Beaver 278 

Northwestern Oregon Beaver Skin , 278 

Southwestern Large Beaver Skin 279 

Western Canada Beaver Skin 280 

Hudson Bay Country Beaver Skin 281 

Eastern Black Bear Skins 284 

Wisconsin Bear Skins 285 

Rocky Mountain Black Bear Skin 287 

Rocky Mountain Grizzly Bear Skin 289 

British Columbia Brown Bear Skin 290 

Arctic Ocean Region Polar Bear Skin 291 

British Columbia Marten Skin 294 

Washington Marten Skins, Pale 296 

Valuable Marten Skin 298 

Northeast Coast, Labrador, Marten Skin 298 

Fisher Pelts Large, Medium, Small 303 

Fine Northern Fisher Pelt 305 

Trapper, Lynx and Skins 307 

Northern and Northwestern Lynx Skins 308 

Alaska Lynx Skin 309 

White and Blue Lynx Skins 310 

Heavy Furred Canadian Lynx 311 

Wild Cat — Large, Medium, Small 314 

An Average Large Wild Cat Skin 315 

Large Wild Cat Skin Open 316 

House Cat, Maltese 319 

House Cat, Grey , 319 

House Cat, Black 320 

California Ring Tail Cat , 321 

Southwest Ring Tail 321 

Badger Skins — Open and Cased 324 

Oregon Badger Skin Open 325 

North Dakota Badger Skin Open 326 

List of Illustrations. ^ 15 


Northwestern Canada Wolverine Skin Cased 328 

Northern Wolverine Skin Open 329 

Minnesota Prime Weasel Skins 333 

Weasel Skins — Fur and Pelt Side 334 

Six Ontario, Canada, Weasel Skins 335 

Large Maine Weasel 336 

Sea Otter Pelt 339 

Western Montana Mountain Lion Skin 343 

Fur Seal Skin Dressed Natural 346 

Fur Seal Skin Plucked 347 

Bundle of Sheep Pelts 350 

Hide, Cattle, Done Up, Tied, Ready for Shipment 352 

A Bundle of Deer Skins — Winter Coat 355 

Small Pieces Natural Size or Trash Ginseng 357 

Good Wild Ginseng Roots — Reduced in Size 357 

Small Wild Ginseng Root 358 

Oregon Ginseng, Green, Just Dug 358 

West Virginia Wild Ginseng, Just Dug. 359 

Best Grade of Cultivated Ginseng 360 

An Ideal Shaped Cultivated Root 361 

Choice Grade of Cultivated 362 

Irregular Shaped Ginseng Root 362 

Smooth Skinned, Hard Ginseng 363 

Transplanted Wild Ginseng Root 364 

"'wild'" and ''tame" furs. 

•™ NEW CONDITION. — Only a few years ago the 
f^ raw fur buyer could travel from morning until 
•/ ■ night and encounter only one class of furs, the 
wild article. Then qualities were quite uniform in 
prime skins. Color, length, fineness, density and gloss 
were so common in the wild fur coat that contrary fea- 
tures were not expected. A prime skin might be quite 
lacking in fur and escape notice because not many of such 
pelts were to be found in any original collection. 

Now there is a new condition with which to deal ; 
it is the advent of the fur farm in all its phases, from 
an enclosure of several acres down to confines no larger 
than an ordinary chicken run. 

In the early days beaver was the staple fur, although 
bear, otter, fisher, marten, wolf, lynx, fox, mink, raccoon 
and muskrat were all exported to Europe in considerable 
quantities as early as 1750 but not until 1843 was house 
cat and chinchilla (a South American animal) used or 
exported. American opossum and fur seal were added 
in 1849, but not until 1858 was skunk fur used. These 
furs became valuable, even at that early date, because 
the supply of others began to diminish — now there are 
no other animals that produce fur to add. Even rabbit, 
brown weasel and ferret pelts have a small fur value. 

2 (17) 

1 8 Fur Buyer' tide J 


American squirrel and grou^i hogs are not fur bearing 
animals — they grow hair only. 

There are practically no new or unexplored regions 
to trap in America or elsewhere. For years wild fur 
bearers have been hard pressed by trappers and fur hunt- 
ers so that their numbers are becoming less. There may 
be and no doubt are exceptions with certain animals in 
a few states, where laws are in effect prohibiting early 
and late trapping. Again the demoralized condition of 
the raw fur trade during 1914-15, owing to the Euro- 
pean war was largely the cause for a somewhat increase 
of certain raw fur bearing animals in many parts of 
America. In general, however, it can be truthfully said 
that most wild fur bearing animals are becoming more 
scarce each year. On the other hand the demand for 
furs increases with an increased population. The auto- 
mobile has wonderfully helped the fur trade in the use 
of fur robes, coats, gloves, etc., for be it remembered 
that tens of thousands of automobiles are used in winter 
as well as in summer. 

From where is the future supply of raw furs to 
come? No doubt there will be plenty but instead of 
practically all being from pelts of wild animals a greater 
per cent each year will be taken from tame fur animals, 
for most of the wild fur animals can and will be domes- 
ticated just as has been done with other animals — ^horses, 
cattle, sheep — when demand made it profitable to do so. 

The future supply and demand will therefore not 
alone be governed by the catch of "wild" furs but to a 
considerable extent by *'tame" furs — those from fur 

*'Wild" a \me" Furs. 19 

Until recently many of the large city fur dealers and 
exporters were of the opinion that the supply of wild fur 
bearing animals was practically inexhaustible^ — that when 
needed trappers would go out into the wilds, catch, skin, 
and send the pelts to market. On the other side of the 
question well informed persons foresaw that the supply 
of wild fur bearers would shortly not be sufficient to 
supply the demand. They saw that the draining of 
swamps, marshes and small lakes was destroying the 
homes and breeding places of muskrat and to a great 
extent mink and coon. Lumbering and clearing up of 
land was destroying as well as driving out coon, bear, 
wild cat and opossum from vast areas in the South and 
Central portions of the United States, while in the North- 
ern states of the United States as well as parts of Canada 
the cutting of timber and clearing of the land was de- 
priving the marten, fisher, bear and lynx of their homes. 
Otter and beaver do not usually linger long where people 
are too numerous and these as well are reduced. To 
partly offset all this there are a few fur bearers — red 
fox, skunk, mink and muskrat — that do fairly well in 
settled parts. 

With fur raising from confined animals there is apt 
to be as many qualities as there are different sized pens 
and different foods fed and a diversity in care taking. 
As an example : twenty-five fur animals raised on an 
acre will be in better fur than if reared in a pen 20 x 40 
feet, providing that both receive the same care and food. 
If kept on a ten acre tract, the chances are that the fur 
coat would be superior to that acquired if living on one 

20 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

The sort of food cuts a big figure in fur (juriiii;,. 
The wild skunk in summer Hves largely on grubs and 
insects which produce the finest oil in the world and it 
stimulates a coat of fur comprising good length, thick- 
ness and lustre. The confined animal does not get his 
natural food supply. Would it be surprising if the fur 
coat suffered as a consequence and not equal that of the' 
wild brother? 

Again, the animal raised in captivity may prove to 
have the largest pelt and the best furred. Much depends 
upon whether the fur raiser knows the habits and nature 
of fur animals. Why shouldn't animals fur properly if 
fed regularly upon the food that they like, with living 
quarters similar to those which they enjoy in the wild 
condition? They will and do. For proof we need only 
refer to the sale of a black fox, ranch raised, highest 
price ever realized for a fox skin. So far the ranch 
raised black, silver and cross fox skins hav^ sold at an 
average of about one-third above the wild. 

The average prices for all silver fox skins both wild 
and ranch raised, sold in London during twO' years, was 
as follows: 1910, $414.37, 1911, $290.01. During the 
year 1910 there were 2."] ranch raised Prince Edward 
Island silver fox skins sold which averaged $1,361.05, in 
191 1, from the same island, 10 skins were sold which 
averaged $1,085.27. 

On account of the demand for breeding animals at 
high prices, but few ranch raised silver fox skins were 
marketed prior to 1915. A somewhat remarkable sale 
was one sold in March, 1912, when a pelt from a fox 
that died on October 12, 191 1, and owned by James 

''Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 21 

Rayner brought $2,050.00, yet the skin would not have 
been at its best until some weeks later. 

It is only a question of proper care of the animal, 
whether it be fox, mink, marten, skunk, coon, opossum, 
muskrat or any other fur bearing animal for it to grow a 
coat of fur as when wild. One fur raiser said that he 
had opossum that averaged fully one-half heavier than 
the wild ones in that locality. Thus it is seen from the 
high priced fox fur to the low opossum, it is in the man- 
agement whether the pelt is worth more or less than if 
taken from an animal never in captivity. 

The various collections of ''wild" furs, except those 
caught by professional trappers, show more or less irreg- 
tilarity in skinning and handling, coming as they do from 
so many different persons. Among collections will he 
found not only blued skins, but torn, shot, dog chewed, 
rubbed, springy and otherwise damaged. This should all 
be overcome in "tame" furs for the fur raiser will only 
kill and market when the pelt and fur are prime. The 
skins will all be handled by the same person and should 
be uniform — all alike — which adds to appearance and 
selling value. 

The time will probably come when there will be two 
quotations on furs, "wild furs" and "tame furs," just as 
there are on ginseng now. Owing to the fact that gin- 
seng growers have not been able to grow to exactly re- 
semble the wild in looks and taste, the wild sells at an 
advance over cultivated so that quotations on "wild 
ginseng" are considerably higher than "cultivated gin- 
seng." Cultivated golden seal, however, has been selling 
as high as the wild. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

In 19 14 when furs were not Uj 
active demand the silver black pelt 
shown brought upwards of one 
thousand dollars. This pelt was not 
perfect by any means, was killed 
early in November and had about 
one-third of tail missing. The fox 
was twelve years old and had been 
owned by a party on Prince Ed- 
ward Island for years. It was a 
splendid breeder yet it furred prop- 
erly and heavily each year until 
the fall before it was killed it began 
to show the effects of its age which 
as already stated was twelve years. 
The term Silver Black is used by 
some fox raisers to designate the 
better grades of silver fox skins 
from those of ordinary quality. 
That foxes, if properly handled, fur better in ranches 
than in the wild state seems to be pretty well established. 
While many are still skeptical yet there is no doubt that 
the ranch raised pelts of not only fox, but most if not all 
animals, will eventually surpass the wild. In this con- 
nection three more ranch raised fox pelts from Prince 
Edward Island are shown. The raiser said that none of 
the three were prime, being killed in November and were 
small or medium size, not large. No. i was a three-year- 
old male, not being up to the standard of what that 
breeder wished, yet the pelt sold for $910.00. No. 2 was 
that of a ten-year-old female, with part of tail missing, 


Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 


yet the pelt sold for 
$1,000.00. No. 3 was 
an eleven - year - old 
male, in fair condi- 
tion, although show- 
ing more silver than 
either of the others. 
This pelt brought 
$890.00. Remember, 
that this was in 19 14 
when all silver and 
black fox were sell- 
ino- off from former 
prices. In the London 
auction sales for the 
year 19 14 those who 
had wild silver and 
black fox pelts on the 
market will tell you 
that the ranch raised 
sold best. When it is 
taken into consider- 
ation that two of these foxes were old and had spent 
many years within enclosures, or ranch raised, it can be 
seen that *'tame" furs are even now superior to "wild" 
in some instances at least. 

If the fur raiser is able to produce healthy animals 
there is no reason why he can not produce fur pelts of 
better quality than those grown on the backs of animals 
that often have difficulty in finding enough food to keep 
them alive. So far those interested in "tame furs," with 


24 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

the exception of the far northern raisers, have not been 
able to improve upon the ''wild" and in most cases the 
product has been inferior. 

Whether "wild or tame" furs are made into articles 
of wear, the larger the pelt and the denser the fur the 
more valuable they will be. A buyer need only be on his 
guard, for if he is a judge of fur, he can tell pretty 
accurately the value of the various classes that he will 
get an opportunity to handle. 

Breeding and raising of fur bearing animals as an 
industry has come to stay and is bound to increase but 
like any other business it must be mastered. 

Adverse Quality. — The writer, some years ago, 
purchased the skins of skunk, mink, coon and foxes 
raised in confinement. As all came from the hands of 
those who knew but little of the habits and nature of fur 
animals, the fur was generally lacking. Improved meth- 
ods of raising in recent years, including feeding and 
dens has brought about marked improvement. In the 
matter of skunk furs I feel safe in saying that less than 
50 per cent of the number purchased possessed a full 
coat of fur. All were thin in fur and some were prac- 
tically all hair with no growth of under fur. The poor- 
est of such inferior furred skins are easily discovered 
but those that are partly furred are likely to be over- 
looked. In order to determine qualities, inspection of 
furs should be made only by daylight and in well lighted 

Some years ago I knew of a buyer who purchased 
in a barn about 400 skunk skins. It was cold weather, 
compelling him to keep the doors closed and but little 

"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 25 

light entered at the few windows. The day was also 
rather dark which made assorting still more difficult. He 
was only able to assort for colors and could hardly dis- 
tinguish the blue pelted skins. When daylight of the 
right sort came to show up the purchase, he sorted out 
75 skins of the "tame" variety which he could determine 
by their great lack of under fur, although they were 
prime in pelt. Most of them were detected by the buyer 
to whom he sold a large collection, being graded down 
in every instance which meant quite a loss on these skins. 

Local dealers as well as traveling buyers now need 
to examine all lots of goods for quality as well as size, 
color and primeness. A buyer never knows when some 
of the poorly furred stuff has been sandwiched in among 
goods of first quality. Sometimes tame furs that are 
poorly furred are sent from a considerable distance to 
some friend who is engaged in buying wild furs to be 
mixed with the dealer's collection and their identity is 
lost until sold out as a whole with the rest to some travel- 
ing agent at first quality grade and prices. 

The raw fur trade is full of tricks and pitfalls for 
the unwary and many times the most alert are swindled 
or juggled into a bad deal. Some skunk pelts from the 
fur grower's pen are affected with mange, the fur being 
out in spots and the skin scabby and covered with scales. 
These skunks had narrow quarters, the runs were filthy 
and the food was mostly tainted or rotten meat such as 
that from fly blown cattle heads and offal. Skunk, if 
kept on floors and improperly fed, do not fur properly ; 
the hide is apt to be thick and the fur thin. Most of the 
mistakes of the skunk raisers of the early days have been 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

remedied and 
pelts of an A I 
quality are now 
being p r o^ 

Buyers who 
have handled 
tame mink 
pelts say they 
average dark 
in color be- 
cause of being 
housed and the 
runs sheltered 
so that the sun 
has no chance 
to fade them. 
The pelts were 
also prime but 
when it came 
to quality the same was often lacking. The coat is short 
and the fur not so dense or silky, as a result of living in 
warm quarters and not being sufficiently exposed to cold 
weather and the elements in general. 

Tame coon and tame foxes where kept in close quar- 
ters are equally afifected. The coon especially so, if he 
does not have access to running water where he may 
wade and paddle to his satisfaction. Pet coon or foxes 
kept on a chain seldom fur well. It will be thin, rubbed 
and soiled and the neck bare to the hide from friction of 
the collar. 


'Wild" and 'Tame" Furs. 2.7 

If tame furs are off in quality and are purchased as 
straight skins and on an equal footing with wild furs, 
they may sell to a country buyer or local dealer without 
comment, but if shipped to some fur house, look out for 
trouble. There all skins will be graded according to 
respective merits and the poorly furred skins meet their 
just deserts. 

Some years ago when fur values went up leaps and 
bounds, not only more sporting goods dealers began sell- 
ing steel traps but the raw fur houses began to handle 
hunters' and trappers' supplies, including steel traps. 
The sales about 1910 was several hundred dozen greater 
than ever before or ever will be again. This had its 
effect upon the catch for the seasons of 1910-11, 1911-12, 
191 2- 1 3, as quantities offered at the London sales prove. 
The catch for the seasons of 1912-13 and 1913-14 was 
not nearly so large as the three previous years, even 
though quantities offered at the sales were greater. This 
is accounted for from the fact that the catch was greater 
than the demand and much of the 1914 offering had been 
carried over from previous years. 


The combined offerings of Lampson, Nesbitt and 
Huth for March, 1915, and comparisons for the five 
previous March sales were as follows : 

1915 1914 1913 1912 1911 ' 1910 

Mink 27,150 157,596 70,194 €0,326 76,563 81,700 

Skunk 274,000 957,000 608,600 694,609 804,300 435,260 

Muskrat 1,790,000 4,464,500 1,293,000 1,107,776 1,475,000 806,500 

Raccoon 69,300 551,200 206,000 140,846 167,100 187,500 

Opossum 136,000 889,600 535,800 661,340 588,600 328,815 

Marten 8,900 15,861 10,964 12,708 11,900 15,100 

Lynx 10,370 3,797 597 1,728 1,050 300 

Fox, red 15,300 38,050 22,535 24,390 26,740 22,17S 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Eox, cross 2,245 2,211 1,984 852 82'0 958 

Fox, grey 2^200 43,850 20,386 28,280 27,800 15,148 

Fox, silver 338 645 384 428 412 486 

Fox, kitt 4,160 14,585 6,300 8,360 5,050 l,l79 

Fox, white 12,000 4,718 2,000 6,136 4,962 2,595 

Fox, bine 200 1,111 2,800 1,200 2,800 1,800 

Otter 2,650 6,192 4,736 5,750 6,873 3,950 

Fisher 1,176 1,573 1,102 167 493 620 

Beaver 15,850 12,405 7,883 6,870 7,565 9,950 

Bear 2,190 4,153 5,053 5,630 8,040 7,140 

Wolf 14,200 80,725 34,200 45,390 36,000 25,326 

Civet 29,500 125,700 47,820 162,225 216,700 86,000 

Badger 5,400 8,850 4,400 12,440 7,300 2,855 

Cat, wild 4,500 17,356 2,650 16,578 13,900 7,287 

Cat, house 24,500 31,800 54,500 38,000 34,700 18,757 

Wolverine 273 679 617 525 807 700 

Ermine 75,100 300,500 114,500 136,200 131,750 106,963 


1914 1913 1912 1911 1910 

Bear, Black 4,650 3,218 3,456 5,000 4,023 

Bear, Brown 390 241 351 370 867 

Bear, Grey 45 31 46 90 85 

Bear, White 190 113 130 80 59 

Badger 120 117 45 80 144 

Ermine 49,500 26,785 34,307 49,400 19,935 

Fisher 3,650 1,761 1,581 2,350 1,968 

Fox, Blue 70 19 51 110 17 

Fox, Cross 5,400 1,241 1,828 1,800 986 

Fox, Red 17,000 3,492 5,755 4,700 2,269 

Fox, Silver 980 246 410 380 212 

Fox, White 8,950 3,441 6,623 14,700 3,975 

Lynx 20,600 11,740 5,667 3,750 2,871 

Marten 35,000 24,533 24,049 29,300 25,299 

Mink 78,850 36,933 20,456 32,700 12,068 

Otter, Land 6,450 5,857 4,802 6,500 4,401 

Raccoon 400 187 74 200 227 

Skunk 5,150 1,508 822 800 1,310 

Wolf 3,850 3.601 1,286 2,400 2,751 

Wolverine 550 504 666 900 737 

"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 29 

This company offer their collection of muskrat and 
beaver at the January sales only and for the years as 
above were : 

1914 1913 1912 1911 1910 

Muskrat 850,000 967,700 793,940 896,108 542,390 

Beaver 38,000 38,600 37,256 36,767 35,889 

The Hudsoii Bay Company have been selling nearly 

all their collection in January and March so that quan- 
tities offered by this company in either the June or Octo- 
ber sales have not been of importance. 


The combined offerings of Lampson, Nesbitt and 
Huth for January, 19 14, (nO' January, 191 5, sales), and 

comparison for the two previous January sales were as 
follows : 

1914 1913 1912 

Skunk 575,500 530,800 558,000 

Muskrat 2,882,500 2,164,650 1,394,400 

Opossum 464,800 406,500 407,000 

Mink 33,909 38,404 38,366 

Coon -. 175,150 87,300 83,000 

Civet cat 38,400 55,260 61,100 

Red fox 23,800 20,372 20,300 

Grey fox 13,150 7,685 14,000 

Cross fox 288 467 134 

Silver fox 78 67 95 

Kitt fox 43,110 20,000 9,600 

White fox 3,500 6,150 5,060 

Blue fox 200 100 40 

Wolf 35,830 24,500 40,600 

Otter 5,337 4,888 5,612 

Lynx 3,681 1,590 536 

























30 Fur Buyers' Guide. 


House cat 

Wild cat 






The offerings at both June and October sales of 
American raw furs is usually must less than either Jan- 
uary or March, yet they are of interest, showing what 
articles are in demand. 

Quantities at any of the sales do not furnish a re- 
liable basis of the catch. A certain fur may be in demand 
in America and largely used here, so that quantity ex- 
ported is small, yet the catch large. Again demand may 
be poor in America but better elsewhere, in which in- 
stance exports would be apt to be large yet catch was 
only an average one. 

Owing to the European war which began August, 
1914, no sales of raw furs were held in London in Oc- 
tober, 1914, or January, 191 5. In March, 191 5, small 
quantities only were sold. The March sales are usually 
the largest and most important of the year — see table 
showing figures for March, 191 5, 1914, 1913, 1912, 191 1 
and 1910. 

The London sales will not be of as much importance 
for years, if ever, as they formerly were to the Amer- 
ican dealer in furs. The war has brought great changes 
in the buying power of Europe and the fur trade as well 
as other lines has been hard hit. For years just prior to 

"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 31 

the war Europe was using about two-thirds of the Amer- 
ican catch of raw furs and paying good prices for them. 
However, before the war broke out prices on certain 
furs had become lower. It seemed that the catch of 191 o, 
191 1, 1912 and 1913 was greater than the demand espe- 
cially at the prices which were then in effect. At the 
time the war began there was not only large quantities 
of furs in cold storage in Europe still owned by Amer- 
ican exporters but millions of skins held by dealers in 
New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Twin Cities, 
Montreal, etc. There is no question but that the losses 
on 1912 and 1913 purchases were heavy — millions of 
dollars. Instead of conditions improving they did other- 
wise. Add to this the cost to carry in cold storage. Fur- 
ther, the fact should not be overlooked that skins held a 
year or two will not sell as well as the fresh caught. 

It is hard for most trappers and a good many of the 
small collectors to realize that losses on 1912 and 1913 
purchases by the large dealers and exporters amounted 
to millions of dollars. Such however is a fact. In some 
instances they did not get half what they paid. 

There will always be a market for furs as they are 
a necessity in the more northern regions where no cloth 
will repel the piercing winds although by far the greater 
quantities are worn by the women to keep in fashion. 
Therefore, being largely an article of luxury, there is no 
telling when values will undergo change. Furs, how- 
ever, are much like silk — a staple article — but what 
color is to be worn is the question. It may be black, 
dark, brown, grey, or white so that naturally that color 
will be in demand and sell best. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 








"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 33 

Close and persistent trapping, especially during the 
years 1910, 191 1 and 1912 has reduced the supply of 
''wild" fur bearers so that no such quantities as sold in 
1914, 1913, and 1912 are left to trap. The great Euro- 
pean war demoralized fur values at the beginning of the 
season of 1914 so that trapping was not nearly sO' ex- 
tensive as in former years. 

Fur values have always fluctuated more or less but 
chances are that as the ''wild" supply becomes less that 
values will increase. At any rate, with increased use of 
furs, the price is apt to be kept up well, at least until 
the fur bearers have become so numerous that fur 
farmers produce millions of pelts each year. So far the 
sales have been principally fox from the ranches of East- 
"ern Canadian Provinces and Alaska; skunk, opossum, 
mink and coon in small quantities from various parts of 
the country; musferat have been protected in certain 
places by land owners, who either rent the rat trapping 
privileges or catch the animals themselves, so that hun- 
dreds of thousands of skins are already being marketed 
each year mainly from along the coast of New Jersey, 
Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. 

The combined offerings at London, by Lamson, Nes- 
bitt, Huth and Hudson Bay Co., previous to the great 
European war, was usually about two-thirds of the total 
North American catch, the other third being manufac- 
tured here. While accurate figures of the value of the 
yearly catch in North America are not available, it is 
probably around $25,000,000, and the world catch ^$100,- 



SIZE. — The chapters dealing with the various fur- 
bearing animals go much more into detail as to 
the ske^ color, quality, grade and especially grade 
and grading. 

As a rule the raccoons of the North are larger than 
those of the South. They are also darker in color, and 
because of the difference in cHmate, have much heavier 
coats. The hide or pelt on the northern coon is also 
much thicker, heavier and stronger which tends to make 
northern caught skins more valuable. 

The mink of the northeast (Northern Maine, New 
Brunswick, Eastern Quebec and Labrador) are smaller 
and darker than any others, although those found in the 
Lake Superior region and immediately north are usually 
quite dark. These mink are also small. The largest are 
found in the prairie districts of Canada, the Dakotas and 
other of the North Central States, but they are of com- 
paratively poor quality, being coarse in texture and quite 
pale. Those from the south are also of large size and 
of poor quality. 

Largest lynx are found north of the Great Lakes 
and eastward. In portions of British Columbia and the 
prairie districts of Canada they are also very large. This 
is probably because of the abundance of food (rabbits) 


Size, Color, Quality. 


usually found in those parts. There is also some differ- 
ence in color, the palest ones apparently being found in 
Alaska and the Far North. 


Otters reach their largest size in Florida but the 
northern wolves are larger than those of the south. It 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

is the same in regard to _bears, the largest being found 
in the north. 

The largest red foxes come from the interior of 
Alaska, and naturally they are of fine quality. However, 
all of the northern foxes are well furred except along 
the Pacific coast. 


The seven skins shown here were caught by a trap- 
per November, 19 14, in Harrison county, Iowa, and rep- 
resent a good average for mink caught in Nebraska, 
North Missouri, Western Ihinois and Iowa (except the 

Size, Color, Quality. 37 

two north rows of counties in Iowa where the average 
is still larger). These skins were graded as follows: 
Nos. I, 2, 3 and 4 small; No. 5 medium; Nos. 6 and 7 
large. The dimensions of each skin was as follows : 

(i) Length of body 16, tail 7, total 23; width at 
tail 3>i, shoulders 3 inches. 

(2) Length of body 16, tail 7, total 23.; width at 
tail 3K, shoulders 3 inches. 

(3) Length of body 17, tail 73^, total 24^^ ; width 
at tail 3^, shoulders y/4 inches. 

(4) Length of body 17, tail 7^^, total 24^^ ; width 
at tail 3^, shoulders 3^4 inches. 

(5) Length of body 19, tail 8, total 27; width at 
tail 4>4, shoulders 3^^ inches. 

(6) Length of body 20, tail 8, total 28; width at 
tail 4.y2, shoulders 3^ inches. 

(7) Length of body 21, tail 8, total 29; width at 
tail 4^, shoulders sH inches. 

The four small are almost as large as the No. i or 
large from Lake Superior and the Northeast Coast but 
they are not as silky or so fine furred, also lighter col- 

Carcass and Pelt Measurement. — Buyers of furs 
will be interested in carcass measurements of fur animals 
compared with the pelt when stretched. Some fur ani- 
mal pelts will stretch larger in proportion than others. 
The skin of the sea otter is very loose and will stretch 
about twice the size as when on the animal. Most furs, 
such as fox, otter, mink, etc., will stretch from one- 
fourth to one-third longer, depending much upon width 
and shape stretched. The following are exact measure- 
ments of two large Rhode Island mink : 

38 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

ist Carcass, end of nose to root of tail 17^, tail 8, 
tip to tip 25^ inches. 

Pelt on Board, end of nose to root of tail 23)^, tail 
9, tip to tip S^y2, width at hips 4^2, shoulders 4 inches. 

2nd Carcass, end of nose to root of tail 18, tail 8^, 
tip to tip 26^ iiiches. 

Pelt on Board, end of nose to root of tail 23^, tail 
9%, tip to tip 33>4, width at hips 4^, shoulders 4 inches. 

Mink from various parts of the country will vary 
from above sizes, yet the relative proportions of an un- 
skinned to skinned and stretched, will be pretty much 
the same. The two mink from which the above measure- 
ments were taken were caught in November. With some 
fur bearers the skin will stretch larger, in proportion to 
carcass, when caught in the fall; others in spring, seem 
to shrink accordingly. 

A good illustration of the carcass and stretched pelt 
of an otter with measurements can be seen by turning 
to page 273. 

The largest muskrats are found in the New England 
and Central States. The smallest come from the plains 
region of the Northwest. Why, is not known, but the 
small size' is supposed to be caused either by insufficient 
food or from the alkali in the waters of the Northwest. 

The largest skunks come from the northern portion 
of the Mississippi Valley, but they run largely to the long 
stripe, in fact, from some portions, as in northern Minne- 
sota, there' is scarcely any other kind to be found. Large 
skunks are also found in Kansas and Nebraska, Northern 
Illinois and Indiana, and New York. 

Size, Color, Quality. 39 

Color. — It is my belief that the finest mink, con- 
sidering both size and color, come from the Massachu- 
setts Coast. The rule is that the farther north we go, 
the finer the quality of the fur. But all rules have ex- 
ceptions, and so we find very fine mink in parts of 
Georgia and the Carolinas, while those from the lower 
Yukon basin of Alaska are of poor quality. 

With marten there is a remarkable variation in 
color, for they will run from a pale yellow to a very dark 
brown, in rare instances to almost black. Some of the 
very dark ones have silver hairs interspersed with the 
brown and it makes a fur of remarkable beauty. On 
the dark ones the light spot on the throat is a bright 
orange color, while on the pale ones it is usually a sort 
of cream, sometimes white. 

In the Eastern States and the lower parts of Canada 
what few martens are found are of the pale variety and 
are worth from $2.50 to $5.00 only, while those of 
Alaska, British Columbia, Labrador and the Hudson Bay 
regions are sometimes worth $25. Indeed, they are 
sometimes sold for much higher prices on the East 
Coast of Canada. 

I do not wish to impress anyone with the idea that 
in the parts mentioned only dark martens are found, for 
such is not the case. All shades of color will be found 
in the same locality and in Ontario trappers have caught 
very pale ones and fine dark fellows in the same traps at 
different times. 

The difference in the markings of skunks is inter- 
esting, and there is no apparent reason for it. In many 
sections, as for instance in parts of Ohio, East Tennessee, 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Pennsylvania and Vermont, they run largely to black or 
No. I. In other states No. i skunks are unknown, while 
in other localities the No. I's are few only. ' 

It is not perhaps generally known that the surround- 
ings of most animals has a primary effect on the color 


of their hair. Beaver, otter, mink and muskrat are dark 
or light colored, according to the water they live in. 
Clear, cold water lakes produce skins of a deep, glossy 
black, muddy lakes, on the other hand, furnishing light 

Size, Color, Quality. 41 

colored fur. Having studied this in my own hunting and 
trapping, I have often surprised a trapper when buying 
his skins by saying, "You trapped this and this skin in 
a clear water lake," and he has admitted it as true. 

Another peculiar fact in relation to deep cold water 
lakes, is that, while the skins they procure is of the finest 
quality, they are also much smaller in size than those 
trapped in brown or muddy water, and this applies to all 
the animals mentioned. Muskrat killed in clear water 
lakes are about two-thirds the size of those trapped in 
grassy, sluggish rivers, and it is the same with mink. This 
rule holds good also with land animals, such as marten, 
those living in and resorting to black spruce swamps being 
invariably dark colored, whereas those in mixed pine, 
birch and balsam hills are larger and lighter in color. 

Along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to 
New Jersey, many muskrats are black. In some local- 
ities, especially in and around Delaware and Chesapeake 
Bays, the dark and black skins run as high as 30 per cent 
of the entire cafch. 

Skunk in some localities have a much blacker black 
than elsewhere. This is probably due to both food con- 
ditions and the character of the ground in which they 
live. The guard h^irs on such skins are so black that 
they shine or "sheen." 

The common brown weasel north of 41 degrees or 
thereabout, turn white during the winter months and the 
skins are then known as ermine. 

The Arctic fox which are usually blue at birth, turn 
snow white as fall and cold weather approaches. This 
fox is found only in Greenland and the extreme northern 

42 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

parts of Alaska and Canada. During the summer the 
fur is known as "blue fox," although in reality it is a 
drab grey, much resembling the color of a maltese cat. 

The color of the Arctic fox and weasel (ermine) 
are apparently much influenced by cold and snow. This 
is further substantiated by the opossum, an animal which 
is seldom found above 41 degrees. Its fur is the only 
kind produced in the Central and Southern States that is 
white, but unlike the northern weasel and Arctic fox, it 
does not change its color. Another peculiarity in con- 
nection with the color of the fur bearers is that the dark- 
est opossum skins are secured in the south. 

Throughout the north the snow shoe rabbit turns 
from reddish brown to pure white. While opossum are 
the only white fur bearers in the Central and Southern 
States, there is an occasional white coon and still more 
rarely a white muskrat. Not enough, however, of either 
to be of interest to the fur trade. The white under 
furred mink known as "cotton mink" are quite common 
in some parts of the country. So far the greatest num- 
ber of such skins have been reported caught in Ohio, 
Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, 
Iowa, Arkansas and other states bordering on the Gulf 
of Mexico. 

Quality. — The most valuable fox, whether black, 
silver, cross, or the less valuable red, are from the coldest 
sections of Canada. On the other hand, the most val- 
uable muskrat pelts are not from Canada but from 
localities as far south as Ohio. Why? If cold weather 
produces fox pelts, why not muskrats as well? Dealers 
all know that raccoon in parts of Dakota, Minnesota, 

Size, Color, Quality. 


Wisconsin, Iowa, Ne- 
braska and parts of 
Kansas are large and 
dark and worth more 
than skins caught in 
other localities in the 
same latitude. Why 
are the skins larger 
and darker? It may 
-be that the food is 
more to their liking or 
possibly not being so 
numerous as in other 
parts (the south for 
instance) they have 
not interbred so much 
and are therefore 

The size, color, as 
well as density of fur, 
all have tO' do with 
the value of a pelt. 
In the Lake Superior 
region mink are small 
but very dark and silky and are about as valuable as 
skins caught along the Atlantic Coast from Maine north. 
Not so with marten, for those caught around Lake Su- 
perior are usually pale or yellow and not worth nearly 
so much as those caught in other localities no farther 

Ohio has long been known as one of the best skunk 


(1) Length, 32 inches. (2) 36 inches. 
(3) 34 inches. All measured from end 
of nose to root of tail and stretched on 
boards 6^/4 at shoulders, T^/^ at hips. These 
skins when turned as shown measured 8 
at shoulders and 9 at hips, representing 
average sizes as caught in Western Al- 
berta, Canada. 

44 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

producers — both as to quality of fur and number of 
skins. New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and 
Illinois are all states that grow large and fine skunk. In 
these states the skins run well to black or No. i. In 
many localities pelts taken in November and December 
will grade from 30 to 40 per cent black or No. i. The 
northwest — Minnesota, Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ne- 
braska, etc. — produce large skunk but they are of the 
long, narrow stripe variety. 

While opossum are found as far north as central 
Ohio, Indiana and Illinois in considerable numbers, many 
of the largest and best lots of skins are secured in the 
northern and central portions of West Virginia, while in 
the southern part, they are not nearly so good. It seems 
that fifty miles here makes a vast difference in the size 
as well as the density of the furs. 

That fifty or a hundred miles makes a noticeable 
difference in certain of the fur bearing animals is clearly 
illustrated by the weasel (ermine). South of the fortieth 
parallel which passes through Philadelphia near Wheel- 
ing, West Virginia, through Columbus, Ohio, and near 
Indianapolis, Indiana, near Springfield and Quincy, Illi- 
nois, through northern Missouri and forms the line be- 
tween Kansas and Nebraska, there are few if any white 
weasel (ermine) but just north there are some, while 
a hundred miles to the north, a fair per cent turn white 
each winter season. 

The why of the various sections producing different 
colors, sizes, etc., is hard to explain fully. With some 
animals both the climate and food have something to do 
with the color and density of fur but not in all. As 

Size, Color, Quality. 45 

already shown, muskrat from central sections are worth 
more than from the north — fur may not be as fine but 
pelt is heavier and better for tanning. Again mink from 
parts of North Carolina are small and dark, somewhat 
resembling Maine or Lake Superior skins and are worth 
much more than skins caught far to the north. Why? 
Marten in some of the sections far to the north are yel- 
low or pale while in other localities, even to the south, 
are darker. 

The Cascade or Coast Range of mountains extend 
two thousand miles north and south from California to 
Alaska. The climate west of this range from California 
to Alaska, is very mild and moist; flowers bloom nine 
months of the year and it rains for five months during 
the winter or wet season. East of this same range of 
mountains, in any of the above states, it is cold and dry 
for seven months of the year, besides the altitude is from 
two to ten thousand feet. Does it stand to reason that 
skins caught on the west or Pacific Coast side in any of 
the above named states are worth as much as skins 
caught on the east side of the Coast Range? Shipments 
of furs from Arkansas and Texas often contain better 
furred skins than those from the salt water coast of Ore- 
gon and Washington or Vancouver Island, British Co- 
lumbia. Skins caught along the coast of Alaska and on 
the' Islands of Southeastern Alaska, are not worth any 
more than furs caught in northern California. 

The largest and poorest red fox in the world are 
caught on Kodiak Island, Alaska, the best and largest 
not selling for more than one-half as much as the same 
size red fox caught in the interior of Alaska. A silver 

46 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

fox caught on Kodiak Island is worth about as much as 
a good coyote and does not look any better. A few of 
the reasons why fur is so poor on that island (which, by 
the way, is much larger than some of the eastern states) 
are : the island lies in the warm, Japan current : the 
wild animals of the island live and feed along the salt 
water beach on rotten fish or whatever food they can get. 

Prime mink caught on salt water do not dress, blend 
or dye well, and soon fade out to a "ratty red." Such 
skins will not bring in London or any other market to 
exceed two-thirds as much as the same size and colored 
mink caught in the interior of Alaska among the fresh 
waters of the White, Stewart, Yukon, Tanana, Porcu- 
pine, Koyukuk or Kuskokwim Rivers. Would a list 
quoting a single price for a large, prime hide of any kind 
do for Alaska, a country almost as large as all the eastern 
states combined and with all kinds of climatic conditions ? 
Perhaps not. At least a buyer issuing such a price list 
would secure but little business where competition is keen 
and to secure furs, a buyer has to go the limit. 

There is not a season but trappers and shippers are 
wanting rats to be classed as Spring long before they 
become prime or Spring rats. Spring rats must show up 
red ; there must be no dark spots on the flesh side. Skins 
that are damaged in any way will not pass for Spring. 
Very few rats of the prime sort come in until late in 
February, and will not be secured in any great quantities 
until in March. In fact, rats are at their best in March 
or April and trappers who have skins left on their hands 
by the local buyers quitting for the season, can ship them 
to market as late as May or even in the northern lati- 

Size, Color, Quality. 


tudes some later. In this latitude rat trappers will find 
that their catch in March and April are at their best. 

South of Minneapolis rats are worth the same as 
Wisconsin and southeastern Iowa rats, while those caught 
north and west of Minneapolis are thin pelted and worth 
less. The reason for this no one seems able to explain 

satisfactorily. We all know that 
food and climate have much to do 
with the size and condition of cer- 
tain fur bearing animals. It may 
be the food that makes these ani- 
mals thin pelted. This is one of 
the subjects hard to understand 
from the fact that skunk caught 
in this section are large and fine, 
while south where the rats are 
better, the skunk are much smaller. 
While skunk and muskrat are 
the two furs that become of value 
first in the Fall, do not make the 
mistake of buying them too soon. 
Some years ago skunk caught in 
the latitude of New York City or 
Chicago by November i would 
often go for prime skins, but of more recent years, owing 
to the warm and open seasons, they have not been prime 
until some two or three weeks later, while to the south 
they have not been full-furred until in December. Musk- 
rat are of some value in the north in October, yet it is 
well known that their fur is best and most valuable in 
March and April. 


48 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

The average Western long- stripe, or No. 3, has more 
black fur that can be used by the manufacturer than 
many of the Eastern short or No. 2. The stripe on the 
Western skunk is down farther on the sides, as a rule, 
leaving more good fur on the back. This accounts for 
the No. 3's from that part of the country being worth 
more than the wide stripe variety, also known as No. 3, 
found in the East and Central states principally. 

Otter, beaver and muskrat do not become prime — 
at their best — until spring. Bear, of the land animals, 
is the latest to become prime but retaains in good condi- 
tion until early June. Marten and skunk are the first to 
"prime up" in the fall, followed by raccoon, fisher, mink 
and fox. 

On the Pacific Coast, owing to the wet climate, furs 
are not as good as inland. The skins secured along the 
coast of California, Oregon, Washington, British Colum- 
bia and the islands are worth much less than inland and 
in the high mountain regions. A few miles there makes 
a vast difference in the quality o'f the fur. 

The general impression prevails that the colder the 
weather and the longer the same continues, the better 
the fur. This is true to some extent only." Fur bearing 
animals in the more northern sections are better furred 
than those farther south. In the north such animals as, 
fox, lynx, cats, marten, wolves, and ermine pay but little 
attention to the weather but travel pretty much the same 
at all times. 

Other fur bearers such as beaver and muskrat have 
a supply of food laid up. Otter work under the ice more 
or less at all times, while mink do likewise, thus securing 

Size, Color, Quality. 49 

some food which tends to keep the body natural and the 
fur healthy. 

What about fur bearers in the Central Sections that 
as a rule continue active most of the year? In this class 
are skunk, coon and opossum. These animals, if the 
weather is warm, move when hungry, which may mean 
every night. In this section cold spells generally last but 
a few days or a week. Occasionally long, cold spells 
occur when these animals do not stir and when they do 
come out, are poor in flesh and the fur shows signs of 
deterioration. These animals, not being accustomed to 
long fasting, soon show the effect. After a long, cold 
winter, skunk, coon and opossum furs become faded, 
rubbed and lose the luster (bright color) much sooner 
than during a more moderate winter. 



^jrRADE AND GRADING. — Be it remembered that 
M^k every 69 miles that we advance north or south 
^Jl makes one degree of latitude and three degrees, 
207 miles, brings a marked change in fur qualities. 
On account of the wide difference that exists in fur qual- 
ities, colors and sizes in separate latitudes, there must be 
a large number of assortments naturally. But when hun- 
dreds of raw fur dealers, buyers and handlers, with vary- 
ing ideas and intentions in all parts of the country get 
through grading, the number of assortments are legion. 

No two fur graders even when competent and pos- 
sessing the best of intentions, ever assort a lot of furs 
of considerable size just the same. There is likely to be 
some difference between graders in their views on a small 
collection. One will grade a certain coon large, while 
another buyer rates it a medium. One says to himself, 
"This is a well furred coon but a little blue in pelt. It is 
not quite prime, it will have to go in with the No. 2's." 
The other buyer, when examining the same skin, says 
mentally, "The pelt is a trifle blue but it is so well furred 
that it will go for No. i." 

We will suppose that we have a lot of one hundred 
and a few more of coon skins, that all come from one 
section. They are to be assorted for sizes and degrees of 
primeness. This collection may have come from the 


Methods of Grading. 


hands of a dozen or more trappers and fur hunters and 
there will be just as much difference in handling as there 
were owners, in number. Two skins of equal size when 
green may appear of different dimensions when handled 
separately. Dry and ready for market, one is 20 inches 
wide by 22 long, while its mate measures 18 inches wide 
by 24 long. Then we encounter the poorly stretched, 
irregulars and shriveled, so that it is often difficult to 
establish a dividing line between large and medium and 
between medium and small. This would not be the case 
if all had been handled in uniform shape by one man. 

The result is that 
two buyers or six 
buyers will assort 
this collection of coon 
differently. Each one 
acts to the best of his 
judgment but we do 
not all look at a skin 
or skins with the 
same eyes. 

After being as- 
sorted by buyer No. 
I, there will be per- 
haps 60 large coon, but buyer No. 2 will make but 45 
large. Buyer No. i has 20 No. 2 coon but the other has 
found only 13. The other seven were graded No. 3. One 
buyer makes a larger number of No. 3 coon than the 
other who has placed some of this grade in with the 
trash or No. 4's. One grades 15 prime small coon and 
the other finds but nine, the other six being rated medium. 


52 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Both graders have acted according to their training 
and best judgment and yet their selection is widely dif- 
ferent from one another. The chances are that he who 
graded the least liberal is the nearest correct as to what 
the assort should be. If buying in competition with an- 
other, who is more liberal, the correct man will be far 
short of making a purchase. 

With so many grades in a lot of coon from one sec- 
tion, something can be imagined of the task that is pre- 
sented to a buyer who enters the fur room of a large 
dealer having several thousand coon to assort. These 
are from all sections, in all sizes, styles of handling and 
every degree of primeness and are as thoroughly mixed 
up as scrambled eggs. If assorted correctly, there will 
be about loo grades, for it is not difficult to find i6 grades 
in coon of one section as to sizes and degrees of prime- 

Skunk are about our most important fur, as regards 
the country's raw fur income and here there is the widest 
range of assorting made in grading any fur. Sections of 
country in which they are found, sizes, species, and the 
amount of white and the way nature has painted it on 
in all of its ramifications, requires much training to grade 
skunk of the entire country correctly. 

So closely associated are the dividing lines between 
grades, that in many instances it is a toss up as to where 
it belongs. There may be a trifle too much white in length 
or width of stripe for a No. i but it will make an extra 
good No. 2. If the buyer is a close grader, and the 
owner is exacting, a quibble may arise, when it is pretty 
sure to be graded No. i. The buyer must take his 

Methods of Grading. 


chances in being able to sell it the same as he has been 
compelled to grade it. If the skin is of good size, he may 
make it go No. i but if a small pelt it probably will go 
for No. 2. 

The same is true of poor No. 
2's. If stripes run two-thirds the 
length of skin, or are very wide if 
only running half way, or are narrow 
but branched, or the skin is a good 
short stripe but very small, all these 
conditions bring a skin close to the 
No. 3 grade. 

If skunk furs are in good de- 
mand, many of the doubtful skins 
are graded in favor of the seller. 
There is the same wrangle on the 
assort of No. 3's and No. 4's. Thou- 
sands of long stripes that are most 
too broad for anything but No. 4 are 
classed as No. 3's. The skin shown 
here is large, measuring on pelt side 
as follows: length of pelt, 22^, tail 
13, total 35!/^ inches; greatest width 9^^, shoulders 7}^ 
inches. Measured on fur side length same, greatest 
width 10^, shoulders 8^. 

Muskrats should not, at first thought, be a difficult 
fur to grade, but our attention is taken up almost as much 
here as in other furs. One section produces heavy, well 
furred rats, while another yields short furred and papery 
pelted skins. Whether well or poorly handled, uniform 
in shape, or wedge shaped, long and narrow, or too' short 
and wide, irregular in form or otherwise unsightly. 



54 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

A straight collection of rats from one section will not 
be assorted the same by different buyers. If it is an 
autumn and early winter collection, one buyer will sort 
out quite a percentage of winter quality, while another 
will find it difficult to discover any but fall rats. One 
demands that the amount of red in a pelt must be at 
least 50 per cent to grade winter, while another will 
throw a good many in the winter pile which only have 
two red streaks of moderate width. One fur house will 
not allow its buyers to grade rats No. i or Spring if con- 
taining a single dark spot. Another agent may accept 
late February rats as Spring, or at least pay Spring prices 
while still containing a good many dark spots. One 
house contends that the pelt must be absolutely clear or 
the fur is not at its best. The other house says that no 
difference can be distinguished between the positive 
Spring rat and the ''near spring" so far as one or two 
little dark spots in the pelt are concerned. Is it difficult 
under such ideas as these to guess who gets the rats ? 

Certain fur firms grade and value mink as to color, 
and instruct their buyers to buy on three shades of color, 
dark, brown and pale. They do not get many mink under 
such orders. What they do secure they are compelled to 
buy after the same custom as a certain few who pay the 
highest quotations for well furred, seasonable mink as 
they average for color. But few mink are strictly dark 
at any time and not many are very pale in late autumn 
and early winter. 

One house appears glad to get good, well furred 
mink at full market prices without trying to buy for color, 
or according to color. Another firm clings to its old 

Methods of Grading. 


policy year after year of try- 
ing to buy on the dark, brown 
and pale plan and do not get 
many mink and should not, for 
such a firm is a poor mink house. 
Much haphazard buying is 
done in the matter of foxes — • 
black, silver, cross — in partic- 
ular. No other fur varies so 
much in color, quality and gen- 
eral conditions and each skin 
^,.> aiJ"-"^ *'l should be bought on its own par- 
7 tP ^ L^kM ticular merits. Though a fox is 
prime and well furred, it may 
not be worth full market quo- 
tations. The best skins of the 
red variety are a dark red or a 
lively bright red. Objectionable 
skins are yellow instead of red 
or in some cases about the color 
of dead grass. Some are grey 
on the hips as if mixed up with 
the wood's grey fox. Others 
are rubbed on the hips and some 
may be said to be flat in fur for 
the reason that there are no 
guard hairs or top hair and the 
under fur alone looks very deficient. ' 

One buyer takes into account all these inferior colors, 
while another takes them as they come, bright colors or 
poor colors at equal value. A fox is a fox with him so 
long as it is prime, well furred and not damaged. 




(1) Red medium; length 
of pelt, 35; tail, 21; total, 
56; greatest width, 8%; 
shoulders, 7 inches. 

(2) Cross large; length 
of pelt, iOVz; tail, 21; 
total, 611^; greatest width, 
9; shoulders, 8 inches. 

56 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Excitement among raw fur buyers is responsible for 
the improper grading of furs that is so prevalent. Eacll 
striving to outdO' the other in grading, in favor of the one 
who is selling, establishes a condition that makes it diffi- 
cult for anyone to buy on a proper assortment or even 
nearly proper. When the fur market is satisfactory and 
prices are trending upward, it may not be unreasonable to 
pay large price quotations for a well furred medium fox, 
coon or mink. A good medium is worth more than a large 
skin that is not so well furred or is otherwise ofif in 

If skunk are assorted too liberally in regard to the 
amount of white and the grading is anywhere within 
reason, there is a chance to get out whole and perhaps 
make money; providing the market is strong and likely 
to advance. It sometimes requires a goodly amount of 
banter to unload furs bought on a strained assortment, 
the same as graded when purchased, but those who give 
the fur owner all that belongs to him in assortment and 
a little more, is going to stand in the best favor and 
secure the fur in the future providing the right prices 
accompany strained assortments. 

Hundreds of town and country buyers are ready 
under normal conditions of trade to be just that liberal. 
There is a tremendous strife to see who shall make the 
biggest collection. If not on present money making 
terms, then buy them at the best bargains obtainable. 
"Methods of Grading," the title of this chapter, are not 
much in evidence if a big break comes in the market. 
Then methods are largely suspended and all systems set- 

■ Methods of Grading. 57 

tie down to one plan, which is to grade the furs down 
hard without practicing the least liberality or else let 
them alone. 

Now instead of too liberal assortments and advanced 
prices being given, low prices and severe, sometimes dis- 
honest assortments prevail, whereas grading should be 
fair and honest under all conditions. Under a broken 
market we often see fur firms that bear the best repu- 
tation for fairness and who did not grade skunk as to 
size, have now fallen so far as to do that very thing and 
so array themselves with certain firms who have always 
quoted sizes and given themselves a wide range to work 
on. Sixteen grades in skunk sizes are quoted by the 
house that has planned to take every advantage. Extra 
Large No. i. Large No. i, Medium No i and SmaU No t 
is the way it reads and the same range is taken for short 
stripes, long stripes and broad stripes. 

No fur owner of intelligence will permit a buyer to 
make any distinction between a large skunk and a medium 
sized skunk. So far as extra large are concerned, we do 
not get enough of them to make us rich, especially if we 
ship to those who quote them. No lot of skunks from 
good sections are burdened with small skins until late 
winter when the females begin to move, but somehow the 
large-number-of-grades firm has always succeeded in 
finding plenty of small skins in ours, if they did fail to 
find any extra large. 

We have found too, to our sorrow, that often the 
order given such firms to hold separate until we have 
had time to accept or reject the returns, was not pro- 
tection. For when we ordered the shipment back, we 

58 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

found that quite a percentage of our skunk had been 
substituted with inferior quality pelts in place of goods 
similar to Northern Ohio and Michigan skunk. 

The writer has been a spectator when large receipts 
of furs were being assorted both under a normal fur 
market and when the market was unsettled or weak and 
furs not really wanted. Houses who do not care for furs 
in time of adversity, should keep out of the market en- 
tirely until they do want the goods at market prices and 
on an honest assortment. In the first instance every 
effort is made to please the shipper, especially a first 
shipper. It will sometimes do to take advantage of an 
old shipper but if they trim a new one they may never 
receive another consignment from him. No, they must 
be careful not to kill off the new, first shipper. So we 
find them doing the right thing by all shippers when the 
furs are wanted badly. Sometimes a little sop is handed 
out in the way of extraordinary liberality as a bait to 
keep them coming. They give the shipper the best end 
of it on every doubtful skin. Medium sized, well furred 
coon were rated with the large. Good, well furred, well 
handled medium mink went in the large pile. Rats were 
only culled to take out the kits; the rest were assorted 
Fall and Winter; large, medium and small all figured 
together. Skunk were rated No. i with stripes an inch 
wide extending to the shoulders and if narrow and 
reached the middle of the skin, they were No. i. The 
same liberality was seen in the assortment in the lower 
grades. Stripes reaching within three inches of the tail 
were counted No. 2 or short stripe. In the broad stripes 
or No. 4's, they often divided with the shipper, placing 

Methods of Grading. 59 

half of them where they belonged and accepting the rest 
as No. 3 or long narrows. 

Now let us witness some assorting of furs when a 
drop has occurred and the future looks bad. The fur 
house is a prominent one and furs are pouring in from 
all quarters because of big quotations that were sent out. 
The break in prices came before it was time to notify 
the shippers. Now the only way to avoid a possible loss, 
is to fairly butcher the receipts of furs in the matter of 
assorting. The proprietor is grading the furs now to be 
certain that they are assorted sufficiently favorable to the 
house. The shipper has had his day. 

The helper lays a shipment on the table from Dodge 
City, Kansas. It consists of 25 skunk, all well handled 
long stripes. A slash with a very sharp knife lays the 
sack open from top to bottom. These skins are very dry 
and were no doubt secured very soon after the trapping 
season opened and yet they are prime. At the first 
glance the proprietor exclaims, "Another lot of blue 
pelts," and proceeds to grade them down accordingly. 
The long, narrow stripes go in with the No. 4 grade and 
the broads or 4's are cut below the market price for 
prime skins of that grade. No one who understands raw 
furs could call any of these skunk blue pelts, unless look- 
ing through blue goggles or affected by the blues, which 
a demoralized market might cause. 

A bunch of rats is next opened from Appleton, Wis- 
consin. They are mostly winter quality and well furred. 
But how critically they are examined separately and cer- 
tain ones graded down if it is imagined that the fur is a 
little short or thin. A buyer must be pretty small minded 
to examine the fur of every rat when assorting this fur. 

6o Fur Buyers' Guide. 

In a little lot of mixed furs from Tarboro, North 
Carolina, there are two medium sized otter. They are 
prime and of good color but a little short in fur as com- 
pared with Northern otter. The proprietor seizes each 
one in its turn and raising it high brings it down on the 
assorting table with a wallop. At the same time he utters 
the one word, "Singed." He holds them up to the light, 
passes his hand over the fur and announces, ''Both 
singed." The tally clerk who sits close by with book and 
pencil to take down the shipper's name and post office 
address and the assortments, writes down, "Two otter, 
small, singed." 

Now it is a fact that once in a while an otter is seen 
that bears a "scorched" appearance but for two skins to 
be so affected and both coming from one party, looked 
pretty thin to us. 

Now a little mail shipment from Sleepy Eye, Minne- 
sota, is opened. It contains nine, large, prime, well 
handled mink. There is not a pale mink in the lot, but 
the assort was shocking. No dark $5.00 mink were 
found, but five were figured brown at $4.00 each, two 
medium brown at $3.00 and two medium pale at $2.50 
each. Total $31.00. These were all December caught 
skins and were as dark on an average as mink of Minne- 
sota grow. The four graded "medium" were large mink 
but the others were extra large. The price should have 
been $5.00 average, $45.00. The price allowed trimmed 
the shipper out of $14.00. 

I said to myself, "No wonder you are rich. Much 
of it is unearned and is appropriated from the poor trap- 

Methods of Grading. 6i 

per's belongings sent to you in good faith that he will get 
a square deal." "How does our assorting compare with 
your ideas?" the proprietor inquired. This was just the 
sort of question I had been praying for to give me license 
to open my mouth. "Well," I answered, "seeing that you 
ask the question, I will tell you just what I think. If a 
buyer should come into our section and attempt to make 
such assortments as you are doing on these trappers' lots, 
we would throw him out of our place of business and I 
am not sure but what he would be tarred and feathered 
and rode out of town astride of a rail." Then the propri- 
etor flared up. My answer had been too candid and severe 
in arraignment. "Yes, I know," he returned crossly, "your 
state is a tough proposition. Nobody can make any 
money on your furs because everyone wants the earth. 
I have about cut your state out of my list." These two 
scenes in fur grading at one of the centers of trade, rep- 
resent the extremes. There is a middle course, which if 
followed, causes for complaint from the raw fur shipper 
would be few and far between. 

Many trappers and not a few shippers do not seem 
to understand "figures" very well and it may be that some 
dealers use the "big figure" plan only to induce ship- 
ments. More than thirty years' connection with the fur 
industry has proven to the author that full values come 
fully as often from the "one price" and fewer grade 
houses, even though their quotations are much less. In 
this connection the following will bring out quite cleariv 
this fact. Those who "know the game" by actual expe- 
rience regard the "from and to" method of quoting as 
giving the buyer more leeway. If it is the best way to 

62 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

realize most out of furs why don't the "from and to" 
houses sell on that method ? As is generally known, they 
sell on the one price plan and very few grades. In fact, 
they often sell their entire collection flat, so much per 
skin average. Fine furs may be assorted but the cheaper 
articles, — coon, skunk, civet, opossum, muskrat, etc., 
very seldom are. 

The "from and to" method is concisely stated by a 
shipper of 25 years who says, "The house quoting more 
than one price for each grade, gives more as a rule, on 
the upper grades, but cut away down on the medium and 
small and their grading, even on the large, is unfair. I 
am in favor of the one price method of quoting and find 
that I get the most money from houses so quoting." 

About the year 1910 several firms changed their 
methods of quoting from the "one price" or Eastern As- 
sortment to the "from or to" or Western Assortment, but 
the most radical change was a firm that quoted two ways 
on the same list, designated as "Western Assortment" 
and "Eastern Assortment." This firm we will call The 
Twin Raw Fur Company and quote from their circular 
as follows : 

"Western Assortment. — Each pelt is graded to 
its individual value as to quality of fur, size of pelt, color, 
etc. We also grade an 'Eastern Assortment' — see ex- 
planation further on. After making comparisons, ship 
your furs and state which assortment you prefer. 

"After looking over prices, no doubt you will 
ask yourself this question : I wonder why The Twin 
Raw Fur Company quotes the two different assortments ? 
Well this is a question we want to answer no matter 

Methods of Grading. 


whether you want to know or 
not. You should know that 
there is a vast difference in 
the Western and Eastern as- 
sortments of Raw Furs. 

'The Western assort- 
ment demands a larger pelt 
for large and medium sizes 
and assorts every pelt for 
color, shade, etc., while in the 
Eastern assortment the az^er- 
age size is classed as ones, 
twos, threes and fours and 
shoulder stripes on skunk are 
taken in as No. i grade which 
is not the case in the Western 
assortment. The same holds 
good on all other articles, a 
greater number of grades, and 
while the top prices are higher, 
the average when figured up 
in dollars and cents, is no 
greater. Still, we leave it to 
the shipper to decide which 
grade he prefers, and will give 
whichever assortment prefer- 
red. So in shipping, please 

state "Western" or "Eastern" assortment, as we want to 

satisfy the shipper. 

"Eastern Assortment. — Average sized pelts are 
classed together and an average price is quoted for each 

large western and 

SMALL eastern SKUNK 

(1) Large Western long stripe, 
nose to root of tail, 28; greatest 
width, 10; shoulders, 9 inches. 

(2) Eastern small, length nose 
to root of tail, 17; greatest 
width, 5%; shoulders, 5 inches. 

These pelts represent the ex- 
tremes, that is, an unusually- 
large Western and an under- 
sized Eastern. 

64 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

grade, making fewer grades. 'Western Assortment' has 
already been explained and after making comparisons ship 
us your furs and state which assortment you prefer. 

"The Twin Raw Fur Company pays express charges 
on shipments large enough to warrant their doing so, and 
part on smaller shipments under the Eastern Assortment, 
and deducts expressage and five per cent, same as all 
concerns, when making Western Assortment." 

At about the same time the Twin Raw Fur Company 
sent out their "twin'' quotations several firms changed 
from the ''one price" list to the "from and to" with the 
exception that they did not deduct shipping charges and 
5% like the original ones. There are now firms in va- 
rious parts of North America that have adopted the "from 
and to" or many grade method of quoting although some 
say that they only done so to meet competition and that 
the "one price" and fewer grade list is the better method. 

Price Lists. — The different methods or ways of 
quoting and grading as well as the manner in which re- 
turns are made out and sent to shippers has had con- 
siderable to do with securing shipments from trappers 
and small shippers. Some years ago the method of 
quoting known as "from and to" became quite general 
and no doubt induced many to ship as such quotations 
appeared to offer more than the lists making fewer 
grades. No buyer, dealer or exporter can be blamed for 
their method of quoting and classification so long as same 
are not misleading. Unless the fur owner is led to be- 
lieve they can get more by shipping than selling at home 
there is no inducement to ship. The "from and to" 
method of quoting raw furs therefore can be said to 

Methods of Grading. 65 


have originated from dealers soliciting to overcome as 
much as possible the selling at home. Fur owners that 
have shipped to the "from and to" quoter say that such 
quotations do not necessarily mean any more money for 
a shipment of fur than to a dealer who quotes one price 
only for each grade and makes the fewest grades possible. 
As has truthfully been said by some one, ''it is the aver- 
age that counts not the high price for one skin." 

Some well known and reliable firms are using "from 
and to" quotations while others are using the "one price" 
method. If the sender of the list is inclined to treat 
shippers fairly it will be done under either method while 
if of the dishonest kind incorrect sort or classification 
can be given making no difference which way of quoting 
has been used. 



CHIS chapter was written by an Inspector or Grader 
as they are generally called and published some 
years ago in a fur magazine, when the Inspector 
was with a raw fur buying firm in Minneapolis, 
Minnesota. This chapter furnishes a pretty good insight 
to the ''inspection room." If you are able to read be- 
tween the lines it will reveal that this Inspector and the 
firm thought that their assortment and price were always 

It is only natural that there should be considerable 
difference of opinion as to the correct ''inspection," sort, 
classification or grade of furs as looked at from the 
standpoint of trapper and dealer. Both are no doubt 
right in some of their views and both equally wrong in 

Right here, however, is one of the principal reasons 
why traveling buyers, sent out by the various dealers, 
have eaten into, the shipping trade, for they grade fairly, 
if they don't they cannot buy. Some years ago certain 
houses changed their method of quoting, assorting, etc., 
in hopes of offsetting the home selling. The method 
for a time was quite successful yet caused more or less 
dissatisfaction. Some say there would, not have been so 
much complaint made by shippers if all dealers would 
only quote market value and grade more liberally. 

The Inspfxtion Room. 6j 

"I have for the past five years occupied a position in the 
inspection room of one of the largest raw fur concerns on this 
continent, and it has occurred to me that it would be interest- 
ing to the trapper and country fur buyer who, after delivering 
his furs to the express company, wonders how and what be- 
comes of them; to know how they are handled and so on. 

"A good many who ought to know better, look upon the 
fur dealer is an unscrupulous individual who lies awake at night 
thinking of schemes to 'Do them up.' With a reliable house, 
and their names are legion, this is. not the case. There are 
more reliable houses than unscrupulous ones. In ninety-nine 
cases out of a hundred the shipper gets what the dealer con- 
siders fair value for his furs. 

"Like wheat, corn and pork, the fur market fluctuates, and 
it depends in great measure on the ideas of the individual dealer 
as to the value of a skin. His ideas must, as in all business of 
such nature, be based on what he can sell that skin for. 

"It is common knowledge that there are often two deal- 
ers in a town, one paying $3.00 for a mink and his neighbor 
across the street paying $3.25 or $3.50 for the same skin. They 
both may be basing their prices on what they can sell for. 
A. may be able to sell 500 or 1,000 mink at $3.25 or $3.50 
while B. may have an order for 100 mink at $3.75 or $4.00; 
then again the spirit of speculation may enter in and either 
one of those dealers, anxious to get the business, may pay 
'more than he can actually sell for; if there happens to be an 
advance of course the dealer is safe ; if a decline, why then 
the trapper is ahead that much and the dealer, unless his purse 
is long, mayhap becomes one of the 'Has beens.* 

"The trapper, no matter where located, on the quarter 
section adjoining the North Pole or near that warm, imaginary 
line which geographers call the Torrid Zone, is kept pretty 
well posted by the circulars of the hundreds of dealers through- 
out the United States and Canada, and can generally figure on 
what his furs will realize ; to do this intelligently though, he 
must not call a number three or a number four mink a num- 
ber one. An old hand at his business will not do so. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 


bfi tJ 










• ^ 

















































































































The Inspection Room. 69 

"As a rule the trapper, if he is at all reasonable, will be 
satisfied with his returns when he knows that he is dealing 
with a reliable house. 

"Please bear in mind that I am not referring to the 
country dealer. Some of them are good and a few are bad. 
I am referring to the dealers in the larger centers, New York, 
Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, and so forth. 

"I am afraid that I have digressed considerably from 
what I started to speak of, that is. The Inspection Room. 
When your shipment reaches its destination it is taken directly 
to the inspection room; if it is in a sack, bale or bundle prop- 
erly tied or sewed, the express company gets a receipt for it 
'in good order.* If the package is open, torn or damaged in 
any way it is signed for 'in bad order,' so that in case of 
shortage, which often happens, the shipper can make a claim 
on the express company for the shortage. Moral : Before 
shipping be sure that you have counted everything correctly 
and sewed or tied, sewed is better, the package securely. 

"The tag attached to the package, bearing the shipper's 
name and post office address, is handed to a clerk who refers 
to his files for a letter from that shipper; if the shipper re- 
quests his furs to be held, or makes a reference to any par- 
ticular skin or skins, the inspector or 'grader,' as some call 
him, is notified and he governs himself accordingly. 

"Mr. Grader, after opening up the package, proceeds to 
grade the contents in their respective order ; he will take say 
first mink, then coon, etc., sorting into number one large, 
medium and small, then number twos, threes, fours, etc. Mink, 
marten and otter are also sorted for colors, some firms making 
dark, brown and pale, while others only sort dark and pale. 
Each skin is carefully examined, and it is very rarely indeed 
that an expert grader will throw a skin into the wrong 'sort.' 

"After completing his grade or sort, he calls it to the 
clerk or bookkeeper, who enters in his books a record of each 
skin, giving the reasons for grading No. 2, 3 and 4 such as 
'unprime/ 'damaged,' 'tainted,' 'summer caught,' and so on ; 
the clerk now checks his book record with the shipper's letter, 

70 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

and if everything tallies, the furs are carried to their respec- 
tive places. 

"In the course of my experience, I have run across some 
amusing instances. It is a common occurrence to receive the 
common house cat which, ignorantly or designedly, is sent as 
otter or black marten. Ferrets are often sent for mink or 
weasel. Common gray fox as silver grays, dogs as wolf, and 
lots of times have I seen muskrat stretched like mink with 
mink tails sewed on. 

"That the shipper in those instances has been the victim 
of some joking or unscrupulous trapper is very evident from 
the indignant letter he will write to the dealer. He doesn't 
stop to think that he is the one who has been fooled, but im- 
mediately accuses the dealer to whom he has shipped of 'beat- 
ing' him. 

"Sometimes coon, skunk and so on will reach the dealer 
with fat on, or in a partly green state. This shouldn't be, both 
from the dealer's and trapper's point of view. Skins shipped 
in that condition are very liable to taint or slip. Sometimes 
they are rendered absolutely worthless, and the trapper thus 
loses the fruit of his labors. They are handed to the fleshers 
who scrape, stretch and dry them. 

"Every section of the continent produces a different quality 
of fur ; the mink from Texas and Louisiana differ from those 
of Kansas and Nebraska. Nebraska and Kansas differ again 
from Missouri and Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin differ from 
Canada, Eastern Canada differs from Western Canada, and so 
on. So you will readily understand, Mr. Trapper, that the man 
who does the grading must be an expert at his work ; only 
after years of experience can a fur grader fill such a position. 
Each kind and class of fur is put in a pile by itself and is so 
offered to the manufacturers ; if the dealer is doing an export 
business, that is, shipping to the London sales, his furs are 
compressed and baled and shipped across the Atlantic, there to 
be sold by auction at the quarterly sales, held in January, March, 
June and October of each year. 

The Inspection Room. 71 

"These sales are largely attended. Buyers are there from 
every part of the world, including New York and Chicago, and 
it very often happens that the New York and Chicago dealers 
buy lots of fur in London and bring them back to this country 
at 20 or 30 per cent less than they cost the dealer. 

"So you see, Mr. Trapper, that the dealer's lot is 'not 
all pie.' 

"I close with this advice to trappers. First find a reliable 
house then stay with them. Stretch and dry your skins thor- 
oughly before shipping, sew your packages securely, put on a 
tag bearing plainly your name and address, and write the same 
day stating the number and kind of skins you have shipped ; 
it's then 'up to' the dealer to do the rest, and if he's reliable 
he will do it. He's in business to stay, and he knows that he 
can not keep a business up if he doesn't treat his shippers 



CHE following was written under date of April 8, 
191 5, by Mr. G. S. Eddings from Southeastern 
British Columbia, some 300 miles from Van- 
couver, Canada, and about the same distance from 
Spokane, Washington, his trapping grounds being in the 
Rocky Mountains. Mr. Eddings has followed trapping 
for a quarter of a century and what he has to say should 
have some weight. While there are honest dealers it is 
too true that many take advantage of the shipper, whether 
trapper or small dealer, when furs are sent in to them 
Requests to hold furs separate has helped to some extent 
yet the dishonest will find some way to take advantage. 
The quoting of more than market value is mostly done to 
induce shipments. Dealers know that when furs come 
from a long distance there is little danger of the owner 
showing up even if they are graded severely. Again the 
fact should not be overlooked that many dealers and ex- 
porters of raw furs lost heavily on purchases made in 
1913 and early in 1914, yet there is no denying the fact 
that incorrect or dishonest grading has caused many 
trappers, country collectors and dealers to "sell at home'' 
where they can see the grading. 

"I have several of the books that you publish and seeing 
your advertisment wanting photographs and measurements of 
Raw Furs for a new book, I will give you a few measurements 


Why Trappers Sell at Home. 


of some furs I caught in this part of British 
Columbia, Canada, that I happened to take 
measurements of, season 1914-15," writes G. 
S. Eddings. 

"Largest beaver, length 40 inches, width 33 
inches. This was the largest beaver I ever 
caught. The smallest ones caught here in the 
spring, almost one year old, vary from 24 to 
27 inches in length and from 21 to 24 inches 
in width. The average size for large here is 
about 36 inches length and 30 inches width 
and they vary all sizes between small and large 
in a lot of 40 skins. 

"The largest fisher, 33 inches from nose 
to root of tail, length of tail 21 inches, total 
length from nose to tip of tail 54 inches; 
width at base 8i inches, at shoulders Gi- inches. 
This one however was a little over the aver- 
age for large ones. Smallest fisher, length 
nose to root of tail 27 inches, tail 17 inches, 
total length 44 inches ; width at base 6i inches, 
shoulders 5i inches. These measurements 
taken from a lot of twelve skins. 

"Largest mink, nose to root of tail 24, tail 
92", total 33i inches; width at base 4|, shoul- 
ders 3|. This though was over-size for aver- 
age large ones. Smallest mink, nose to root 
of tail, 161 inches, tail 6, total 224 inches; width at base 3|, 
shoulders 3 inches. Taken from a lot of fourteen skins from 
mink caught about the middle of March. While all mink are 
darker in the fall and early winter note the color of the one 
shown which was caught in March. 

"White weasel, largest nose to root of tail 14, length of 
tail 7 to 9, total 21 to 23 inches ; width at base 2f , shoulders 2i 
inches. Smallest weasel, length 8 inches, tails 3 to 31, total 
length 11 to lU inches; width at base If, shoulders If inches. 
Varying to all sizes between smallest to the largest. Taken 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 










I— I 



H -J 

o P 




Why Trappers Sell at Home. 


from a lot of fifty skins. Measurements taken from flesh 
side of all skins. 

"The men that do all the hard work and furnish the raw 
material for the Fur Trade to do business with, take the risk, 
assume the hardships and finally accept one-half the real value 

of their catch of raw furs. 
These are facts which no one 
cane deny. I have never seen 
or shipped to any house that 
would give you a square deal 
all the time. In my 25 years 
of handling raw furs I have 
not found one. They will 
flood the country with fic- 
titious price lists and market 
conditions. But that is only 
the least part of the skin 
game. If they should pay 
w^hat their price list quotes on 
the different grades -but they 
won't grade fair. Let me say 
right there is where you get 
it proper and you get it all 
the time. It is hard to take 
your bunch of skins in the 
months of December and 
January, prime, nice, clean, 
well handled, and have the 
large ones marked on the re- 
turns Large No. 2 or maybe 
some of them No. 1 medium. 
The medium will be small and 
No. 2s. The dark ones will be 
average color; brown will be pale; pale will be No. 3 and 

"The illustration shows two large, prime skins both caught 
in the month of December. The prairie wolf, or coyote, being 
of the following dimensions: Length of pelt 47, tail 16, total 


'jG Fur Buyers' Guide. 

63, greatest width \\\, shoulders 10 inches. The other pelt is 
a silver fox of the following dimensions : length of pelt 38, 
tail 19, total 57, greatest width 94, shoulders 8 inches. 

"Not only are skins of this size often graded as medium 
but are sometimes classed as rubbed, poorly furred or even 
shedders. When we trappers get grading of this kind is it any 
wonder that a price list means little or nothing? 

"Now just take any price list at random from anyone of 
the different houses, look at the range of prices and grade. 
You can see quickly where you will get skinned from one-half 
to three-quarters of the real value. You have got to take their 
word for everything and three thousand miles, more or less, 
apart you have got a lot to say. Of course you can put a valua- 
tion on your skins and if they don't pay what you expect they 
will return them. But see here they sometimes do not return 
the bunch you sent in. I honestly believe some lots were re- 
turned that did not contain a single skin that was sent. Your 
furs were good and they wanted them, they have got them, 
they are going to keep them. If you send the bunch you got 
back from them to some other house you won't get enough 
to pay the express on them. What are you going to do? You 
can write and 'holler' all you are a mind to but you are a poor 
working man. You have got nothing. No one pays any atten- 
tion to you. The laws of the country, it seems, are made 
to protect the same thieves that rob you. They are all after 
money, I guess, and you have none, so you are not in it 
anyway. Some magazines and publications say that the adver- 
tisers in their columns are honest and reliable ; if not so will 
discontinue their advertisements. Well that should not fool 
anyone. If they should do that, cut out the dishonest ones, 
they would have very few fur advertisements. All publications 
are after the money and they have got to get it or can't live. 

"Sometimes a fur house will give you the top price and 
grade on the first lot that you ship them. Nearly every time it 
is just a bait to catch you with your big bunch and of course 
all your friends every time. Even your friends will turn you 
down after that. 

Why Trappers Sell at Home. 'jj 

"It is amusing if you don't have any furs to sell to watch 
the price lists as they come out. Every one says the demand 
for furs is greater all the time as the season advances ; that lots 
of manufacturers have delayed purchasing until late. Conse- 
quences are that furs of all kinds are advancing in price but 
they must soon go down. Ship all you catch and all you can 
buy at once. Every bunch you send you will get less than you 
did for the one before. Yet the price lists get higher each 
time ! 

"Another thing you will always see when you are away 
back in the woods or mountains and can't get out until March 
to ship your furs, that by the time the furs reach the dealer 
there has always been a slump in the market. Your skins that 
were caught in December and January are springy, faded, shed- 
ders, Nos. 2 and 3. Now you don't suppose they got that way 
in the baggage car in transit because the weather had turned 
mild and a thaw was on do you? For my part I know very 
well the skins were all right. Anyone that has trapped and 
handled furs for 25 years don't need to have anyone tell him 
when a skin is springy, faded, shedder, large, small, No. 1 or 
No. 2. I am in British Columbia, Canada, at present and I 
know part of the time what a skin is just as well as they do in 
New York, St. Louis or other markets. 

Why is not a No. 1 skin sold in May or June just as good 
and worth just as much money as when sold in January? I 
am 300 miles from Vancouver, British Columbia or the same 
distance from Spokane, Washington. If you send furs to either 
city you will not get as much generally as to ship them east 
and sometimes you hardly get anything. On the other hand if 
you happen to be going into these places and take some furs 
with you going to the same places you shipped to — of course 
they don't know anyone. When you go in they will start to 
play you for a fool like they do everyone. Later, or as soon 
as they see you know something about the game, they will quiet 
down and you can soon make a deal. 

"Two years ago the latter part of May we sold furs for 
one-third more than we had gotten by shipping east in the 

78 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

winter and one-half to two-thirds more than we had received 
by shipping to the same houses earlier. It makes about a good 
one-half average more all around when you can walk right up 
face to face with Mr. Skinner and beard him in his lair. They 
want furs all right and will pay for them when they can't steal 
them. When you ship they have all the say and will surely skin 
you nine times out of ten. Say, that is hard earned money at 
best, at any season, for the trapper. 

"Trappers that know what fur is and put it up to the dealer 
in shape are surely entitled to some part of its real worth. So 
long as the system they now have prevails I don't see how we can 
expect for anything better. If the trapper would do like the 
dealer he would be sent to the pen for defrauding people through 
the mails. Trappers could form an association if they would, but 
they won't stick together. The prices are all right, but the 
grading, with many it is down right thievery. The highway 
robber is entitled to some respect but this, The Royal Order 
of Skinners, seems to have none at all." 



RECENT TACTICS. — The country fur buyer and 
local town buyer does not wait now-a-days for the 
trapper to bring in his catch, but go out after it, 
visiting him at home and on the trapping ground as 
well, in a large part of the old settled country. Such are 
the conditions that largely exist in the New England 
States, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and 
southern Quebec and Ontario, Canada. In Kansas, Ne- 
braska, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma there are not 
so many traveling buyers and more furs go direct from 
trappers and small collectors to St. Louis, Mo. In the 
Dakotas, Rocky Mountain sections and much of Canada 
the fur catchers are so scattered that a large per cent is 
shipped direct to New York, St. Louis, Chicago, Minne- 
apolis, Detroit, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. The 
last three named being in Canada, receive Canadian furs 

San Francisco, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Victoria 
and Vancouver dealers also receive more or less furs 
direct from trappers and buyers but principally from the 
states west of the Rocky mountains as well as British 
Columbia, Yukon and Alaska, although of recent years 
a greater per cent has been sent by mail direct to mar- 
kets farther east. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia the 
furs are bought by hucksters, merchants and produce 
dealers to a greater extent than elsewhere. In the south 
and southwest they are bought by dealers in the larger 
cities although hucksters, merchants and produce men 
handle considerable quantities. The steam launch is 
much used to visit trappers located along the larger of 
the streams throughout the South, as the weather never 

gets cold enough to 
stop water navigation. 
House boats are also 
used to some extent. 
Perhaps the horse- 
back fur buyer is 
more numerous in the 
south than elsewhere, 
although their num- 
bers are becoming less 
in all parts of Amer- 
ica as roads become 
better, so that travel- 
ing with wheeled ve- 
hicles is possible. Automobiles are also being used and 
perhaps in greatest numbers in the East and Central 

Within a radius of say a hundred miles of any im- 
-portant fur center, many trappers take their catch to mar- 
ket so that there is not much left for the traveling fur 
buyer in such localities, whether he resides in the country 
among the trappers or in some village. Trappers who 
take their catch to a city where there are several buyers 


Buyers and Collectors. 8i 

usually manage to get about all their furs are worth by 
visiting several buyers, getting offers, then selling. 

Once furs were low and the demand weak so that 
the trapper sold most of his furs through seeking a buyer. 
But under the conditions of higher prices and strong de- 
mand, a large share of his furs are sold at home. The 
earliest of these visiting buyers collected goods with a 
team. Now horses are too slow a means of conveyance 
when roads and the automobile has taken their place. 
With many buyers after the furs it is a question of pick- 
ing them up quickly if a competitor is to be beaten and 
new customers can not be secured nor the old held, if 
horse travel is depended upon. 

Not many years ago trappers did not expect to sell 
any furs green. Now^ the traveling buyer will generally 
buy the green and unskinned furs just as quickly as the 
cured skins. If he waits until he can call again, the 
chances are that such green furs will be sold to another 

Money Furnished. — It is a common practice, in 
some localities, with local collectors at present, to fur- 
nish men and money to buy furs for them. At stated 
intervals they come -and take up what has been collected 
or have it shipped in to them. These buyers are usually 
trappers who imagine that they understand assorting furs 
properly, but much haphazard work is done by them, 
partly to secure as many furs as possible and partly to beat 
some other sub-buyer and largely through lack of knowl- 
edge. But he who hired them is so anxious to secure a 
large lot of furs that he overlooks a lot of bad dealing on 
the part of his noncompetents, and then he is not proof 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

against making bad purchases himself. No matter how 
much in error some of his little assistants are, he must 
pay them the promised commission on all they collect. 

Getting Business. — To become a successful fur 
buyer and seller is not learned in a day, month or year as 
a knowledge is required not only of the various raw furs 
but experience in dealing with trappers as well as the 
large buyer is part of the game. The most successful 
buyers as a rule began in a small way, buying of trappers 

in their neighbor- 
hood and extend- 
ing their buying 
as they became 
better posted in 
fur values. 

A good many 
years ago the 
writer furnished 
money to numer- 
ous buyers to col- 
lect for him. During those years thousands of dollars 
was loaned buyers and not a cent lost. Money thus fur- 
nished buyers they regarded as honor bound to return. 
I never charged interest, seldom asked them to sign a 
note for the amount, treated such buyers fairly and re- 
ceived practically all the furs they collected. Towards 
spring the amount loaned was deducted from their pur- 
chases. No large amount was furnished any one buyer 
for at that time my buying was largely in the counties of 
Gallia and Meigs in Ohio and Mason, West Virginia. 
Traveling was mainly by horseback or horse and two- 


Buyers and Collectors. 83 

wheeled cart (as roads were not piked then). I made 
the rounds about every two weeks during November, De- 
cember, January, February and March. 

The first years that I bought my collections were 
sold mainly to traveling buyers. Later I secured a posi- 
tion on salary and traveled parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, 
West Virginia and Kentucky. I gave up the traveling 
position spring of 1897 ^^^ '^^ November of the same 
year began buying at Gallipolis, Ohio, on my own ac- 
count. I placed advertisements in the county and other 
papers and bought tens of thousands of skins the first 

At that time competition was probably not so keen 
as now yet many today are buying thousands of skins 
each season from trappers and small collectors in numer- 
ous small towns and cities through advertising and price 
lists. Dealers of this kind, if reliable, soon become 
known to trappers and a good many furs are also brought 
to them. 

Buying furs right is not all. Selling is fully as im- 
portant. The town buyers and dealers in the East usually 
sell at home. In the South, West and North where 
traveling buyers are few and far between the majority 
of furs are shipped to some of the raw fur centers. Dur- 
ing my years in the fur buying and selling business I sold 
mainly at home although have made numerous shipments 
to about all of the leading markets. Returns in some 
instances were quite satisfactory while others v^ere not 
what they should have been by any means. One season 
I shipped several thousand dollars' worth to a New York 
firm by special agreement, that is, they allowed what I 

84 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

considered market price and a per cent added. At times 
the grading was a little too severe. One year with an- 
other, best results — most money received — I found was 
had by selling to traveling representatives who called 
and looked at my goods at my place of business. 

Under date of November 5, 1897, the Weekly Trib- 
une of Gallipolis, Ohio, as a news item, published the 
following : 


**A. R. Harding, who has been employed as traveling 
agent for some years by an Ohio firm, has established in 
business on his own account in the building occupied by 
J. M. Ruth on Third street near Court street. He Vv^ill 
also handle hides, pelts, tallow, etc. Trappers and ship- 
pers will find him strictly honest and at all times paying 
full market value for goods sent or brought him. 

"After looking around at towns in Southern Ohio, 
Mr. Harding decided on this, as shipping facilities suit 
him much better. His trade will not be of this county 
alone, but will extend over Ohio, West Virginia, In- 
diana and Pennsylvania." 

Perhaps it will not be out of place to here say that 
my trade the first season was not only from the states 
mentioned but included New York, Michigan, Illinois 
and Kentucky as well. I was one of the very first to ad- 
vertise in newspapers for raw furs. Those advertise- 
ments, as near as I recollect, in various papers during the 
season of 1897-8 and for some years after, were as fol- 
lows : 

Buyers and Collectors. 85 



Clf IIMIC C-oon, mink, muskrat 
wHURII and all other raw furs 
wanted to fill manufacturing and 
export orders. Send for prices. 

A. R. HARDING, Gallipolis, Ohio 

This advertisement is one-half inch or seven lines. 
It was used in the farm papers mainly, including Far- 
mers' Guide, Huntington, Indiana; Ohio Farmer, Cleve- 
land, Ohio; National Stockman & Farmer, Pittsburg, 
Penn. ; Farm Journal, Philadelphia, Penn., at a cost rang- 
ing from about 25 cents up to $3.50 a line or $1.75 to 
$24.50 for each paper per insertion. These small adver- 
tisements appeared in the weeklies during November and 
the November issue of the Farm Journal which is pub- 
lished monthly. The advertising rates in these period- 
icals is considerable higher now. 






I $S0,000 WORTH I 

T To fill American Manufactur- ^ 

T ing and Foreign Export or- ^ 

T ders. Send for prices, v 



86 Fur Buyers' Guide. 


During the months of November and December I 
ran an advertisement in adjoining county papers as well 
as a few other local or county papers in Southern Ohio 
and West Virginia, where I thought furs were most 
plentiful. The cost for this ranged from about $1.50 to 
$4.00 for the two months, in each paper, depending upon 
their circulation which was probably from less than 1,000 
to nearly 3,000. See advertisement No. 2. 

In the home or Gallipolis weekly papers I used 
larger space — 4 to 6 inches double column — occasion- 
ally at a cost varying from $1.50 to $3.00 per week de- 
pending upon number of consecutive weeks used as well 
as the circulation of the paper. Most publishers claim 
for their paper the largest circulation, greatest influence, 
etc., so that the buyers of space must judge for them- 
selves largely. A pretty safe rule to follow is to use those 
carrying most advertising as chances are they have the 
largest circulation. Where the rates in your county 
papers are cheap it probably is advisable to use a little 
space in each. When I established in Gallipolis there were 
three county papers in the city and I used them all. The 
copy of this advertisement was as follows : 

Buyers and Collectors. S7 


Wanted Raw Furs! 

To Fill an 
Eastern Order 

1 000 Skunk 1 0,000 Muskral 1 0.000 Opossum 

5 000 Mink 5.000 Coon 2,000 HouseCat 

1 ,000 Red Fox 500 Grey Fox 500 Wild Cat 

'100 Bear 100 Otter 

For which I will pay highest market Cash Price 

Hides, Pelts, Tallow, Etc. 

Bring your Raw Furs when coming to town, or ship them at 
my expense. Remember, that I am the only dealer in this part of 
the state that deals direct with MANUFACTURERS and 

Reference: First National Bank or the editor of this paper. 
Office with J. M. Ruth, on Third near Court Street 

Write for my quotations, which will be cheerfully sent 
at any time. 

A. R. HARDING, Gallipolis, Ohio 

88 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

The first season I purchased something like $I5;- 
ooo.oo. Remember, this was season of 1897-8 when skunk 
for best sold around $1.00, opossum less than 25, mink 
and coon but little more than $1.00 for best anl other 
furs proportionately low. Had prices been as high as 
long about 1911-12 my purchases would have been well 
up to $50,000.00. Thousands of dollars' worth of furs 
were brought direct to me not only by trappers but buy- 
ers in Gallia and adjoining counties, while those consid- 
erable distance away were shipped. All shippers were 
kept regularly posted. I wrote many of my buyers quot- 
ing prices for the various furs in their locality, good for 
a week, ten days or maybe twO' weeks, depending upon 
the condition of the market. 

To make a success at buying furs, especially building 
up a shipping trade, requires thought and foresight. Your 
buyers must have prices as high as any reliable firm is 
sending out and as quick as the other fellow to be able 
to get their share of the furs. 

Conditions have changed a great deal since I was in 
the raw fur business at Gallipolis. As already stated 
there were' few advertising for raw furs then. It was 
also before the days of fur magazines and price lists 
were mainly of the one price kind. During recent years 
numerous dealers from not only the leading raw fur cen- 
ters, but many of the smaller places, are advertising for 
raw furs. The best mediums to advertise in are of much 
importance. Briefly this may be said to include county 
or local papers to leading national publications and trade 
magazines, depending upon how much of the country it is 
desired to reach. 

Buyers and Collectors. . 89 

Local Buyers. — There are three classes of local 
buyers. One is the large town buyer who often collects 
from $10,000 to $15,000 worth before selling. The next 
is the village buyer who collects from $600 to $800 up 
to $1,200 to $1,500 worth before he will consider any 
offers, if buying on his own account. If he happens to 
be buying for the bigger town dealer then his collections 
do not accumulate to any great size before some one who 
is in the employ of the dealer, to whom the furs are con- 
tracted, comes along and gathers them up. 

Many times agents for the large fur houses who 
travel only by rail, hear of a good bunch of furs at one of 
these small towns and stop off, hoping to buy the lot, 
only to find that the furs are being collected for the big 
speculator and are not for sale. 

The third is the country buyer who is often a man 
with sufficient capital to make a collection of several 
thousand dollars' worth. Some of them have built a fur 
house while others keep their collections in the barn or 
grain house or other building that is dry and can be 
locked. This latter class are exceedingly shrewd and 
some of the hardest bargains are driven by them when 
they sell their collection. 

The country dealer usually sends word to several 
important buyers stating that he will try to sell on a cer- 
tain day. If interested, they may be on hand. It is sel- 
dom that any of those notified fail to appear and there 
may be another one or two who come uninvited. Only 
one of their number can buy the goods and a pretty strife 
ensues to see who shall land the collection. The offers 
having all been made, the owner may reject them entirely 

90 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

if none are high enough to meet his ideas. It happens 
sometimes that he will close a deal before the crowd of 
bidders disperse by inducing a certain one to raise his 
own bid. It is not often that any money is to be made 
by the party who gets the goods at such an auction sale 
and the chance to lose is quite possible. 

The traveling representative of a large fur house 
sometimes encounters the country buyer in town when 
a good sized lot of furs are for sale. The traveling buyer 
has hard and fast rules for assorting furs and the limit 
laid down that he may add to what the goods figure up. 
He can not forge ahead of the market price. His local 
competitor is buying with his own money and is not 
limited except that he expects to use common sense. But 
he wants the fur. It is a big bunch and he would have 
to travel quite a few days to accumulate so many furs. 
He has found out by experience that every thousand dol- 
lars' worth of furs he is able to add to his collection will 
make it so much more desirable on account of size. He 
lays his plan to beat the traveling agent by two different 
means. First, he assorts the goods as liberally as he pos- 
sibly can and do justice to himself. Next, he raises prices 
to a safe point, as he thinks, according to future pros- 
pects. Before leaving the fur room, he kicks his assort 
over and mixes up every grade with other grades so that 
his competitor will have nothing to work on except his 
own judgment when he comes to examine the goods. It 
is hardly worth while to say that the Country Buyer 
secures the furs, while the traveling agent who offered 
a good price, goes away wondering what sort of a bump- 
kin he encountered. 

Buyers and Collectors. 91 

In the case of the large lots held at the principal 
towns, it is somewhat different. The owner usually sends 
word to a certain fur firm or agent in whom he has con- 
fidence, that on such a date he will be ready for an offer 
on his collections. It may require days to look at a large 
lot even when the muskrats are figured at a flat price. 
But it takes much time to turn and examine 3,000 skunks 
or more and perhaps 800 mink, 500 coon, etc. When 
the assort has been made and everything figured up and 
added together, let it not be supposed that he can buy 
the lot. Not at what it figures on the fairest assortment. 
It is rare that any sizable lot of furs ever is bought at 
actual value. Percentages must be added and often a 
little more on top of that to make even money. 

The large dealer knows that after a buyer has spent 
several days looking at his furs, he will not leave them 
until he has added on the last dollar to his figures that 
can possibly be done. It is the dealer's opportunity to 
make some easy money and he takes advantage of it. The 
offer made may net him a good profit but he keeps his 
own counsel and without changing countenance he says, 
"Your figures .will just about let me out even. I am 
afraid I can not sell to you unless you add considerable 
to your price. I've spent a lot of time on this fur and 
have hired help to buy and handle it here in the house. 
Now I'll tell you what is the best that I can do. You add 
5% to your figures and the goods are yours." 

If the truth had been told, the liberal assort given 
him and the advanced prices made him a reasonable 
profit, outside of all his expense, but the stakes have been 
stuck and it is meet the demands or leave it and lose all 

92 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

the labor expended. The same buyer feels that such a 
demand in the way of percentage is plain extortion but 
he can not help himself. If he leaves the lot behind, the 
next place he visits the deatl may be equally difficult and 
who wants to run around all the season and not buy any 
goods ? 

So the dealer makes a sale at his own terms and is 
secretly exultant. He knew how it would come out be- 
forehand. He has made a study of human nature to such 
good purpose that it has enabled him to obtain a dona- 
tion of several hundred dollars on top. of fair profits. It 
is just like finding money. Once in a while a dealer that 
is particularly candid will tell you that the most of his 
profits these' days are derived from what he forces the 
buyer to add on to his original offer. "In fact," said 
one, "that is the only way to make any money in the fur 
deal." Another says, "The trapper is continually posted 
on the market. He receives price lists from everywhere 
and knows what furs are worth just as well as we do. 
We have to pay him New York quotations and give him 
an assort that we can't get out on, so how are we going 
to make any money unless we get a percentage added to 
the first figures when we unload?" 

The foregoing remarks refer to buying and selling 
methods in ordinary years, excluding depression in busi- 
ness, panics or foreign wars. In good times quite a num- 
ber of raw fur firms endeavor to establish buying agen- 
cies in the larger towns, such agents being men whO' are 
engaged in handling furs, wool, hides and pelts. Such 
negotiations are usually begun early in the season, some- 
times in mid-summer, so that when the active buying 

Buyers and Collectors. 93 

season begins, a single fur firm of New York, Chicago, 
Detroit, or elsewhere has a large number of buying agents 
who are well established business men. Such buying 
points are distributed so that trade will be drawn from 
every county. This system makes a bad condition for 
the traveling agent who is employed to buy for fur houses 
who have no agencies. The field is so well taken up by 
agencies who buy on contract or commission that the 
traveling buyer is left but few places to visit. It has 
driven quite a number ofif the road or at least prevented 
them from even starting out. 

These contracts are only binding for one season and 
must be renewed yearly. It frequently happens that one 
who has acted as agent for a certain house one season, 
makes a contract to buy for a different house the next 
season, depending upon the terms offered and what sort 
of experience was had with the former engagement. If 
the treatment was not deemed satisfactory, the contract 
to buy furs the coming season is made with another 
firm, or the grievances may have been so many and fla- 
grant as tO' cause disgust with buying on a commission 
contract and hereafter they will buy on their own account. 

Fur collectors of the North and Northwestern wilds, 
where there are nO' railroads, operate with boats when 
the lakes and streajns are open and in winter with dogs 
and sledge, just as in the old days. If operating on Hud- 
son Bay territory, the purchases are largely secured from 
the Indians. These small collectors cut into the trade 
and are a source of annoyance for the old company. To 
discourage them as much as possible, the Hudson Bay 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Company will not sell supplies to the small trader or 
assist him in any way. 

In a measure the Hudson Bay Company have the 
equity in the case, for they stake the Indians with needful 
supplies in advance of the fur catch, trusting them to 
bring in their furs in payment. If they sell to the outside 
dealer (known as Free Traders) the chances are that the 


Sndian who has received such supplies will continue in 
debt to the company. At the best, he usually owes them 
the year round. 

The small or outside trader has found here, that by 
giving a little more for furs and more goods in trade 
than the Indian has been used to receiving, will induce 
him to put honor and obligation to the Hudson Bay Com- 

Buyers and Collectors. 95 

pany aside. Those who have had much experience in 
the handhng of furs have found others than Indians that 
do not always Hve up to agreements. 

Years ago Revillion Freres Trading Company, Lim- 
ited, estabhshed fur trading posts throughout Northern 
Canada. Many posts of this and the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany were within a few rods of each other sO' that strong 
competition has been the result at such posts. The Re- 
villion Freres Company has about a hundred trading 
posts in Canada and the Hudson Bay Company some 
three hundred. Neither company controls or owns the 
exclusive right to trade or buy furs of Indians and other 
hunters and trappers so that there are many independent 
buyers (called Free Traders) who buy where there are 
Posts as well as elsewhere in Canada. 

When furs are in great demand, the strife between 
buyers is terrific, as each endeavors to secure the most 
furs. If opportunity is presented to crush a competitor 
it is done without the slightest compunction of conscience. 
As one buyer expressed it : 'Tt is a case of dog eat dog." 

The above expresses boom times, conditions when 
any amount of capital is in sight and the speculator is 
hungry for furs, all he can get and pay for, at least. But 
let depression occur, so that the made up articles of fur 
do not sell or the world's market has been destroyed, 
then the great army of fur speculators with their branches 
and big resources as quickly halt and sink from view. 



BUYING. — The inexperienced buyer will have more 
difficulty in buying the late caught furs than with 
any other. The early caught will turn blue and 
"speak for themselves," as a rule. Opossum is an 
exception and even when caught early and with little 
or nO' fur, the pelt may appear prime. With ''springy" 
furs you will have more or less trouble from the first 
of February; fox, coyote, wolves may be rubbed, coon 
and skunk are shedding and also become thin pelted; 
mink are shedding and have lost their best color. When 
badly rubbed or shedding it is easy to tell, but with furs 
that have only begun to shed is where the inexperienced 
lose out. During the spring months, nine times out of 
ten', the market is a declining one and in addition to furs 
being graded hard, prices generally tend lower each week. 
The water animals — otter, beaver, muskrat are at their 
best during the spring months and as a rule do not de- 
cline at this season of the year like the land animals. 
Bear is another animal whose fur is best during the 
spring months and even into June in the northern local- 

Trappers and fur catchers often have poor memories 
and some deliberately lie as to time a certain pelt or pelts 
were caught. A buyer that has had much experience 
can tell pretty close to the date. Suppose it is early in 

Buying and Selling. 


98 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

December that a buyer is looking at a trapper's or fur 
hunter's catch. Certain skins are blue indicating that 
they have been caught for weeks — probably latter part 
of October. The buyer calls attention to these skins, 
saying they are early caught. While the fur owner need 
not tell when caught they are pretty apt to say that the 
first pelt was taken on a certain night only a week or 
two before. The experienced buyer knows better and if 
a good trader generally buys the furs graded down to 
where they belong. It is not advisable to dispute date 
that the owner says they were caught but show him the 

During my first years at buying I recall the follow- 
ing: On October 9th I had some business in a little 
town some fifteen miles away. Some five miles before 
reaching the village I passed a house where a medium 
coon and skunk skin (both fresh) were stretched and 
hung up to dry under a shed. About five weeks later, 
when I had begun to buy furs, I called on the party where 
I had seen the two skins. He had those two and several 
others as well which had been caught since. The coon 
was graded to No. 3 and the skunk, which was a short 
stripe, to No. 3. The owner wanted those skins to grade 
better. I told him that I presumed they had been caught 
about October 10. (I was pretty sure they had been 
caught on the night of the 8th). Oh, no! he replied, 
there is not a skin here that was caught until after No- 
vember I. 

I took the two skins and laid them by some recently 
caught and had no trouble in buying them graded where 
they belonged. 

Buying and Selling. 99 

Throughout the Central West and Northwest trading 
in dealer's lots is usually flat, regardless of size or color, 
also allowing a small per cent of blue pelts on such 
articles as skunk, civet, opossum, coyote, wildcat, musk- 
rat and ermine. Higher priced furs such as mink, fox, 
raccoon, otter, beaver, marten, etc., are graded first as 
to primeness of pelt, then as to size, grading into three 
sizes — ^ large, medium, small. The prime skins are as- 
sorted separate from the unprime. 

In the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota, Dakotas and other parts of the Northwest, 
skunk are practically all long and narrow stripes so that 
a buyer soon learns how an original lot of skunk from a 
certain locality will grade out. 

Sometimes a collector can profit by selling skunk to 
one house, mink to another, fox to another, rats to an- 
other, etc. The reason for so doing being, that the re- 
spective wants of the various houses or taking chances 
on London sales, causes them to give a liberal assortment 
and advanced prices. As a rule, however, it is policy to 
sell collections in original lots, that is, as bought. 

Selling. — Some may ask how the countfy^jur 
buyer makes any money after spending his time and keep- 
ing a team or an auto in repair while he drives around 
over rough roads and pays outside prices for furs coupled 
with assortments that are much too liberal. 

The question is not so difficult to answer as may be 
thought. The wise collector of furs keeps accumulating 
until he has a large bunch. Representatives of strong 
fur firms are out and hunting for good sized collections 
and he who buys a lot of seyeral hundred dollars' worth 

loo Fur Buyers' Guide. 

does not expect to secure it at actual quotations. He 
either offers special prices or if not able to do that, as- 
sorts the lot in a most liberal way and after figuring up 
at his limits, frequently adds 5% or more to his figures. 

The shrewd country buyer keeps account of all his 
purchases so that his book shows him at all times what 
he has paid out to the cent and the exact number of furs 
on hand of every kind. When he comes to sell he 
prompts the visiting buyer when he sees any sign of 
failing to be liberal in grading. Considerable bluffing 
enters into the transaction and if he finally sells, you can 
safely wager that with liberal grading and percentage 
added he has secured the last dollar that gab, bombast, 
feigned independence and indifference could achieve. 

Bluff, banter and an independent mien and some- 
times deceit is practiced and every trump card played to 
induce the traveling raw fur buyer to write a bigger 
check than the lot is worth. 

When the deal has been made and to the satisfaction 
of the country buyer who sold, can you not see how he 
makes some profit, regardless of his liberality when he 
bought of the trappers ? 

To be lofty, arbitrary and dignified is a leading char- 
acteristic in the experienced local raw fur collector when 
he tries to sell his holdings if the market has been excited 
or advancing and traveling buyers are numerous. He 
is often too shrewd to commit himself in any way. If 
asked how much it will take to buy his collection he will 
not set a price for fear he will not ask enough. He 
merely answers, ''Go ahead and look at It and give me 

Buying and Selling. ioi 

your offer and I'll tell you mighty quick whether you get 
it or not." 

When the offer is made, if it happens to be more 
than he expected, he conceals his surprise and putting on 
a look of disappointment mingled with contempt for the 
agent and his small offer, demands a figure considerably 
above the offer. If the goods are nice and furs are in 
good demand, the owner frequently succeeds in securing 
a compromise, or split, between the high figure demanded 
and the original offer. Such an excess over valuation as 
this, when obtained, is all clear gain; we may say and 
rightly, that it is a gift and unearned. 

Fur buying is largely a gamble and selling full of 
bluff as a game of poker, under a condition of high 
prices and an advancing market. When important fur 
markets of the world have been lost by a great war or 
business depression or unseasonably warm weather has 
occurred, then all confidence and independence and bluff 
formerly accompanying the selling of furs, is not seen. 

This chapter is intended to show up some of the 
methods practiced in fur buying and selling not often 
mentioned. It is to reveal the strife among competing 
buyers and the length to which some go who are greedy 
and make the handling of raw furs not only a speculation 
but a gamble as well. 

We can hardly brand it as dishonest to sell our furs 
as high as possible so long as deceit is not practiced. The 
trapper gets liberal assort and outside prices from us and 
we feel that we must sell in the same way to get any 
pay for our trouble. 

The most money is made on furs, as a rule, when 
prices start moderately low at the beginning of the raw 


Fur Buyers' Guide, 



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Buying and Selling. 103 

fur season. If prices are low or even conservative, the 
chances of prices advancing while goods are on your 
hands, are far better than when prices paid were high. 
As prices usually do start at moderate figures and ad- 
vance slowly for a few weeks, the bulk of profits secured 
for a season are made before the holidays or at the first 
big "clean up." 

Early Collections. — The continual rise of prices 
renders a collection more valuable each day and piles up 
the profits. Another way that money is made on autumn 
furs is that some skins purchased as No. 2's or blue 
pelts, sell for prime or No. i, because they were not suffi- 
ciently unprime to be readily noticed by the big dealer 
while hurriedly assorting. In order to please the fur 
owner he also makes every slightly unprime skin a No. i 
that he dares and not get called down too hard by his 

In certain years mink which were purchased in No- 
vember at a fair price have sold at one dollar rise each 
per skin six weeks later. This is a good fat profit for the 
country buyer and covers all unwise and overly liberal 
deals he has made and leaves a good margin of profit 

After mid-winter when mink are becoming lighter in 
color and no further rise in prices can be expected, there 
is practically no room for speculation and profits are 
generally small. What I wish to impress upon the buyer 
is, that he should endeavor to collect all the furs he pos- 
sibly can, just as soon as the trapper has accumulated a 
bunch and will sell during November and the first half 


I04 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

of December. Then prices are often the lowest of the 
season and fall collections are the heaviest. 

When the fall and early winter catch has been made 
and sold, the catch after that is much smaller and in 
some sections there will hardly any be caught because 
they do not exist. In cold regions winter largely curtails 
the trapper and fur hunter's movements. 

So if you are going to buy furs, get out after them 
early and travel fast and work hard. You can rest a 
plenty a few weeks later. No matter how much capital 
you may have, it will be useless when your competitors 
have picked up part of the furs and the boys have shipped 
the rest. 

Furs Brought In. — After you have become estab- 
lished as a buyer, some furs will be brought to you. 
Then is when opportunities will come to buy for what 
furs are worth. Not in all cases, for some fur owners 
drive the hardest kind of a bargain always. But as a gen- 
eral rule, you can buy furs or anything else nearer to 
what it is worth, when it comes to you, than when you 
are obliged to go after it. When you drum up trade, 
he who owns the goods, thinks you are anxious to have 
furs in your possession and so acts independent to get a 
big price. 

If you live in the colder latitudes a good many skins 
will come in green and frozen which must be thawed and 
placed on boards. Sometimes mink are brought in un- 
skinned and frozen. These should be bought at a price 
low enough to pay you well for thawing out and skin- 
ning. Usually the owner expects such deduction will be 

Buying and Selling. 105 

You will find cases where you can never buy at a 
reasonable price from certain individuals. They seem to 
want it all, market price and profits, too. Some buyers 
steer clear of the inordinately greedy fur owner. It 
does not pay to banter half a day or more and not trade 
or else make a bad deal. There are other instances where 
too big demands are made because the fur holder is not 
ready to sell. Where this sort of fellow exists do not 
crowd him. Make your offer and then let him alone for 
a few days. He must sell somewhere and you do not 
want the fur if it can not be bought right. Every week 
that he holds his unprime furs they will look worse and 
more unprime and presently he comes across and informs 
you that you can have that fur now at the price you 
made him some days ago. 

Now and then a pelt will be found that although 
primcy has no fur. Either mange or some obscure ail- 
ment has weakened the victim so that there was not suffi- 
cient strength to produce the winter coat. Such a pelt 
is worthless. Some skins are offered that have been 
badly bitten by dogs or thickly peppered with shot. Such 
damaged furs must be bought according to how much 
damaged. A mink with head and shoulders shot away is 
termed a "piece" at raw fur centers and the returns sel- 
dom exceed a dollar. 

Shipping. — There are certain times when traveling 
fur buyers keep off the road — when the market is in bad 
shape or the country rather bare of fur collections. Then 
you may find it necessary to select some good fur firm 
and ship your collection. But by all odds it is preferable 
and most profitable to sell large lots to a traveling buyer 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

whose prices and assortments are satisfactory when he 
visits you at your home. 

If you ship, keep flesh-out pelts together and those 
fur-out together, mink and other small skins should be 


(1) Lynx, nose to tail, 40; greatest width, 10^/^; shoulders, 9 inches. 
(2) Lynx, nose to tail, 38; greatest width, 10%; shoulders, 9 inches. 

(3) Cross fox, large, length nose to root of tail, 39; greatest width, 
9%; shoulders, 8 inches. 

(4) Red fox, large, length nose to root of tail, 41; greatest width, 
9^4; shoulders, 8 inches. 

packed in bundles of six to a dozen and tied together. 
It is also well to wrap them in a strong paper before 
sacking them. Shipments should fit the sack snug so 
that there is no tumbling around when the sack is handled. 
If the sack is too large, rip it from top to bottom, lap it 

Buying and Selling. 107 

about your package snug and sew it with sack needle and 
sack twine. Place your name and address on a tag or 
card and put inside your furs besides the tag attached 
outside after being sewed up. Always write a letter and 
send when you ship notifying the receiver of your ship- 
ment and state the number of skins contained in it of 
each kind, also state if you want your goods to be kept 
separate from other furs until you accept or reject their 

Never crowd valuable skins into a sack with other 
furs, for when rumpled and doubled up any way to get 
them in, they arrive at destination mussed and wrinkled 
and such a shipper does not receive the best returns. We 
must bear in mind that attractive appearances count as 
much in selling furs as does intrinsic worth and this 
holds true in all our dealings and in social life. 

In some raw fur seasons conditions are such that in- 
dications point to higher prices later on. Do dealers and 
exporters in the fur centers tell in their circulars and 
price lists to hold collection or do they urge you to ship 
at once? Many dealers seem to think that not only the 
trapper but small collectors as well, are in business to 
enable them (the dealer) to get rich. 

If furs are to be higher later in the season it is per- 
fectly right for the trapper and country fur buyer to hold 
and sell when the market is higher. Of course, no one 
absolutely knows the future of the market but during 
years when business in general is normal they can form 
a pretty fair idea. Occasionally a dealer takes a chance 
and buys on an anticipated advance which does not come, 

io8 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

but usually prices and information sent are made up for 
the sende/s benefit and not the seller's. 

Exporting. — Now and then a country collector 
gets the idea that there is more money made by exporting 
than to sell to either a traveling buyer or ship. Occa- 
sionally the exporter does well, but there is an old saying, 
"Export all your furs and go broke." The charge of 
London commission merchants is 6% to sell, besides the 
expense of insurance, handling and freight or express so 
that on light furs it costs about io% while on heavy and 
cheaper goods, such as beaver, otter, coon, skunk, opos- 
sum, bear the cost may be as much as 12 to 15% from 
some points. 

If the market is at all active just before closing dates 
for goods to be shipped for the winter sales, dealers and 
exporters generally "buck" one another so thai the seller 
is able to get all his goods are worth. This is supposing 
that he has a large lot on hand and traveling buyers 
visit him, or that he has been in business long enough to 
know the best houses to send furs to. 

Some Canadian wholesale houses in Victoria, Van- 
couver, Winnipeg, etc., make a practice of receiving furs 
for sale on 5% commission. On receiving one or more 
lots they notify all buyers in the city that they will receive 
bids on a certain date. In this way, when the market is 
active, the seller gets full value which, after deducting 
commission, means more money than consigning, accord- 
ing to certain large trappers and small collectors. Of 
course only lots of some size (at least $100) can be 
handled to best advantage. 

Buying and Selling. 109 

There are many good firms in the larger Canadian 
cities that treat shippers fairly, but like handlers of furs 
on this side of the boundary, there are those who do not 
treat shippers as they should. 

World's Catch. — The value of the world's catch 
of raw furs is around $100,000,000, based on estimates 
made by Mr, Brass, who devoted considerable time to 
gathering statistics. According to his figures the yearly 
value, based on three years — 1907, 1908 and 1909 — was 
as follows : 

North America, about $24,000,000 

South America, about 2,000,000 

Australia, about 6,000,000 

Europe, about 24,000,000 

Africa, about 2,000,000 

Asia, about 26,000,000 

According to the same authority the yearly catch of 
the various fur animals in North America for 1907, 1908 
and 1909 averaged as follows : 

Muskrat or musquash 8,000,000 

Skunk 1,500,000 

Opossum 1,000,000 

Mink 600,000 

Raccoon 600,000 

Fox, red 200,000 

Fox, gray 50,000 

Fox, white 30,000 

Fox, cross 15,000 

Fox, blue 6,000 

Fox, silver 4,000 

Fox, kit 4,000 

Weasel (Ermine) 400,000 

Marten 120,000 

no R Bu\ 

Civet Cat 100,000 

Lynx and Wild cat 90,000 

House Cat 80,000 

Beaver 80,000 

Prairie Wolf 40,000 

Timber Wolf -. . 8,000 

Otter 30,000 

Badger 30,000 

Bear, Black 20,000 

Bear, Brown 8,000 

Bear, Grizzly 1,200 

Bear, White 400 

Fisher 10,000 

Wolverine ■ 3,000 

The approximate average of the world's production 
yearly for the three years, 1907, 1908 and 1909, exclusive 
of skins used by the natives, hunters and trappers for 
supplying their own needs, was as follows : 

Bears — Wihite. Polar regions, Asia and Europe, 
600; America, 400. Grizzly, American, 1,200. Brown, 
American, 2,000; Asia, 6,000. Black, American, 20,000; 
Asia, 1,000. Common Brown, Asia, 3,000; Europe, 2,000. 

Beaver. American, 80,000; Asia, 1,000; Europe, a 
few skins only. 

Nutria. South America, 1,000,000. 

MusKRAT. America, about 8,000,000; Russia, 3,000. 

Chinchilla. South America (Peru and Bolivia) 
12,000. Bastard Chinchilla, Bolivia, 3,000; Chili, (South 
America) 25,000. 

Badger. Europe, 100,000; America, 30,000; Asia, 
Japan and China, 30,000. 

Squirrel. Siberia, 15,000,000; China, 500,000. 
Squirrel-Tails, Siberia, 73 tons ; China, 2 tons. 


Fox — Red. North America, 200,000 ; Siberia, 60,- 
000; Russia, 150,000; Mongolia, China and Japan, 50,- 
000; Australia, 30,000; Western and Central Asia, 50,- 
000; Norway, 25,000; Germany, 250,000; other Euro- 
pean countries, 350,000. Karganer Fox, Siberia and Cen- 
tral Asia, 150,000. Cross Fox, America, 15,000; Siberia, 
3,000. Gray Fox, North America, 50,000. Kit Fox, 
North America, 4,000; Central Asia, 60,000. White Fox, 
Asia, 70,000; America, 30,000; Europe, 5,000. Blue 
Fox, America, 6,000; Siberia, 4,000; Northern Europe, 
1,000. Silver Fox, America, 4,000; Siberia, 300. Japan 
Fox (raccoon dog), Japan, 80,000; China, 150,000; Ko- 
rea, 30,000. South American Foxes, Pampas Fox and 
Patagonian Fox, total about 15,000. 

Hamster. Germany, 2,000,000; Austria-Hungary, 

Hares — Polar. Siberia, about 5,000,000; North 
America, 200,000. 

Weasel (Ermine). American, 400,000; Siberia, 
700,000; Europe, 10,000. 

Polecat (not Skunk or Civet Cat). Germany, 60,- 
000; Russia and Siberia, 150,000; other European coun- 
tries, 80,000. 

Fisher (Pekan). America, io,oco. 

Rabbit, Coney. France, 30,000,000; Belgium, 20,- 
000,000; Germany, 500,000; Galicia and Russia, 1,000,- 
000; Australia, 20,000,000. 

House Cat. — Germany, 120,000; Holland, 200,000; 
Russia, 300,000; other European countries, 150,000; Asia, 
China and Japan, 150,000; America, 80,000. 

112 Fur Buyers Guide. 

Kolinsky. Siberia, 150,000; Manchuria^ 50,000; 
China (weasel) 500,000; Japan (mink) 200,000. 

Lynx and Gray Wildcat. America, 90,000; Asia, 
30,000; Europe, 10,000. Wildcat (other than gray) 
South America, 10,000; Asia, 40,000; Europe and West- 
ern Asia, 10,000. 

Marten — Hudson Bay Marten or Sable. America, 
120,000; Siberia, 70,000; China, 20,000; Japan, 5,000. 
Baum Marten, Europe, 180,000; Northern Asia, 30,000. 
Stone Marten, Europe, 350,000; Northern Asia, 30,000. 

Marmot. Asia, 4,550,000; America, 30,000. 

Mink. North America, 600,000; Russia and Siberia, 
about 40,000; Europe, a few. 

Otter, Land. America, 30,000; Asia, 55,000; South 
America, 5,000; Africa, 500; Europe, 30,000. Otter, 
Sea, Northern Pacific, 400. 

Opossum.. Australia, 4,000,000; America, 1,000,000. 

Persian and Black Lambskins. Central Asia, 
Persians, 1,500,000; Broadtails, 100,000; Russia and Cen- 
tral Asia, Astrakhan, 1,000,000; Crimean, 60,000; Schiras 
and salted skins, 200,000. 

Raccoon. North America, 600,000. 

Fur Seals. Alaska, Northern and Southern waters, 

Skunk. North America, 1,500,000; South America, 

Civet Cat. North America, 100,000. 

Wolverine. North America, 3,000; Siberia, 4,000; 
Europe, 1,000. 

Wolf — Timber. America, 8,000. Wolf, Prairie, 


Buying and Selling. 113 

America, 40,000; Siberia, 10,000; China, 5,000; Central 
Asia and Russia, 6,000; Europe, 1,000. 

These figures are given for what they may be worth 
although it is well known that many species during recent 
years have been hunted and trapped so closely in various 
parts of the world that the annual supply is much less 
today. In fact some, such as grizzly bear and sea otter, 
are practically extinct. Muskrat, skunk, civet cat and 
raccoon are found in America only and nearly all mink 
and beaver as well are caught here, should be kept in 
mind by buyers and dealers. 

The rise and fall in value of certain furs, owing to 
the demand or fashion fancies, is in reality best for the 
trade. To illustrate, take mink which was a fashionable 
fur from 1906 to 1912 but gradually lost out and the 
price in 19.14, even before the war began, was less than 
half of a few years previous. By 1910 and 191 1 trap- 
pers began complaining that mink were getting very 
scarce. True, as no animal can long hold its numbers 
if persistently hunted and trapped. 

^ When black furs are in fashion, the brown and white 
fur bearing animals are not so persistently trapped ; if 
brown are in demand, then black and white are not so 
closely trapped; if white are in vogue, then black and 
brown are not so high and are trapped less. 

The Hudson Bay Company, when they had little or 
no competition, had the keeping up of the supply well ni 
hand. If a certain fur bearer was becoming scarce, or 
too closely trapped, price was reduced on that article. 
After two or three years, or when the animal had in- 
creased, prices were advanced. 



CHE smallest speculator in raw furs is the trapper 
who can muster a few dollars and invest them in 
furs which he usually adds to his own catch and 
sells them together. The caught furs generally 
pan out all right but the bought ones may lose him a part 
of his money unless he understands grading properly. 
If the little dabbler in furs with from twenty- five to one 
hundred dollars capital loses ten or fifteen dollars, it 
hurts him just as bad in proportion as a loss of thousands 
by the big capitalist dealer in furs. There are hundreds 
of small irregular speculators in raw furs. Some make 
a collection every season except when the outlook to make 
money is exceptionally bad. 

When furs are in strong demand some of these 
small speculators plunge into the buying field and put on 
prices of their own, regardless of quotations and give an 
assortment so out of reason in liberality that they can 
never hope to get their money back. The only way that 
they do see their money again is when they happen to 
sell to some reckless buyer who is determined to secure 
furs at some price. Such buying as this comes under 
the head of ''Wild Speculation." 

Practically all country buyers are speculators. Some 
of them have considerable capital at their command and 














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ii6 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

under normal conditions make a raw fur collection just 
as large as they can pay for, before they will sell or con- 
sider any offers on their holdings. There are two objects 
in holding furs a reasonable length of time. One is to 
rec^ve all the benefits of an advancing market and the 
othe:r is to acquire a good sized lot before selling for the 
reason that important buyers will bid stronger on a large 
collection of furs than they will on a small one. 

The established dealer in town who handles wool 
hides, pelts, tallow, raw furs and roots can not really be 
termed a speculator. He buys according to conservative 
quotations and such furs as are offered that are held at 
too high a price for present profit, he lets pass on to sonip 
one else. There are exceptions to the foregoing when 
the fur buying excitement in its contagion spreads and 
overwhelms the local dealer as well. Becoming affected 
by it similar to the frenzied special fur buyer, the former 
well rooted, steady-going, business man gets out of his 
rut and goes after the furs, instead of waiting for them 
to come along in little dribs when the country buyer has 
happened to miss a few scattering lots. 

The local hide man now makes a discovery. He 
finds that it is more difficult to buy furs at a reasonable 
price when you seek the owner at his home or camp than 
when he brings them in voluntarily. He thinks right 
away that the market must be booming or Brown, the 
dealer, would not come out from town and try to buy 
them. This feature, combined with the purchases of Mr, 
Country Buyer near by, the prices he paid and is paying 
and standing offers he has left all along, makes a pretty 
poor condition for the late comer. But Brown is an ag- 

Speculating. 117 

gressive man when aroused and he sa)/s, "I've got just 
as much money as your wild-eyed Country Buyer. I'll 
give you so much more than his offer." 

Brown picks up some furs in competition with the 
mad crowd at prices and on such assortments as to make 
the outlook for profits rather dubious. This local buyer 
usually picks up furs as they come along- and considers 
them a sort of side line to his general business. He sells 
regularly, let the profits be what they will ; he does not 
haggle and drive hard bargains or hold auction sales. 
But now that he has accumulated a bunch of furs that 
are far more costly than common, he decides to hold them 
awhile, hoping for a still higher plane of prices and in 
this resolve he also becomes a speculator. 

The many junk dealers throughout the country are 
largely handlers of furs, to some extent, but unless mak- 
ing special effort to make large collections of furs in com- 
petition with other buying forces, can not be termed spec- 

In years when furs are in good demand the little 
cross roads buyer is soon relieved of the few skins he has 
accumulated when the big country buyer comes along. 
If the owner of a few furs could hold them for a few 
weeks, they would often sell for more money, but unfor- 
tunately the money is needed immediately in most cases 
and the furs must be sold for what they will command 
as soon as dry enough to market. 

The large country buyer makes this his opportunity. 
He buys early of those who must sell and his greatest 
profit is made on the rise of furs purchased while prices 
are moderate. It requires money to buy furs and a large 

ii8 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

amount of it, to secure a small quantity, when the prices 
are high. The country buyer may possess considerable 
cash capital and yet if he is a good buyer and attempts 
to handle comparatively large lots, his capital will soon 
be tied up. If he is confident that it will be a good sea- 
son to make money, he is prompted to borrow money. A 
buyer of responsibility who can give security sometimes 
borrows $3,000 or $4,000 for three months or more as he 
sees a need of it. With interest to pay on such a sum, 
which is high for a short time loan, and being compelled 
to compete with other buyers, grant the most liberal as- 
sortments, pay top notch prices, it may be wondered how 
he can make any money. 

One way in which profits may be realized has been 
mentioned; that of buying the bulk of a collection early 
before excitement has raised values to the limit. The re- 
maining way is his policy of selling out on competitive 
bids, whereby he endeavors to work the prospective buy- 
ers up to an unnatural degree of eagerness that may 
cause them to temporarily lose their heads. As an in- 
stance of what strife between buyers will amount to when 
bidding on a good sized bunch of furs, we remember one 
case where the low bid was $1,350; $1,650 was finally 
paid, $300 more or 22 per cent added to the lowest offer, 
which was a fair price in itself. 

When furs are bought at highest market prices and 
under extremely liberal assortments, 10 per cent is a big 
addition and if any money is to be made at the time, 3 to 
5 per cent is enough to add to the actual figures. The 
reason that big percentages are added to actual values is 
that competition compels it. And then there always ex- 

Speculating. 119 

ists that fascinating hope of an advance in prices. As- 
suming that $1,350 represented the value of the furs 
mentioned and at that price would yield 10 per cent profit, 
which is low enough estimate, the percentage put on top 
of this by the one who secured the furs, added to the 
probable 10 per cent profit in the first offer, totals 32 per 
cent, $384 profit on an investment of about $1,200. It 
caused the buyer to remark exultantly, "I made money 
like hay that time." 

But the country buyer works hard. He makes long 
drives in the cold, often goes without meals and gets 
home long after dark and has a lot of furs to fix up be- 
fore he can retire for the night. 

Whether the large fur firms are speculators depends 
upon what disposal they make of their collections. If 
they have been shippers to Europe, entering their goods 
to be sold at auction, we may say they are speculators 
because they sell on the chance of making money. There 
are certain large buyers of raw furs who never enter any 
goods to be sold at the auction sales in Europe or else- 
where. They have a direct outlet to the manufacturing 
furriers and often are directly interested in such business. 
Such firms know exactly what they are going to do with 
their furs and very close to what their margin of profit 
will be. This is regular business and can not be called 

Such fur firms often purchase large lots of a certaui 
kind of fur from those concerns who buy to sell agam 
in the raw state. The article wanted may be skunk and 
if so, certain houses who hold large collections are com- 
municated with in a quiet or round-about-way so as not 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 








I— I 

I— I 













UJ .—I 

U3 03 


to r^ 

° In t^ 

co-O rt 
tn « 

3 w i; 
2 ""j: 

Spe^lating. 121 


to awaken suspicion that word of an advance in prices 
has been received. "What do you ask for the skunks that 
you have on hand for the four grades ?" is about the way 
their question is worded. Sometimes the owners do not 
tare to sell at present but if they do, the price they make 
to the inquiring firm is pretty sure to be above the market 
and not attractive unless a compromise can be made. If 
a price is agreed upon, it is usually contingent upon being 
able to agree upon the sort of grading the purchasers 

It frequently happens that speculators get caught 
with considerable quantities of furs on hand, when a sud- 
den break in the market occurs. Furs may really be 
worth no less but manipulation by those in control at the 
main trade centers, having forced prices down, all the 
lesser dealers throughout the country are victims of such 
action. Then there is a scramble to unload as quickly as 
possible before prices tumble still more. Perhaps no 
money can be made by selling at this time and is not 
expected, but they do endeavor to get out whole or with 
the least possible loss. If buyers do not call, they are 
sent for and the worst feature in selling on a declining 
market is that buyers are practically all alike. Their 
prices are about the same and there is no bidding against 
each other nor adding on percentages and every buyer is 
strict in grading. If traveling buyers are kept off the 
road by their respective firms the only recourse is to ship 
the fur in to them and be entirely at their mercy. 

When furs are in demand, buyers are numerous and 
money plentiful. But let a substantial break in the mar- 
ket come and all that great array of formerly anxious 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 



Speculating. 123 

speculators fade from view like dew before a July sun. 
When conditions improve they all flock back again with 
a good many new ones added to their ranks and former 
reverses are forgotten. 

In connection with speculating in furs, we feel it 
necessary to observe that honesty and fair dealing does 
not always prevail and tricks and hocus pocus are com- 
mon. As proof of it w^e need only repeat the instructions 
of a large raw fur house to each of its buying agents 
before starting out on the road, which are as follows: 
"You must be guided at all times by your own judgment 
subject to our instructions. You are not to be influenced 
one iota by w^hat a fur owner tells you he received for his 
last lot or what he can get now. You will sack up all 
furs yourself as soon as purchased and see that the count 
is correct. In some cases it will not do to leave a lot of 
partly assorted furs while you go to a meal. The assort 
may be changed in your absence, or some inferior grades 
substituted for a portion of those you have looked at. We 
'also forbid you to leave a lot of furs you have purchased 
to be shipped after you leave town. Your drafts are 
often paid before the goods arrive and unless you attend 
to shipping them yourself, we have no means of knowing 
whether we are receiving the same goods you bought or 
not. If such an irregularity in the deal exists or there 
is a shortage in the count, there is no redress. Sack all 
furs purchased at once. Sew up securely and attach a 
tag to each sack, giving them a running number, hence : 
Lot Xo. 10, Number of sacks 6, as the case may be. 
Place all purchases in the express company's hands and 
get a receipt and mail it to us at once together with a list 

124 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

of the furs and your assortment. If a lot is too small to 
warrant your missing a train while you attend to shipping 
the goods yourself, then do not buy them." 

One buyer for a large firm made the somewhat pes- 
simistic statement that in a sale of furs he would not 
trust his own brother. We are not so lacking in confi- 
dence as that. We have found many honorable men en- 
gaged in handling raw furs, but we do advise a buyer to 
be guided by his own judgment at all times and he must 
keep his eyes open for various tricks and fraud where 
he does not know the people with whom he is dealing. 

Perhaps it will be well to add here that many raw 
furs are sold to traveling representatives who call on the 
buyers and collectors in the New England states, New 
York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, In- 
diana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and to some extent 
in a few other states and parts of Southern and Eastern 
Canada. This method is followed mainly where furs are 
of good quality, railroads or other means of travel good, 
and collections of fair size are made by the town, village 
or country buyer. 

A traveling representative will come and examine 
lots of a few hundred dollars if on or near a railroad or 
the seller is a regular customer. When furs are in active 
demand numerous traveling buyers are seeking all large 
lots and even those of two or three hundred dollars value. 
There are far more dealers than is generally known in 
the states and parts of Canada named that collect several 
thousand dollars worth of furs each season, selling largely 
to traveling representatives from the leading raw fur 

Speculating. 125 

Fur buying, at best, is somewhat of a risky business. 
Those who sell every week or ten days are operating on 
the safest plan and when followed regularly is a good 
method of keeping accurately posted. 

Do not attempt to speculate on poor furs. There is 
some money to be made on furs that are a trifle unprime 
but there are no margins to be made in No. 3's and No. 
4's, the slightly furred and all hair pelts. The best No. 
2's that are only faintly bluish will sometimes go for 
prime skins when mixed in with prime furs in large lots. 
Remember, however, that a slightly blue pelt bought early 
is apt to get bluer the longer held unless weather is cold. 
Some country buyers begin collecting just as soon 
as there is anything caught, buying as cheaply as possible, 
often holding until January or February before selling. 
This method is followed more or less by country col- 
lectors also village and town dealers in the skunk produc- 
ing states of the East and Central West. 

Buying of muskrat for speculation is followed more 
or less in all parts of the country. The holding and shov- 
ing ahead of grades means great profit. 

Numerous buyers, even in small towns, advertise, 
send out price lists in quantities which often quote more 
than the market. Some of these are taking a chance on 
prices advancing; others expect to grade the goods 
"worth the money." 

The close observer of the best time to sell furs says 
that just before the closing date for shipments to reach 
the London January sales is best ; others say early Feb- 

126 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

ruary ; still others say latter part of December. February 
has often proved the month of highest values, yet serious 
breaks in value have taken place in early February from 
prices ruling in January. A review of prices paid for 
years back will probably show January the best month 
to sell. 

While speculating is done in all furs and in all parts 
of North America, yet skunk is the one article in which 
it is carried on most. Why? For two reasons, one being 
that the value of the yearly catch of skunk in America 
is greater than that of any other fur — even greater than 
all the foxes — black, silver, cross, red, gray, blue and 
white combined. The other reason is that skunk are 
classified not only as to primeness but stripe as well, thus 
offering an excellent opportunity, especially as many 
skunk are caught by boys and inexperienced men as to 
the actual value. 

Skunk is usually started off by the trade at the be- 
ginning of the season at much lower prices than the 
article is really worth and prices advance from time to 
time until they may be anywhere from 20% to 75% 
higher before the season ends. Of course, this article, 
like all others, does go lower from the price at which it 
opens at the beginning of the season but from 1890 to 
191 5, a period of twenty-five years, figures will prove 
that it advanced twenty times to where it declined five. 
In other words, the ''speculator" who bought and held, 
would have won twenty out of the twenty-five years and 
lost five. This is in the ratio of winning four times and 
losing once. 

Speculating. 127 

While other furs usually advance from opening fig- 
ures, due partly to the better quality of fur, yet the buyer 
who speculates has found it profitable more times than 
otherwise. One great danger to the buyer and holder 
of raw furs is holding too long. In late February you 
have shedders, rubbed, etc., to contend with. Even though 
your collection is prime goods when springs begin to ar- 
rive, it usually hurts the others as well, for not only is 
price apt to ease ofif, but the assort will generally be more 
severe. Sell when goods are still prime — mid-winter — 
is a good rule. 

Of course, water animals — otter, beaver, muskrat 
are prime, except in the South, until late in April. Bear 
is also prime until late May or even well into June in 
the more northern parts. A few dealers who sell some 
of their collection to manufacturers have found it profit- 
able to have tanned not only certain prime skins but those 
that are early caught and slightly blue pelts also late 
caught which will not bring full price in the raw state, 
but tanned, generally go in at full value. 

When furs are forced by speculators higher than 
actual values or market price, is a good time to sell. 
Trappers and dealers throughout the country want to give 
this careful attention and act accordingly. The demand 
now, late December or early January, we will say is good 
and prices high for nearly all kinds of raw furs. Is it 
not a good time to sell? An extremely cold winter with 
small catches might see prices stififen some on certain 
articles later. At the same time is it not reasonable that 

128 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

an open AA^inter, with heavy catches, and only moderate 
sales of manufactured goods, prices will be lower? 

Some years ago trappers and collectors held their 
furs until February and often profited by so doing. The 
conditions are often different now. Then skunk started j 

at about $i.oo for No. i and prices advanced. The same \ 

was true to a certain extent of other articles when the 
quotations were moderate, or low, at the beginning of 
the season. 

In the far North and parts of the Rocky Mountain 
states there is not as great an opportunity to speculate as 
in the more settled states. Northern and Rocky Moun- 
tain trappers are usually many miles from a town or rail- 
road so that they do not bring their catch in more than 
twice during a season and sometimes only once. The 
catch here include foxes — all kinds — lynx, mink, mar- 
ten, fisher, otter and beaver. 

Instead of dealers and collectors being speculators, 
as is the case elsewhere, in the parts of the country men- 
tioned, trappers are the speculators not so much from 
choice as from the fact that the oppportunity to market 
is not to be had. Usually they snow shoe to a trading 
post or some frontier village just before the holidays 
with their catch, which is apt to consist largely of fox, 
marten, lynx, mink and ermine. Taken year after year, 
this is a good time to sell, as values are quite often at 
their best then. The next sale is usually at the close of 
the trapping season and may be anywhere from April to 
June or even later, and includes not only fox, wolves, 
mink, marten, lynx, cats, fisher, ermine but otter, beaver 

Speculating. 129 

and muskrat. The water furs, otter, beaver and muskrat 

— they may be able to sell for full value but on the other 
furs prices have ''gone off" from mid-winter even though 
there has been no decline in actual market value. Thus 
it will be seen that the ''speculation" — necessary holding 

— by the trapper in the out of way places is to their sor- 
row. During recent years, those who are not too incon- 
venient to a post office have been sending out mail pack- 
ages of the most valuable furs and the ones most apt to 



PERHAPS fur handlers of the present time are inter- 
ested in values of former years, especially many, 
many years back. ''An Old Time List" is repro- 
duced in this chapter just as sent out by Mr. E. C, 
Boughton in 1879. At that time the writer was only eight 
years of age but remembers well his lists as sent out a 
few years later. Returns are a splendid guide to fur 
values and one of these, dated as far back as 1873, is 
herewith publish together with others in the 70's and 8o's. 

Prices in the 70's. — In looking over my files of 
fur sales of past years I came across the following which 
may be of some interest, writes a Massachusetts trapper 
and buyer, as far as a comparison of prices is concerned 
between those of some years back and those of the 
present day. 

On March 4th, 1873, I received the following returns 
from John G. Hayes, of Portland, Maine 

2 Fox, No. 1 

1 Mink, No. 1, Small 

1 Mink, No. 1, Medium 

1 Mink, No. 1, Large, dark... 

2 Coon, No. 1 

2 Coon, No. 2 

11 Rats, No. 1 





. . . 


. . . 








Prices of Long Ago. 


6 Rats, No. 1, Small. 
2 Rats, Kitts 




At a later date, that of February 8th, 1877, I find 
returns from Pember & Prouty, of West Broadway, N. 
Y., the following: 

2 Raccoon, No. 3 @ 

2 Skunk, No. 3 @ , 

2 Skunk, No. 4 @ , 

1 Weasel 

2 Rabbits @ . 

9 Marten, No. 1 @ 1, 

1 Marten 

1 Mink, No. 1 

1 Mink, No. 3 

1 Fisher, No. 1 > "*. , 

1 Fisher, No. 2 S. 

46 Muskrats @ 

12 Muskrats, Small @ 

15 Kitts @ 

1 Otter, No. 2 

9 Fox, No. 1 @ 1 

11 Fox, Ex. No. 2 @ 1 

4 Fox, Good, No. 2 @ 1 

2 Fox, Poor, No. 2 @ 1 

2 Fox, No. 3 @ 

2 Fox, No. 4 @ 

1 Skunk, Half Stripe • 







. . 






, , 


, , 


, ^ 


, , 


, , 








, , 

















In an account of sales received from the same party 
a month previous to this, best pale marten such as we 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Prices of Long Ago. 133 

get in this region (Massachusetts) were worth $1.50 for 
the best, and fisher skins sold for $14.00. On March 2d, 
1875, fox were selHng for $2.00, Marten $2.75, spring 
rats 30 cents. On another list, that of January 25th, 
1884, I find with other furs I sold four No. i mink at 
$1.50 each, also four small No. i at $1.00 each, one faded, 
75c, one No. 2, 75c. Again on March loth, 1883, No. i 
red fox sold for $1.65, No. i raccoon, 90c, No. i skunk, 

The lowest price at which I sold fox was during the 
year 1878, when I sold No. i skins for $1.35. I have 
saved all returns from sales since 1872 and find them 
quite interesting at times as regards the variation of 
prices on the different skins. 

An Old Time List. — The following is reproduced 
from a list dated October 15, 1879. The firm is no longer 
in business, but no doubt many will be interested in prices 
paid at that time, as well as the way the list is gotten up. 

I will pay the following prices, cash on delivery, for 
Raw Furs up to the 30th of October, 1879: 

Black Skunk Fall, 40 to 60 

Small Stripe " 30 to 35 

Wide Stripe " 20 to 25 

Mostly White " 15 to 18 

All skins very poor, with scarcely any fur on them, 
6 to 10 cents. 

Red fox from 25c for very poor to $1.00 for pretty 

Wood grey fox from loc for very poor to 30, 40 and 

134 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Fall muskrat, large ii, medium 9, small 7, kitts 3c. 

Otter skins from $4.00 for large, to 50c for very 

Mink from 8c for very poor to 20, 30, 40 and 60. 

Opossum from 2c for ''trash'' to 12 for large. 

Raccoon from 8c for ''trash" to 40 for large. 

Send in your skins as soon as you get a few of each 
kind together and I will assort them and send you a mem- 
orandum of prices and check for same on the day I re- 
ceive the skins, and will keep the skins just as I received 
them until I hear from you. If not satisfactory, you can 
return the check and I will return you the furs and pay 
the freight to this city myself and you can pay it at the 
other end. Send skins by express or some other quick 

I will send List of Prices when requested. 

Please drop a few lines and let me know if you are 
getting in any skins and give any other information you 
have. Also tell me if my prices are not fully as high 
as other quotations. 

Acknowledge receipt of this circular as soon as re- 

If you send me any skins, send this circular in your 

Muskrat, fox, mink, otter, opossum and wild cat 
should be taken off the animal whole and stretched out 
on a board about the shape of the animal and left to dry 
three or four days, when it will do to take off and be 
ready for sale. Raccoon skins should be cut open in the 
middle of the belly and nailed out on a board and left 

Prices of Long Ago. 135 

three or four days. No skins should be allowed to dry 
in the sun or near the fire. 

Pay the expressage at home, if possible, for I fear 
they overcharge sometimes at this end of the route. In 
case they will not receive it, send them without. 


No. 1 whole buffalo robes $7 . 50 

No. 2 whole buffalo robes 6 . 50 

No, 1 seamed buffalo robes 6.50 

No. 2 seamed buffalo robes 5 . 50 


Newhouse, No. 0, no chains $2.00 per dozen. With chains, $2.66 
Newhouse, No. 1, no chains, $2.25 per dozen. With chains, $3.12 
Newhouse, No. 2, no chains, $6.00 per dozen. With chains, $7.00 
Less 30% discount. ^ ^ Boughton, 

33 Howard St., N. Y. 

Prices of Furs in 1885. — Mr. M. J. Wood, a travel- 
ing raw fur buyer of many years experience and who 
operated largely in the state of Michigan, furnishes the 
following in connection with a lot bought in Southern 
Michigan January 3, 1885. Mr. Wood bought furs for 
about fifty years but owing to advanced age and ill health 
retired in 1913. 

January 3, 1885. 
Mr. M. J. Wood, 

Bought of L. D. Halsted, Coldwater, Mich. 
For Henry A. Newland & Co. 
Five sacks and two bales. 

3 Blk. Cat @ .20 $0.60 

4 Common Cat @ .10 40 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

1 Sampson Fox 

14 No. 
8 No. 

42 No. 
50 No. 
20 No. 
31 No. 

1 Coon 

1 Ord. Coon. , 

2 Coon 

3 Coon 

4 Coon 

4 Small Coon. 

52 No. 1 Large Mink 

19 No. 1 Large Pale Mink, 

47 No. 1 Med. Mink 

75 No. 1 Small Mink 

18 No. 2 Extra Mink' 

52 No. 2 Mink 

3 Mink 

4 Mink 

49 No. 
46 No. 

63 Blk. C Skunk 

1 Blk. Open Skunk. 
74 y^ Ord. Skunk... 

1 V-z Ord. Skunk 

37 N. St. Skunk 

47 Broad Skunk 

25 Unprime Skunk . . . 

7 Stagy Skunk 

















































Cost $311.41. Too High. 



Prices of Long Ago. 137 

Coon and mink are not desirable in quality at the 
cost in this lot. This same bunch of fur this season 
(1913) would bring over $1,200. 

Prices of Long Ago. — I always shipped to C. G. 
Gunther's Sons, at that time a very good and reliable 
firm. I send you herewith one of their statements for 
furs I shipper them in 1887. 

The statement referred to reads as follows : 

W. W. Hubbard, Monroe Co., N. Y. 

80 Muskrats, 2 fall $0.11 $8.80 

30 Muskrats, kitts 63 .90 

74 Skunk, 1 cased 1.25 92.50 

18 Skunk, 1 brown and woolly 1.00 18.00 - 

55 Skunk, 2 cased 75 41.25 

33 Skunk, 3 cased 40 13.20 

27 Skunk, 4 cased 20 5.40 

4 Skunk, scabs 03 .12 

2 Mink, 1 60 1.20 

1 Mink, 2 40 

2 Mink, scabs 10 .20 

3 Red Fox, 1 1.25 3.75 

6 Coon, 1. 80 4.80 

6 Coon, 2 40 2.40 

5 Coon, 3 20 1.00 

9 Coon, scabs 06 .54 

Off freight 2.75 

Check $192.19 

We enclose check for the above. We have allowed 
you full circular prices on skunk, but this article had de- 

138 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

clined 20% last week at the London ss(es, making with 
the decHne in June last, 15%, in all 35f/i? lower than one 
year ago. 

We shall send you our new circuU r tomorrow, quot- 
ing No. I skunk at $1.00. 

Respectfully yaars, 

C. G. Gunther's Sons. 

This old record should prove interesting to present 
day fur shippers, and if they are inclined to kick about 
present day fur values it will make them feel better to 
remember that in 1887 No. i mink were worth 60 cents 
and No i skunk $1.25. 

W. W. Hubbard. 



PRICE LISTS — Some large fur dealers send out 
prices that are much under the market. This is 
probably done so that their traveling buyers can 
more easily buy of dealers as they often allow their 
representatives to pay from 5% to 15% above quotations. 
Such houses seem to feel that it is best to protect the 
dealer trade and secure most of their collections through 
traveling buyers. 

Other firms, not having traveling representatives, 
send out prices from 10% to 15% above actual market 
value to induce shipments, expecting to make up for the 
inflated prices in the assort — an easy thing to do after 
the goods come in. The two illustrations show the ex- 
tremes. There are many firms that quote correct values, 
grade fairly and to whom shipments can safely be sent. 
The High Quoter. — This class of dealers are not 
only injuring the shipping trade but some at least have 
hurt themselves. How? By sorting so severe that re- 
turns were usually less than those quoting actual market 
values. There are others who start out quoting about 
correct values, but as some have raised skunk a nickel 
or quarter, they go them better and add more, which 
makes the article considerable above the market. Some 
think this is the only way to get shipments, when in fact 


140 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

it does little good and only causes the dealers to "buck" 
one another and later perhaps take it out of the assort- 

Trappers and shippers, in all parts of America, are 
learning to rely upon market quotations. When they 
receive prices i(X)%, 50% or even 25% above, they feel 
confident there is something wrong. If they ship any 
furs to the extreme high quoter they generally request 
same held separate and value submitted for approval. 

Sale Reports. — Some dealers and many trappers 
cannot understand hov^ it is that prices do not decline 
or advance more in accord with the reports sent from the 
London Sales. Exporters and large dealers know, as a 
rule, whether or not such an article is in demand and 
about what the results of the sales will be, the quantity 
offered as well, having something to do with prices. The 
advance or decline of most articles is anticipated (fore- 
told) by dealers so that most of the changes have been 
met or made in their prices. Watch prices of the various 
exporters and large dealers just before closing date for 
shipping to the sales. If demand is good prices are apt 
to be advanced ; if catch large or demand poor, prices are 
apt to be lowered to meet expected changes in price at 
the sales. 

Skunk, Mink, Muskrat. — Throughout most of 
America these fur bearers are found and the value of 
their pelts is as much as all the rest — foxes, marten, 
lynx, otter, beaver, weasel, bears, wolves, etc., combined. 
Not only the great value of skunk, mink and muskrat but 
the fact that they are caught and handled largely by boys, 

Miscellaneous Information. 


farmers, inexperienced trappers and bought more or less 
by this class before reaching the larger dealers, that so 
much detailed information is deemed advisable. This 
explanation is made especially for those in the far North 
and parts where foxes, marten, beaver, lynx, etc., are 
the principal fur producers. 

Throughout the states bordering on the Gulf of 
Mexico and north to the Ohio River also Arkansas, Okla- 
homa and Missouri, 
opossum is another 
article of consider- 
able importance and 
coon in the same 
states, even of greater 
value than opossum 
as they are found in 
good numbers much 
farther north. Civet 
cat is another fur pro- 
ducer of considerable 
worth to trappers and 
collectors, especially in 
the Central Western 
and Southwestern 

Worthless Skins. — So far there has been little 
demand for moles or ferrets. Both of these animals pro- 
duce a furred pelt. Brown weasel is variously quoted 
from worthless to five cents ; rabbit about one cent each. 
These four articles will no doubt some day become of 
enough value that the pelts will receive more attention. 

(1) FOX squirrel. (2) BELGIAN 

142 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Groundhog and American squirrels have no fur value, 
in fact, the pelts have no fur on them — only hair. 

Cased and Open. — As is pretty generally known, 
bear, beaver, badger and timber wolf should be handled 
open and other furs cased. Some of the cased skins 
should be turned as soon as dry as dealers prefer them in 
that condition, especially fox, coyote, marten, lynx, wild 
cat and fisher; raccoon may be handled either cased or 
flat ; otter and weasel either flesh or fur out ; mink, musk- 
rat, skunk and opossum should be flesh out. 

Handling Wet Fur. — How do you handle wet fur; 
that is, fur from animals that are drowned and which you 
skin immediately, such as mink, coon, civet cats and the 
like ? A good way after removing the skin from the car- 
cass is to take it by the nose and swing it to and fro, 
swinging it quickly as you would a whip to make it snap. 
Take care in whipping the skin to and fro that the tail 
does not tear oi¥. In treating the skin this way, you will 
be surprised to see how much water you can get out of 
it. Change and swing the skin holding it by the tail and 
hind legs. However, I would not recommend this treat- 
ment for very large skins. 

Clean and Unclean Furs. — What are unclean 
furs ? They are the ones that are fat, fleshy, mud in fur, 
burrs in fur or tail, smeared with blood, etc. Clean furs 
are free from all these. 

Does it pay to clean raw furs? Yes. Why? Be- 
cause they show the quality, look better, require less 
work, less chance of spoiling and less risk. Good, clean 
furs seldom spoil if properly cured, while unclean ones 

Miscellaneous Information. 143 

often do. Some lists say : "All furs must be well cleaned 
to be No. I." 

Up-to-date trappers realize that it pays to clean furs 
and their outfit includes three very important articles, 
namely : comb, brush, fleshing knife. 

Tails. — Tails of mink, coon^ skunk and civet cat 
often spoil. This danger can be eliminated by splitting tail 
the entire distance, same as done with otter, tacking tail 
out flat. Even with bone taken out (and this should always 
be done) a good many spoil, especially in warm or rainy 
localities. Tails are split before tanning these skins so 
it does not lessen their value. Fox tails should not be 
split but if the tip end were split, say a half inch, and a 
little salt jabbed in with a wire or strong stick is advis- 
able. Hang pelt head up so salty water will drip from 
end of tail. Do not put any salt on pelt. Other skins 
such as marten, fisher, wolf, can be handled same as fox. 

Fleshing and Curing. — A trapper and collector 
of many years' experience says : 'T have always found 
that it pays well to give furs the proper attention as 
thousands of dollars worth are ruined every year by im- 
proper fleshing and stretching. Furs with the flesh and 
fat on may cause the pelt to be damaged and often fur 
slips so that pelts of this kind will grade Nos. 2, 3 and 4. 

Get an old twelve-inch file, take it to a blacksmith, 
have him taper the front end to a point, same as the other 
end, so that a handle can be put on each. Now put on a 
grindstone and grind all the rough off on both sides and 
edges, leaving four edges. After all the roughness is 
off, grind so that each edge is sharp, then you have four 
edges to do the cutting. 

144 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Select a pelt of little value to practice on — an opos- 
sum is good — ■ as they flesh easier than most any other. 
Slip the pelt on the fleshing pole, then take two nails and 
drive through the ears into the pole. Drive only deep 
enough to hold the pelt from slipping down and so that 
they can be easily pulled out. Use the knife edgewise. 
Use a little elbow grease to start the flesh. After you 
once have it started you need not push very hard as it 
will go easy, but be sure to have all burrs and mud off 
the fur or you will cut a hole the size of the burr. Flesh- 
ing may seem a little awkward at first but don't get out 
of patience and it won't be long until you can flesh easily 
and rapidly. Muskrat will seem to flesh different from 
any other animal but they can be fleshed under the same 
plan with a little practice. Muskrat, however, except the 
thick pelted or with flesh and fat on usually do not need 
the knife. 

As soon as your pelts are fleshed they should be 
stretched. If they have to be left any length of time, 
turn them fur side out or they may shrink. After furs 
are stretched hang them up in a cool, dry place where the 
air circulates freely by leaving windows open. If they 
are kept in a closed room they will not cure well. Do 
not dry by a fire as skins so dried are brittle and crack. 

This outfit is intended for small animal pelts such as 
skunk, coon, opossum, muskrat and others. Mink, mar- 
ten, foxes, weasel and other thin pelted skins do not need 
fleshing. I have tried many different tools and ways but 
have never found anything equal to this outfit." 

Northern Furs. — In parts of the Far North furs 
do not reach market for some months after close of the 

Miscellaneous Information. 












H in 

C ^ 

r ^ 

5\! ^ 

-< I— < 


3> ►^ 






146 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

trapping season. Perhaps the following from an Ed- 
monton, Canada, paper showing date and number of each 
kind of fur brought in by a large trader will be inter- 
esting: ''D. Desjarlais, a fur trader of the Lesser Slave 
Lake country, arrived in Edmonton from the north by 
way ofAthabasca Landing on Friday, July 4, with his 
winter's trade of fur consisting of 1,051 marten, 243 
beaver, 57 bear, 109 lynx, 125 mink, 7 wolverine, 12 
cross fox, 15 red fox, i silver fox, 12 wolves, 29 skunk. 
133 ermine (weasel), 12 fisher, 10 otter, 7,190 rats, 18 
pounds of castoreum. These were sold the following 
Wednesday morning to the highest bidder for $12,000." 

Dealers' Calendar. — January. — All fur bearing 
animals caught in this month are fully furred. Will 
grade No. i unless damaged in some way. 

February. — Skunk, mink and marten, beginning to 
fade are still prime, but not so good in color as those 
caught in December and January. 

March. — Most all rats caught the first part of the 
month will pass as Spring, and average better sizes. 
Coon, mink, skunk, etc., are springy or shedding. 

April. — Beaver, bear, badger, otter and rats are 
fully prime. Most all the other animals are shedding. 
Some will grade as No. 2, others as No. 3. Unwise to 

May. — Otter, beaver, bear, badger are shedding. 
Most all animals are suckling their young. It's cruel as 
well as unlawful to kill them. 

June. — All furs now are called shedders and have 
little" or no value. It is against the law to kill them. Let 
them live and multiply. 

Miscellaneous Information. 147 

July. — Same conditions as in June, have no fur on 
them, have no value at all. It is both cruel and unlawful 
to catch them. Conform to the law. 

August. — All kinds of fur bearing animals caught 
this month will grade as unprime, being thin furred. It 
is unwise as well as unlawful to kill. 

September. — There is an old adage that every month 
with R in it has fur value. It is true, but the first and 
last, September and April, they have but little. 

October. — No fur bearing animals should be caught 
this month as they would only grade as No. 2, 3 or 4; 
it is unwise as well as unlawful to kill. 

Noz'ember. — Lawful to catch furs. Fore part of 
the month furs will grade mostly No. 2. Latter part of 
month Nos. i or 2, according to kind. 

December. — Most all furs caught in December are 
fully prime, of good color, except beaver, bear, badger, 
otter, muskrat, which are best in the spring months. 

Scheming. — Some skins In a certain locality are 
"pushed" by the large dealer into a section that is worth 
more. To illustrate : Central Ohio skunk, while quoted 
less than Northern Ohio, are' really worth as much, for 
the Central Ohio has the size, luster and quality of fur 
equal to the best or Northern. Most dealers realize as 
much for furs caught in the Central part as the Northern 
dealer gets for those caught in that portion of the state. 
This applies to several species of fur bearers in various 
parts of the country, but not to all. Neither does it 
apply to all states — Texas and California being among 
the exceptions owing to their size. In others the various 

148 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

climates owing to altitudes, which range from sea level 
to thousands of feet, mean considerable difference in fur 

Tricks. — It is a case of the "pot calling the skillet 
black," for there are trappers, buyers and sellers that will 
resort to mean tactics, practically stealing, to get more 
for their furs, yet they are all found out sooner or later, 
so that the old saying, "honesty is the best policy," holds 
good in the fur game as well as elsewhere. 

During my more than thirty years' connection with 
the trapping, buying and selling of raw furs, numerous 
crooked transactions have been witnessed and otherwise 
learned. One of the most common deceptions practiced 
in the east and central west, especially by trappers, is the 
tampering with white on skunk. Some cut out the stripe, 
sew up and when partly dry turn fur out. Again the 
stripe may be blacked ; others remove the white and draw 
the black fur and hair over the bare spot using some 
sticky substance underneath to cover up the defect; still 
others have been known to cut out the white strip when 
skinned, then turn the pelt fur out, not stretching but 
selling when frozen. 

If the fur of fox, wolf, coon, skunk, is rubbed, nine 
times out of ten, such pelts will be flesh side out. As 
these, with the exception of fox, are mostly handled that 
way, unless the buyer is on his guard, "one may be put 
over on him." Cotton mink and '^singed" otter are very 
apt to be offered the buyers flesh side out. 

Muskrat smeared with blood, to give the appearance 
of Spring rats, is also resorted to in some localities by 
those who wish to make "spring rats" out of those that 

Miscellaneous Information. 149 

belong a grade or two lower. Southern muskrat — largely 
Louisiana — sometimes find their way north where 
''somehow" they get mixed with other rats worth about 
twice as much. This trick was worked pretty strong 
some years ago. Louisiana and some other of the Gulf 
of Mexico state rats not only average small but the fur 
is short. Southern rats sent north is not apt to be prac- 
ticed except when they are high. At such times they 
have been found not only among village and town col- 
lectors's goods but in trapper's and country buyer's col- 
lections as well. 

Some fur handlers, not only trappers but collectors, 
are poor at figures and counting. Dishonest buyers have 
been known to work the "forgot to pack" trick on them. 
It is done as follows : Suppose that the seller says that 
he will sell for certain prices, which he names for the 
various grades on the different articles he has to sell. 
They should say so much for the entire lot of furs but it 
seems certain ones would rather sell on price and assort. 
The buyer assorts the goods and figures them up but in 
totaling ''forgets to pack" one, two or more, depending 
upon the size of the lot. Suppose the correct totaling of 
the lot is $340.60. We will say that the first column 
under dollars was totaled fifty. Instead of "packing" 
five, the buyer only ''packed" three, in which case, instead 
of $340.60 the total would show $320.60, or $20.00 less 
than the correct amount. Of course the seller could get 
some one to figure up for him later providing he kept or 
secured a copy of the assort. Then, if discovered, the 
buyer would simply say a mistake in "adding and pack 

150 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

A good many of the larger trappers as well as many 
country collectors like to have several buyers bid on their 
furs. A trick that I have known buyers to work on their 
competitors was to hand in a bid reading like this : "Pro- 
viding no bid is over $ , I bid 10 cents more than 

high man." While no business man would allow such 
methods, yet I have known it to be gotten away with. 

Northern vs. Southern Furs. — Many trappers 
as well as some country buyers and collectors in the' 
south, southwest and west do not realize the difference 
in quality of furs from those sections compared with 
farther north. This difference is more noticeable on 
skunk, mink, coon, wolf, opossum and other land animals, 
Beaver and otter hold up better than any of the other fur 
bearers. The muskrat from all southern localities is 
much inferior to those caught in central .and eastern sec- 

Not only is the fur longer, denser and of better 
wearing qualities but the pelts average much larger on 
most of the different animals and what perhaps is least 
known of all, the hide is thicker and stronger — hence, 
better in the north. Why such is the case can be ex- 
plained from the fact that where the fur grows long, 
thick and heavy it requires a thicker hide for the hair 
and fur roots. 

While it is hard to define a dividing line between the 
thin and thick pelt and fur sections, yet in a general way 
the ^fortieth parallel, which passes through Philadelphia, 
near Wheeling, W. Va., Columbus, Ohio, north of In- 
dianapolis, Ind., near Springfield, 111., through northern 
Missouri, the northern boundary of Kansas, north of 

Miscellaneous Information. 151 

Denver and through Colorado, then leaving the fortieth 
parallel and north along the western boundary of Wyo- 
ming and Montana. While some thick pelted skins are 
secured as much as a hundred miles south of the line 
mentioned they are from the mountainous and hilly parts. 
On the other hand, some thin pelts are secured north of 
that line. 

Manufacturers are mostly wise, too, about where the 
best pelts come, from and this accounts for dealers being 
able to pay more for furs from the best sections, namely, 
where the fur is long, heavy and the hide thick so as to 
turn out the best finished product. Manufacturers, 
dressers and tanners allude to pelts from the south as 
"soft," which means thin leather, thin underfur and tears 

Quality of fur is governed mainly by the weather. 
Altitude (height) don't make as much difference as many 
think. Along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast, 
where it is warm, furs are of poor quality but along the 
Atlantic Coast from New York north, where it is cold, 
furs are of good quality. Down around Southern Florida 
or the extreme southern parts of Texas or California 
coon caught during mid-winter, that is in December or 
January, may and in fact are often blue pelts. This is 
explained from the fact that the fur growth is short and 
the hide thin. Nature does wonders in providing a coat 
of fur and a suitable hide for the root growth of fur 
bearing animals in the various parts of the country. This 
accounts for the difference m value of the various skins 
for commercial use. 



SILVER FOXESy. — These foxes are found more often 
in the provinces of Canada than elsewhere yet they 
are found in Alaska and occasionally in some of 
the most northern states of the United States. The best 
specimens are the most valuable fur bearing animals on 
earth. With an increased number of wealthy individ- 
uals who demand costly furs, the preservation and prop- 
agation of animals which produce such furs, is becoming 
an absorbing enterprise. The supply of the better grades 
of fox as well as certain other wild furs is not adequate 
to meet the demand of recent years therefore hunters 
and trappers can not be depended upon to furnish suffi- 
cient quantities. In fact, unless breeding animals under 
scientific fur farming methods is followed, some valuable 
species are sure to disappear from earth entirely. 

Silver foxes in all their color variations are only 
chance colors of the common red, yet these valuable 
colors are only produced in the north. A black fox is 
merely a dark silver specimen, which may occur in a 
litter of pups from red parents. It is rather strange that 
a pair of silver foxes do not produce some red pups but 
experience has proved that silver parents breed silvers 
almost without exception. Realizing the tremendous pos- 
sibilities in fox breeding, as a money making venture, a 
large number of individuals and companies have gone 


Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 153 


(1) Red, length of body, 36; tail, 21^; width, 7% inches. 

(2) Cross, length of body, 35'/^; tail, I8V2; width, 7 inches. 

(3) Silver, length of body, 36 J^ ; tail, 18; body, 7% inches. 

154 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

into the business and some on a large scale. Most of 
such farms are situated in Eastern Canada, both on the 
mainland and several islands. In the years 1912 and 
191 3 more than $12,000,000 capital was incorporated and 
invested or held in reserve for fox breeding. More than 
7,000 red foxes and crosses were purchased for breeding 
purposes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince 
Edward Island. 

The market price of highest quality in black fox 
skins range from $500 to $3,000 but on account of the 
eager competitive demand existing to secure the best 
stock for breeding purposes, superior black foxes have 
sold for as high as $35,000 per pair. It can not be fore- 
told what effect increasing the supply of silver foxes to 
considerable numbers will have on market values; but if 
the supply is large, prices obtained in the past and at 
present can not be expected. 

A large amount of data is obtainable in regard to 
previous attempts at fox breeding. Much of this infor- 
mation does not concern the average reader because of 
non-success. Some of the failures resulted because of 
poor fencing, lack of warm, dry nests for the young, 
mothers not being separated by family pens from the 
other adult foxes and many of the pups were killed. 
Prices were not high enough to warrant continued and 
extensive experiments by those who possessed the neces- 
sary capital and enthusiasts usually lacked the means to 
make further investigations. But when prices advanced 
along in the 90's and woven wire fencing came on the 
market, all was changed. Former doubt and hesitancy 

Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 


gave way to optimism and capital to invest in Fox Farm- 
ing was abundant. 

Color Variations. — The prime object in silver fox 
breeding is to produce the darkest shades of color. The 
red fox is red on the back and white underneath with 

black ears and legs. The 
Bastard is red above and 
dark beneath the body 
land on the neck with 
darker points. An infe- 
rior cross fox is mainly 
red and dark above with 
silver patch down the 
back and over the shoul- 
ders and hips. A good 
cross is somewhat red 
on the sides, neck and 
ears, dark below and sil- 
very over the back and 
rum'p. Light silver is 
silvery all over except 
possibly the neck; is 
dark underneath and 
white on tip of tail. 
Dark silver is black all 
over except tip of tail which is white with some dark 
silvery hairs that are only noticed by close examination. 
Silver foxes produce the same colored young, never red 
or cross, except that an amalgamation of silver and red 
hairs sometimes occurs that is neither silver nor red but 
a sort of roan. Red foxes usually produce red but on 
occasions a litter will contain one cross or one silver pup. 

silver fox carcass. 

156 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

When silver and red are crossed the product is red 
pups with blacker markings than is natural in the red fox. 
These foxes are spoken of as "Bastards" by furriers. If 
a bastard is mated with a silver, the results are usually 
50 per cent of silver pups. Bastard reds have been known 
to produce one silver in a litter and sometimes dark 
enough to be termed black. Silver foxes are never alike 
in color unless black. In a collection of silver skins, it is 
seldom that any two will match very closely. One will 
have a white tip to the tail while another only shows a 
few hairs of white. Some have white patches on their 
legs or breast while the main coat is silver or black. 

Cross fox skins are of various colors and value. The 
darkest are hard to distinguish from the silver while the 
pale are only a few shades darker than the best red skins. 
Some very good red fox skins are secured from parts of 
Montana, the Dakotas, etc. On the other hand the cross 
secured there are generally quite pale and often coarse 
haired. Such skins are worth little, if any, more than 
the best grade of reds. 

Perhaps the illustration — Silver Fox Carcass — 
showing a good average size and color silver as caught 
by a trapper in Alberta, Canada, will convey the idea as 
to the relative shades from silver to cross, cross to red, 
remembering that the best shades of red are worth about 
as much as the poorer shades of cross. 

The Best Silver Fox. — A silver fox skin may pos- 
sess many faults. It may be blue pelted, when it is 
termed unprime, or it may be springy or it is rubbed in 
places, which, if only slightly rubbed, damages greatly an 

Poxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. i57 

158 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

otherwise valuable pelt. Some skins of valuable foxes 
have been poorly handled or damaged by dogs or badly 
shot or are greasy and heated. The best skins are black 
on the neck wherever silver hairs do not predominate. 
To be exact in our description, the color is a bluish black 
over the entire body and the under fur is of a dark shade 
also. The darkest of silver foxes have slate colored 
under fur that is dark to its roots. 

In the best skins only a few silver hairs appear and 
are evenly distributed throughout the coat. Softness, 
termed silkiness, determines the value as well as the color. 
There must also be gloss. It is caused by fineness and 
general physical condition of the animal and locality 
where it grew. A good, well furred silver fox skin will 
weigh a pound or more, even as much as 20 ounces. Size 
also is taken into consideration. The finest and most 
valuable silver foxes are probably found in Prince Ed- 
ward Island where fox farming is being carried on. 
However, few are killed by those engaged in fox farming 
except the culls and old ones. The fur here is prime in 
November but none are killed until December. A fox 
eight months old is full furred and as large as the old 
ones. The young fox has less silver than when three 
years old or more, but the fur of a young fox is usually 
softer on account of fineness than is found in the older 

Both silver and red foxes from Prince Edward 
Island have sold at the London sales for the highest 
prices, a fact that indicates their superiority. When 
black colors occur in any of these island foxes, they are 
usually possessed of exceeding fineness and luxuriant 

Poxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 159 

fur. The finest silver or black foxes held in captivity 

on tjae island came from ancestors that were dug out in 

the same territory. The silver and red foxes found in 

/Alaska in the regions of the Yukon and Athabasca Rivers 


These skins were bought by a trader in the Peace _ River Country 
of Canada, from trappers in the spring of 1914, but owing to the war 
brought only $3,200.00, as they did not reach ,the European market until 
fall. The pile on the ground are red fox skins. 

are often very valuable, the fur being long, heavy and 
lustrous. Some valuable skins are also secured from 
Quebec and other eastern provinces. 

When a black phase of color occurs in one of the 
pups of wild red foxes, the fur is usually of the finest 

i6o Fur Buyers' Guide. 

character and may command a small fortune. Silver 
foxes and their allies, the cross and patch foxes, inhab- 
iting Labrador and Newfoundland are heavy furred but 
somewhat coarser than those found elsewhere. It is be- 
lieved that the sea breeze here affects the fur but as the 
finest furred foxes are produced on other islands of the 
sea, the above theory does not appear reasonable. 

Much must be known in order to grade silver or 
black foxes for what they are worth. A lack of such 
knowledge may be very costly. A Michigan fur buyer 
once found a supposed black fox pelt in the course of 
his travels. The price asked was $i,ooo. He finally 
secured it for $700. In time he sold it for $40 and the 
purchaser was also beaten for it was only a dark red bas- 
tard fox and was worth about $10. 

No silver or black foxes are found in Southern and 
Central United States and are not numerous in Northern 
parts. The cross fox is more common and instead of 
being marked with red, black and silver like those in a 
far northern range, they are mostly red all over, except 
that a stripe several inches wide, almost black, crosses 
the shoulders and another starting from the scalp crosses 
the other in the center and extends well down the back. 
Of course markings vary in different foxes and scarcely 
any two are exactly alike but often differ materially. 

In purchasing fox furs the buyer must ever be pre- 
pared for fresh surprises in the matter of quality and in- 
dividual markings such as he has never seen before. 
This relates particularly to the different variations in 
silver, cross, patched and bastard foxes. The grading 
of straight red foxes is a simple matter compared to 

Foxes — Black^ Silver^ Cross, Arctic. i6i 

handling and appraising foxes of various color phases, 
mixtures or blends. 

Final Value of Silver Fox Fur. — Silver foxes 
of lov^ value are worth from $40 to $75 or $80 according 
to paleness and how well furred. Medium dark and fine 
will sell at $150 to $300. Dark and fine with luster, $500 
to $1,500 and choice black as high as $3,000. The major- 
ity run to pale and medium shades and often a whole 
winter will not see one black fox pelt taken in a wide 

It requires experience as well as expert judgment to 
be able to determine the value of the varying shades of 
foxes from red to cross, cross to silver and the many 
different shades of silver to the very best specimens 
which are black. Of course the quality of fur in such 
valuable skins must be exa^jiined as well as the color con- 
sidered. Size also is a factor in determining values when 
a pelt is being examined that is worth hundreds if not a 
thousand or more dollars. 

The three pelts shown on page 153 vary but little in 
size or primeness. The first is an ordinary red secured 
in Central Canada sections and worth (191 5) about 
$6.00; middle one is a cross and worth three times as 
much or $18.00; the third is a silver but not very dark 
yet worth thirty times as much as the red or ten times 
as much as the cross or $180.00. 

Measurements of various raw fur skins are usually 
as shown, that is, if the fur side is out the figures indi- 
cate fur side ; if pelt side shown, measurements were 
taken on pelt side. Not only foxes but the measurements 
of various other furs are mostly taken on side as shown 


1 62 

Fur Buyers' Guide. 

in illustration. A skin measured on fur side must be 
larger (wider) before it classes large than if measure- 
ments had been taken on flesh or pelt side. 

"Arctic Foxes, Blue. — The blue fox ranges the 

more Southern latitude of the 
Arctic regions, rather between 
the habitat of the Arctic white 
fox and the land of reds and 
silvers. They inhabit Alaska, 
certain islands of the Behring 
Sea and other territory adjacent 
to the polar regions. 

Species and Color. — Both 
blue and white foxes are one 
and the same species. They are 
the polar or Arctic foxes, the 
only difference being phases of 
color. White is probably the 
natural color, as the number of 
blue fox skins secured are about 
one-tenth of the number of 
white pelts taken. The blue 
furred strain of the polar fox 
sells for $20 to $75, which is 
several times more than those of 
white fur command. The blue 
color in this fox is not an indigo 
or sky blue but more on the 
order of the blue seen in the 
fur of maltese cats. 

blue fox pelt. 

Large — Length nose to 
root of tail 35; tail 16; 
total 51; greatest width 11; 
shoulders 10 inches. This 
pelt represents an average 
large from the Blue Fox 
section which is Northern 
Alaska and Northern Can- 
ada including the islands 
in the Arctic Ocean. 

Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 163 

Sizes. — The average weight of the blue fox is 10 to 
13 pounds, live weight, though some specimens will weigh 
much more. The female weighs on an average of 7 to 11 

pounds. About 8 pounds may 
be said to represent the weight 
of the largest number. The 
average length of male blue fox 
skins when cured and ready for 
market is 30 inches and the 
width II inches at rump. The 
tail is 14 to 16 inches in length, 
making entire length nearly 4 
feet. The fur of the male is 
usually of better quality than 
that of the female and the fur 
of a male two or three years old 
is the choicest of all. 

White Fox. — The white 
fox occupies or lives in the polar 
regions ranging much nearer the 
pole than the majority of blue 
foxes. On account of a less 
food supply, it is thought the 
white species are smaller than 
the blue, which are better fed. 
The white fox in winter has a 
coat of clear white fur exter- 
nally, of good length, but the under fur is not so white 
but of a yellowish hue. They are white in winter and 
brown in summer on back and sides and a drab color 
underneath the body. 

arctic white fox 

Large — Length nose to 
root of tail 30; tail 15; 
total 45; greatest width 9; 
shoulders 8 inches. 

164 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Price of this fur has been low compared with the 
blue variety. Trappers have never made any great effort 
to catch white fox owing to its value. A change in fash- 
ion summer of 191 5, when white furs were worn around 
the fair sex neck caused this article to rise in value. 
White fox, however, is one of uncertain value as the 
uses to which it is put are constantly changing owing to 
the peculiar furry fancies for white furs. 



CHE RED FOX — RANGE. — Alaska, Canada, its 
islands and practically all of the United States are 
inhabited by foxes. Aside from the common grey 
and kitt fox, all other foxes are red or of that 
species in chance colors and numerous variations. Freaks 
of color in the red fox are not common in the United 
States but occur often in Canada, Alaska, Labrador and 
other sections of the far North. As red is the prevailing 
color, our purpose is to discuss that natural coloring 
alone, only making such departure as is necessary to men-r 
tion the several shades of this, so called red, production 
in foxes. 

Naturalists have divided the red fox into at least 
five sub-species. Different strains might exist in the 
same breed of foxes or other wild animals just as they 
do in domestic animals or poultry but it is only fair to 
assert that any difference as to size, color and quality of 
fur in the red fox must be assigned to location in a 
geographical sense, character and quantity of food ob- 
tained, together with the survival of the strongest in a 
particular type ; but after we are through speculating, the 
red fox of Alaska and the red fox of Southern United 
States are one and the same as regards species. If we 
should plant a Northern climate with red fox stock from 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

South Carolina, a few generations in the Northland 
would bring out a far different type of fox no doubt. 
The largest, longest furred and most brilliant colored 


These pelts were from foxes caught, skinned and stretched by 
the trapper who had them and himself photographed before selling. 

red fox inhabits Alaska and other sections of its most 
Northern range, although there is said to be a very few 
of an extra large type and the largest of all foxes which 

Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift. 167 

inhabit Kodiak Island. Newfoundland and Nova Scotia 
red foxes are of good size, the fur long and heavy, but 
rather coarse and the colors pale. Quebec, New England 
and the Adirondack region of New York produce some 
splendid reds. 

The fur and color of red foxes differ in every North- 
ern district, as well as in the sections of the United States. 
The Kamchatka red fox is superior to all others in length, 
fineness and luster. The average red fox is red or yel- 
lowish red on the back and sides, the tail rather darker 
than the body and tipped with white. The belly is either 
white or a dingy white and the ears and lower portions 
of the legs are black. 

Size. — The largest of the species mentioned will 
measure 4^ feet, tail included, and some specimens still 
more, depending upon length of tail, which measures 
from 16 to 18 and even 20 inches. In Northern and 
Central sections of the United States, 30 inches from tip 
of nose to end of pelt, where tail joins, and 8 to 8^ 
inches wide at base for the cured skin, represents a large 
skin. Medium size is about 2 inches shorter, a trifle 
narrower and the small sizes in the same proportion. In 
many cases the principal difference is in length. A small 
pelt will be shorter than a medium but not much more 
narrow. A skin may be appreciably shortened by stretch- 
ing it wider than it should be. 

This fur bearer varies wonderfully but is usually 
largest in the Northern states and Canada. An excep- 
tion, however, is noted in a skin from Tennessee that 
stretched in correct proportions yet had a length of 5 feet 
and 5 inches. The fox was said to have weighed 19 


Large, length of pelt, 32; tail. 
18; total, 50 inches; greatest 
width, 10; shoulders, 8%. Prime 
pelt caught February 18. Meas- 
ured on fur side. 



Large, length of pelt, 36; tail, 
18^/^; total, 54 H inches; greatest 
width, 101^; shoulders, 9. Meas- 
ured on fur side. Many skins 
from the Provinces of Eastern 
Canada and Northeastern United 
States are of this class. 

Foxes — Red^ Grey, Kitt or Swift. 



Dimensions as shown (fur side in) : Length 
of pelt, 32; tail, 18; total, 50; width at hips, 8; 
shoulders, 7 inches. 

Dimensions same sized fox (fur out) : Length 
of pelt, 30; tail, 18; total, 48; width at hips, 9; 
shoulders _ 8 inches. 

These skins are just ordinary sizes for Southern 
Michigan, Wisconsin, Northern Ohio, Indiana, 
Illinois, Pennsylvania and Northeastern states. 
Other Central and Southern states somewhat 

pounds. The 
average of good 
Northern fox is 
around i o 
pounds and the 
pelt, including 
tail, is some 4 
feet 6 inches in 
length, but of 
course depend- 
ing upon width 
as well. 

Handling. — 
For a skin that 
will stretch 32 
inches, it will 
require a board 
36 inches long 
by about 8 
inches at base. 
The board 
should begin to 
taper about 10 
inches from the 
nose' of the 
board. Foxes 
are thin and ten- 
der in pelt and 
care must be 
taken in skin- 
ning that the 
skin is not torn. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

It will not do to have a fox pelt on the stretcher until 

fully dry. Not only is there danger 
of tearing it in removing but turning 
a fox pelt that is fully cured, may 
rip it. The head and nose will be espe- 
cially difficult to turn. As the pelt is 
to be sold fur side out, it should be 
removed from the board and turned 
when about half dry. Three or four 
days will be sufficient for a partial 
drying as a rule. The fox pelt is 
thin and never burdened with grease 
and so dries quickly. When turned, 
a thin board should be inserted to 
hold the shape until fully dry. If 
the fur contains burrs or mud or is 
matted through, having been wet be- 
fore skinning, should be combed and 
brushed out. 

Color and Quality. — A No. 
I fox pelt is prime as to color on 
flesh side when it is all red or white. 
The fur should be long, thick and 
fine and a bluish or mouse color from 
just below the surface to the roots. 
Outwardly there must be a liberal 
CENTRAL NEW YORK supply of guard hairs of even distri- 
LARGE RED. butiou, the tips of which are silvery, 

36^Ya!i;i85ftot°al 'liy; while the fur itself is a fine bright 
i2fs\'^uiSl* An"^in. ^^^' ^uch skius scll at the top mar- 
Sred"?n¥u/sid"." ^^^^' kct price when wcll handled. A skin 

Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift. 


that is not quite so fine, will have all the requirements 
mentioned, except that the color, instead of being a deep 




Large, length nose 
to root of tail, 34; 
tail, 18; total, 52 
inches; greatest 
width, 10; shoulders. 


(1) Large, length of pelt, 34; 
tail, 18; total, 52 inches; greatest 
width, 10; shoulders, 8. 

(2) Medium, length of pelt, 30; 
tail, 16; total, 46 inches; greatest 
width, 8; shoulders, 7. 

Measurements taken on fur side. 

red, is yellowish, and instead of a large, full furred tail 
with a shade of black mingled with the red, the tail in 
the second case is greyish and dull in coloring and per- 

172 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

haps small and unattractive. Some foxes are of a very 
poor color in mid-winter, the worst ones being of a straw 
or dead grass shade. Such skins must sell at a lower 

A young fox of one or two years, is usually well 
furred and the color good, while the coat of an eight or 
ten year old fox will be greatly faded. It may be from a 
buff or dun shade down to a smutty white. Again we 
have a prime skin of good color and the under fur is 
perfect but there are no guard hairs and the whole coat 
appears flat without them. Another prime skin is rubbed 
in spots, lessening the value according to how much it is 
rubbed. The cause may be lice or fleas or mange, which 
induced the victim to so chafe himself. Sometimes a fine, 
large, well furred pelt is defective through being rubbed 
at the hips. Another is well furred and of good color 
until the hips are met and here the fur is decidedly grey, 
as if crossed with the grey fox. All of these ofif colors 
and qualities are not worth top prices. 

Primeness must also be taken into account. The 
slightly unprime are blue pelts termed No. 2. Such a 
pelt may seem well furred at a little distance but a closer 
view reveals its coarseness in a superabundance of top 
hair. If such a skin had been take a month later, it would 
have been No. i, but unprime it sells for one-fourth to 
one-third less. No fox should be taken of poorer quality 
than No. 2 but No. 3 and No. 4 are quoted. 

A No. 3 is black on the pelt side and the growth of 
fur is small. No. 4 are trash and not to be considered. 
Skins that are torn, badly shot and much bitten by dogs, 
are damaged, and even if prime are not No. I. The poor- 

Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift. 


est sample of red fox is the Samson. Probably this 
name had its origin in the account of Samson and the 
foxes as told in the Scriptures. Certain 
it is that this poor specimen bears a 
singed appearance as if it had been 
through a burning bush. Not only is 
the coat burned in appearance but the 
growth is scanty, kinked and curled at 
the ends, which turn toward the head in 
little locks and is clotted and matted to- 
gether. The Samson is of small size 
and the supposition is that ill health is 
the direct cause of its being undersized 
and its fur a distorted perverted growth. 
The value is low — hardly enough to war- 
rant skinning and handling. 

Grey Fox — Range. — The grey fox 
inhabits the Central and Southern states 
and portions of the West. It is also 
found on the Pacific Coast but is most 
plentiful in the Southern States. While 
differing somewhat in size, as to section, 
the general dimensions of the animal 
alive is about 36 inches including the 
tail. The fur is far inferior to that of the red fox and 
the value is correspondingly low. There is a mountain 
species or strain of the grey fox which is much better 
furred than those of the general country. The fur is 
longer and darker colored, the contrast being that between 
light and dark grey. The back is furnished with the 
longest hair, which is rather coarse, is darkest through 


Medium, length 
nose to root of 
tail, 24; greatest 
width, 7^; shoul- 
ders, 6^ inches; 
tail, 15; total, 39. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

the center and lighter on the sides. The 
tail is long and darker than the body on 
its upper side and the sides are often 
tinged with red. The grey fox tail is not 
so large and full, as adorns the red fox. 
Uses. — Although a cheap fur grey 
fox is serviceable and is made up by the 
furrier in great variety for the class of 
trade who must use furs of moderate 
cost, sometimes it is dyed black or blue 
and sold as imitation of other furs. 

Sizes. — As to 
sizes of grey fox. 


Large, tip nose to 
root of tail, 34; tail, 
16; total, 50; greatest 
width, 8; shoulders, 
7^ inches. Although 
nose is stretched some 
inches too long, yet 
the pelt is large, rep- 
resenting the larger 
sizes from the hilly 
and mountainous parts 
of Virginia, Mary- 
land, Pennsylvania, 
West Virginia, etc. 



Medium, length 
nose to root of 
tail, 23; tail, 14; 
total, 37; greatest 
width, 7; shoul- 
ders, 5% inches. 


Medium, nose to 
root of tail, 26j4; 
tail, 15; total, 
41p2 ; greatest 
width, 8;_ shoul- 
ders, 6H inches. 

Foxes — Red^ Grey_, Kitt or Swift. 


the value is so low that the grader will make but little 
difference in skins if disposed to be fair, the only distinc- 
tion being to class the extra small ones by 
themselves. As to quality, the raw fur firm 
quotes four grades, but as a No. 2 or 
slightly unprime skin is only worth 60 to 75 
cents, it can readily be seen how meagre 
a sum a No. 3 or 4 will bring. It is only 
a waste of time to skin, handle and deal 
in such poor peltries and it is hardly worth 
while to give any directions for assorting 
them. If compelled to buy No. 3 and No. 
4 foxes of any kind along with a purchase 
of other desirable goods, class such where 
they belong, remembering that their value 
is but little. 

The grey fox falls far short of the' 
red in cunning. He is much easier trapped 
and when driven by hounds, his run is 
short and only in small circles. It never 
leads away for a long run before the dogs 
and either goes into the ground or ascends 
a tree which it can do almost as quickly as 
a cat, while if the red is compelled to tree, 
it can only ascend a leaning trunk. 

The illustration showing six grey fox 
red especially skius bringfs out forcibly the fact that 

around ears. *=> ^ J 

where furs are shipped and the! dealer 
wishes to take advantage in the grade, that can easily 
be done. From description underneath these skins* 
it will be seen that there is a difference in length 

v^ E s T V I R- 


Large, nose to 
root or tail, 27 
tail, 15; total, 42 
greatest width, 8 
shoulders, 7^ 
inches. The fur 
on head, hind legs 
and tail which 
shows dark on il- 
lustration is quite 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

of five inches between largest and smallest, half inch in 
width at tail and one and one-half at shoulder, yet all 
were graded as large. These foxes were caught by a 


(1) Length of body, 31; width at tail, 10; shoulders, 8% inches. 

(2) Length of body, 31; width at tail, 9^^; shoulders, 7>4 inches. 

(3) Length of body, 80; width at tail, 9%; shoulders, 8 inches. 

(4) Length of body, 29; width at tail, 9%; shoulders, 7^ inches. 

(5) Length of body, 27%; width at tail, 9^/^ ; shoulders, 8% inches. 

(6) Length of body, 26; width at tail, 9^/^; shoulders, 7 inches. 
Length of tail varied 2 inches, being 15 on No. 6 and 17 on No, 1, 

others between these lengths. 

trapper in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, which is one of 
the most southern in that state, bordering on the state of 
Maryland. A buyer who makes many classifications and 
usually sends out prices above market would have graded 

Foxes — Red, Grey_, Kitt or Swift. 


about two large, two medium, two small and probably 
paid 10% to 20% less for the six than the buyer quoting 
much less but grading more liberal — in 
fact, to state it correctly, will say honestly. 
Kitt Fox. — This small fox only 
measures about 18 inches to two feet in 
length. It is a light grey in color with 
long, interspersed white hairs. The sides 
are a tawny yellow and the belly is white. 
It carries a full tail when in fur about one 
foot long, which is grey except on the 
under side, where it is yellow and the 
guard hairs tipped with black. The fur 
is rather dense, soft in quantity and the 
pelt is light in weight. Its fur value is 
somewhat less than that of the grey. 
SWIFT OR KITT jt jg fo^^d principally in the South- 

FOX PELT. .... V- 1 1 • A 11 

Large length ^^^ parts 01 British Columbia, Alberta 
nose to tail, 22; ^^^ Saskatchewan in Canada and in the 

tail, 12; total 

length, 34; great- xjuitcd Statcs from the Dakotas west to 

est wiath, 7%; 

shoulders, 6 j-^e Pacific Coast, which includes Mon- 

mclies. ' 

tana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, al- 
though it is in other parts of the West and Northwest. 
It is never found in the Eastern, Central or Southeastern 

This animal is said to exceed in swiftness most other 
fur animals and is often called "Swift Fox." It has never 
been very plentiful, but of recent years has become scarce, 
yet its fur is quoted. 




RANGE. — This valuable fur animal inhabits an ex- 
tensive range of territory, being found from the 
Arctic regions to the Gulf of Mexico. Alaska, 
Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Labrador, 
North Eastern United States and the Lake Superior re- 
gion yield the most valuable skins on account of dark 
colors, fineness of fur and gloss. The least valuable mink 
come from the Gulf States, the climate being so warm 
that a thick winter coat would be a burden. 

Shades of Color. — No mink is ever strictly black. 
A dark brown is the nearest approach to black. While 
more dark mink are found in the far North and East 
than in the Central Western and Southern sections of 
North America, still a good many skins taken in the best 
sections are only a medium brown and some are light 
brown or pale. The most valuable mink pelt is not only 
dark on the surface, but the fur is dark clear to its roots. 
The grader determines this and also its fineness and den- 
sity by blowing into the fur until it separates. The mink 
along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts north are 
especially valuable, having both size and color. 

Besides being dark, fine, thick and having luster or 
gloss, the perfect skin must contain a proper amount of 
guard hairs. They should be darker than the rest of the 




fur and contain much of the gloss. They should stand 
out, bristling and lively in appearance also. Some mink 
pelts that have a good coat of fur in general are lacking 
in guard hairs, either having been rubbed off, or else for 
some unknown cause, none have grown. Many a well 
furred mink is dull in color and possesses no luster what- 
ever. This statement does not apply to Northern mink 


The first four and last one are medium, the other nine large. The 
large average about 25 inches from tip to tip, 3i/^ at hips, 3 at shoulders; 
medium average tip to tip 23 inches, 3 at hips, 2% at shoulders. These 
skins class with the Lake Superior sections and Maine, where none are 
large but dark, fine furred and among the most valuable in America. 

or any particular section but anywhere that mink are 

Sizes and Handling. — The next consideration is 
size and manner of handling. Northern mink are so 
much smaller than those of other sections that we are 
almost justified in pronouncing them a distinct species. 
A so-called large mink of the North country is smaller 
than a medium sized mink of Central United States and 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

a medium Northern mink is smaller than one rated as 
small a few hundred miles South. Canadian mink and 
those of Maine, North Michigan, North 
Wisconsin and similar latitudes require 
boards for the three sizes about as fol- 
lows : Large, width at base 3^ inches, at 
shoulders 3 inches, length of board should 
be about 28 inches, length of skin when 
stretched, from tip of nose to end of tail 
24 to 26 inches. Medium size, width at 
base of skin or hips 3 inches, at shoulders 
2j.^ inches, length of board 28 inches, 
length of stretched pelt from tip to tip 22 
to 24 inches. Small, width of board at 
base 2^ inches, at shoulders 2 ir^ches, 
length of board 26 inches, length of skin 
from tip to tip stretched, about 20 inches. 
It will be readily seen that the North- 
ern mink are very small compared with 
their cousins inhabiting Illinois and sim- 
ilar sections, which I shall mention and 
yet the small species are far more val- 
uable, just as a five dollar gold piece ex- 
ceeds the more bulky silver dollar in worth, 
no^e^ ^? %oot ^*of ^^ ^^ movc southward into Southern 

tail, 22; tail, 8; 
total, 30; greatest 
width, 4; shoul- 
ders, 3% inches. 




Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Penn- 
sylvania and similar sections we find mink 
much larger, a little coarser in fur, not so 
glossy and fewer dark ones. They average a good brown 
in shade from November ist to about January ist. After 
that they begin to fade. Some pale skins are secured at 




(1) Large (tur out), length, end of nose to tip of tail, 27; greatest 
width, 5; shoulders, 4 inches. 

(2) Large (pelt out), length, including tail, 28; greatest width, 4; 
shoulders, 3% inches. 

(3) Medium (pelt out), length, including tail, 24; greatest width, 
3%; shoulders, 3^/4 inches. 

(4) Small (pelt out), length, including tail, 22; greatest width, 3^/^; 
shoulders, 3 inches. 

Both large mink were of same size before being turned, namely, 2'8 
long and 4 inches at hips. These sizes are about correct for the best 
grade of skins from the Lake Erie and Southern Lake Michigan sections. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

all times. Mink of these sections average as to size for 
large, 28 to 31 inches, tail included when stretched, the 
board being 3^ to 4 inches at base and 3^ to 3^ at 
shoulders. Medium size, length from end of nose to tip 
of tail about 26 or 27 inches, width of 
board at base 3^, at shoulders 3 
inches. Small, total length boarded 
24 inches, width at base 2^ to 2^, 
at shoulders 2^4 inches. 

Aside from the sizes in boards 
given there are between sizes, such as 
large-medium, also extra large and 
extra small. An extra large mink, if 
well furred and the shade borders on 
the dark order, is worth more than 
ordinary large skins. On the other 
hand, if an extra large skin is pale 
and coarse, or poorly furred, it may 
not be worth sO' much money as a 
medium size well furred and of good 
color. It is often difficult to buy an 
extra, large mink of poor quality at 
its actual value, the owner being of 
the set opinion that it should sell for 
a good price on account of size alone. 
An unusually small or kitt mink is 
worth less than the quotations on 
41/ • ^sSidlrs^'^sy small skins. Sometimes a buyer will 
iglhfthtSge'mS P^y ^ large mink price for a large 
NoftTenf^" A^kansal' "^^^^ium, taking his chance's on getting 
Eastern Oklahoma j^jg moucy back. He may do it to 

and Kansas. -' -^ 




Large, length of 
pelt, 20; tail, 9; total. 



hold his trade to beat some competitor or through seem- 
ing generosity when he can do it because prices are ad- 

Mink taken in states bordering the Gulf of Mexico 

are of moderate size but reddish 
in color and the fur is short and 
thin. They are the least valuable 
of any mink except the so-called 
''cotton mink." The latter ap- 
pear to be a freak and occur in 
several states, Central, South 
Central and West. The general 
appearance of the Cotton mink, 
at first sight, is similar to any 
ordinary mink but blowing into 
the fur discloses that it is white 
as cotton from just under the 
surface to its roots, hence the 
term "cotton." They are only 
worth from 25 cents to $1.50. 

Cotton Mink. — It may 

surprise trappers, buyers and 

dealers to know that in some 

localities of the Central West, 

'^^tYtTmink.'"'^^ there are a good many ''white 

Large, length, nose to root Underground" or cotton mink. 

?9y.f \?ektelf 'wittk, '°4yJ; The following letter dated De- 

shoulders, 4 inches. Note ^ , - 4.^ ^ 

how nice and clean pelt is CCmbcr 28th, IQIO, frOm a trap- 
scraped. The dark spot on ^ tt 1 /^ i. T J' 

left shoulder is from hide per of Howard Louuty, incUana, 

getting bloodshot from being 

caught in steel trap by left -^JH orOVC interesting : 

fore leg. 

184 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Dear Sir : — I am sending you under separate cover 
one small, pale mink, what is called here a cotton mink. 
I don't see them quoted in any price list. Fully one-half 
of the mink that we get here are cotton. I have trapped 
in Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana 
and never caught any any place but here. Local buyers 
pay from 25c to $1.50 for them here, although I sold one 
this winter to a local buyer for $2.50, but it was a large 
one, 33 inches long, tail and all. 

W. E. Waddell^ Howard County, Ind. 

The mink which Mr. Waddell sent was medium 
sized, but on parting the hair or blowing the fur, the 
under part was white — hence the name, ''Cotton Mink." 
Howard County is some fifty miles north of Indianapolis, 
Indiana, being in North Central Indiana, a section that 
produces very good skunk, coon, rats, etc. Why there 
are so many cotton mink is a mystery. 

In the Central Western States from Ohio to Iowa 
and south, there are more or less cotton mink, but in no 
section have we ever heard of so many as in Howard 
County, Indiana. Several years ago, when buying furs 
at GallipO'lis, Ohio, a buyer in Pickaway County, Ohio, 
which is only about 25 miles south of Columbus, sent in 
a shipment containing 8 mink, 5 being cotton. Outside 
of this instance, we do not remember of seeing more than 
two cotton mink in a shipment containing 50 or more 

Through the section where cotton mink are found, 
it is doubtful if there are many sections where over 5% 
are cotton. This, of course, is only guess work. Dealers 



seem to vary a great 


Length, nose to root of 
tail, 25; tail, 9; total, 34 
inches; greatest width, 
5; shoulders, 4^/^. This 
is only about an average 
of the large size secured 
in parts of Iowa, Min- 
nesota, the D a k o t a s, 
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, 

deal as to the value of cotton mink, 
all the way from 25 cents to $1.50. 
In certain sections such as 
Western Indiana, Illinois and por- 
tions of the West and Northwest, 
including parts of Manitoba, Sas- 
katchewan and Alberta, Canada, 
mink of unusual size are found. 
Specimens have been caught that 
measured on the stretching board 
36 inches from end of nose to tip 
of tail, 6 inches wide at base and 5 
inches at shoulders. Such dimen- 
sions are rather unusual but the 
general run of this brand of mink 
is very large, the average being 
about 34 inches from nose end to 
tail end, 4^ to 5 inches wide at hips 
and 4 to 4J^ at shoulders and the 
other sizes in proportion, The 
medium and small are about two 
inches shorter in length and a half 
inch less in width respectively. 

Aside from Western large 
mink and the exceptionally small 
breed of the North and Northeast, 
it is not difficult to give the dimen- 
sions in boards required for the 
rest of the country. First I will 
observe that 28 to 31 inches from 
tip to tip will constitute a large 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

mink for the Eastern, Central and Southern states when 
on the drying board. Width about 3^ inches at base and 
3 at shoulders. Certain large skins will exceed these 

dimensions, however, by an inch 
or more in length and a half inch 
in width. 

It will be seen that skins 
vary somewhat in size in each of 
the three grades termed, large, 
medium and small. There can 
be no exact standard or hard and 
fast rule to follow for no two 
beans nor any two snowflakes 
are exactly alike. Even if two 
mink were of exact proportions 
before going on the drying 
boards, if two different trappers 
owned and had the handling of 
them, stretched pelts might be 
quite different in measurements. 
One might be overdrawn to its 
limit of length and cured on a 
board much too narrow and the 
other may be stretched on a 
board much too wide so that the 
pelt is greatly shortened. As 
furs come from a legion of trap- 
pers and in all styles of han- 
dling, the eye of the fur sorter 
becomes so practiced that a 
glance is sufficient to determine 


(1) Length of pelt, 18; 
tail, 9; total, 27; greatest 
width, 4%; .shoulders, 4^ 

(2) Length of pelt, 19; 
tail, 9; total, 28; greatest 
width, 4%; shoulders, 4^ 

These pelts would have 
looked better if they had 
been stretched a little longer 
and not so wide. Measure- 
ments were taken as shown, 
pelt side. 



size, whether stretched wide, narrow, uniform, flaring or 
pointed. Practice alone is all that can accomplish this 
eye discernment in grading for sizes. 
I have given a range in each size 
in my remarks for the above reasons 
that handling differs with different trap- 
pers and also in stating length of skins, 
for one large mink may have a tail 6 
inches in length and another of same 
size, carry a tail 7 or 8 inches in length. 
A mink should not be stretched too long 
and narrow. The stretcher should fill 
the body well as to width. If the dryer 
is too wide, the pelt will be shorter than 
looks well and justice has not been done 
t(.^ the head and neck. The proper shape 
is a board that fits the pelt fairly snug 
and is of uniform width until the point 
where shoulders will come en the board 
has been reached. Here the board or 
other stretcher should be a half inch 
narrower than where the hips come and 
should taper rapidly to the nose and still 
Medium to large, j^ot finish with a sharp point. Such 

length, nose to root ^ ^ -^ ^ ^ 

of tail, 171/2; tail, 61/2; handled mink as this have the right ap- 

total, 24; greatest ^ . 

wdth, 4; shoulders, pearaucc and will sell at highest mar- 

3% inches. Tail split ^ ° 

and tacked out flat by ]^qi priccs auvwhcre. There are in- 

trapper to cure. ^ -^ 

stances where some amateur trapper 
dries a nice mink pelt on a wedge-shaped board, much 
like the capital letter A. Such a cured pelt is worth 
about half the market price for well handled skins and 
do not sell well anywhere on earth. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

The best timber for drying boards is white wood — 

poplar, basswood, cottonwood, 
and white pine — or any soft 
wood where straight grain and 
toughness is combined. Hard 
woods are not satisfactory. It 
is difficult to shape and dress, 
and nails driven into them draw 
hard, and some break off. Most 
hard woods when used in making 
thin boards, split easily. Stretch- 
ing boards should be y^ of an 
inch in thickness, no thinner, 
after they have been planed on 
both sides. When shaved into 
proper form, the corners are 
rounded and sanded, turning out 
a smooth finished board on all 
sides, to which fur will not stick 
obstinately when the pelt is dry 
and removal is attempted. Boards 
should be a little longer than the 

(1) Large, length, nose expcctcd pelts SO that there is 

to root of tail, 18; tail, S^/^; ,.-.,.,. . 

greatest width, 31/2; shoulders, room for a hall mch holc m the 

3 inches. , - , . ^ 

(2) Medium, length, nose souare cud SO that skms may be 

to root of tail, 16; tail, 8; ... 

greatest width, 3; shoulders, huUPf UO OU uails OT bC StruUgf OU 

2% irches. . ^ \ ., , . ,^ "^ , 

These skins represent those wircs while drying. Many a val- 

secured from the Southern 

ranges of the Allegheny uablc pClt UOt hung haS been 

Mountains and include parts ... 

of West Virginia, Virginia, rumcd by miCC, 

Kentucky, Tennessee and 

North Carolina, being rather J)^q holdcr of mluk pcltS 

dark and silky, tor so tar ^ 

south, although averaging should SCC tO it that the boUCS 





are removed from tails or they may rot and fall off, dam- 
aging the pelt considerably. Trappers sometimes neglect 
to remove the tail bone and the buyer may find it a rather 
difficult job to remove the bone after the tail has dried 

down but it can be done by using 
a sharp knife to rip it on under 
side from root to tip and by 
carefully cutting around the 
bone, peel it out. 

Mink should not be taken 
off the stretching boards until 
thoroughly dry, or they will 
wrinkle and can not be made to 
look smooth afterwards. Avoid 
drying green skins in a close 
room, by the heat of stoves or 
other artificial heat. It turns the 
flesh side of prime skins dark 
and gives them an unprime ap- 
pearance. Drying by the heat 
from fires or the sun, causes 
skins to become brittle so that 
they will break easily and go to 
pieces in the process of tanning. 
Drying should be done in the 
shade where it is cool and there 
^^^^^^Tx.'ll^A^.^f.T^^^ is a good circulation of air so 


SKIN. that curing is affected through 

Length, nose to root of natural evaporation only. 

tail, 22; tail, 7; total, 29; ^ •' 

rtachS.'''^'his'i'i„1°S's'"'fS Degrees of Primeness. - 

ciught'Tn. "coio?,* b™™'" No. I or prime skins are full 

190 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

furred and entirely white on the flesh side, except that 
this appearance may be accompanied by a slight fleshy 
red where skins have not been closely scraped. No. 2's 
are full furred but there is too much top hair and the 
flesh side is of a bluish cast. No. 3's have about one-half 
of a winter coat, or growth of fur and the general appear- 
ance is hairy. The flesh side is dark, almost if not quite 
black. No. 4's have but a very small growth of fur and 
the pelt is black. In some sections mink can not lawfully 
be caught while in the No. 3 and 4 stages and dealers in 
such sections dare not buy them. No. 2's are not for- 
bidden for the reason that certain ones prime up late and 
a few that are slightly off in primeness may be expected 
after the trapping season has opened legally. 

Mink should be left as they come off the boards with 
flesh side outward and so presented when marketed. 
Why foxes and marten are turned fur side out before 
marketing and mink left unturned, it would be hard to 
tell except that it is a custom. There is one advantage 
in leaving mink fur inside. Mink fade quite rapidly 
when exposed to light so if skins are not turned, fading 
is largely avoided. 

Buying From the Trapper. — General market quo- 
tations value mink not only for size and primeness but 
also as to color, whether dark, brown or pale. At this 
point the writer feels impelled to offer the beginner in 
fur buying a few words of advice. When mink are prime 
and at their best in color which is from November ist 
until early January, do not endeavor to buy them and 
assort for color if you wish to accumulate mink furs in 
any quantity worth your time. He who assorted mink 



for color has long ago been driven off the ground among 
country fur buyers. When mink are sent in to some 
house on consignment, grading can be done as they see 


T.iruj-, 1234 

Length 01 body, inches 24 2'2 22 20 

SJJ^th ^t tail inches... 41/2 41/4 38/4 43^ 

Width at shoulders, inches 3% 314 314 4 

Length of tail, inches 9 s^^ SV^ 9 

These skins are about an average for size and color as caught in 

the eastern half of Canada. 

fit, but not when you try to buy of the trapper in person. 
Most country buyers work on the rule that a good, prime, 
straight mink pelt in late autumn and early winter is 

192 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

worth full quotations for dark mink, unless the fur 
should be extremely pale. If a trapper has a collection 
of six, eight or more good mink he many times holds them 
at a flat or average price. Dark brown and pale all go 
together and he will sell in no other way. Of course 
there are cases where a mink or two can be secured at a 
real bargain but most trappers are well informed now-a- 
days and the novice soon learns to stick for every last 

Liberality is the keynote to successful fur buying 
and he who gives the trapper a little the best of it as 
often as he can, is sure to make friends who will hold 
subsequent furs for him. Buyers who have only handled 
skins of mink caught in their immediate locality can 
hardly believe the variation in size from different parts 
of the country. The following measurements are a few 
that have been brought to my notice : 

A Minnesota mink, 37 inches from tip to tip. 
An Oklahoma mink, 32 inches from tip to tip. 

A New Jersey mink, 32 inches from tip to tip and 
43^ inches wide at hips. 

One from Alberta, Canada, 37 inches from tip to 
tip, 6^ inches at hips and 5^ at shoulders. Note espe- 
cially the extraordinary width. 

One from Minnesota, 38 inches from tip to tip, 5^-^ 
inches at hips and 4^ at shoulders. 

Two South Dakota mink, each 38 inches from tip 
to tip. 

A 32 inch mink caught along Houlston River, Ten- 



Two North Dakota mink, each 36 inches from tip 

to tip. 

Two Iowa mink, 33 inches from tip to tip. The 
largest weighed an even 5 pounds. 
Two from the state of Wash- 
ington (dressed) each 36 inches 
from tip to tip. 

One from Central Ohio, 37 
inches from tip to tip. 

A 4/^ pound mink caught in 
the Riding Mountains of Manitoba, 

Four Kansas mink, the largest 
stretching 35 inches and weighing 
45^ pounds — the others about 4^4 

A Massachusetts mink, 35 
inches from tip to tip and weighing 
3 pounds 14 ounces. 

A Lake Superior region mink, 
33' inches from tip to tip, weighing 
3 pounds. 

Four from an Illinois trapper 
that measured from tip to tip : one, 
35^, one 35>^, two 34 each. 

No doubt these measurements 
and weights are much above the 
average, for large, from the states 
and provinces mentioned, yet they 
are correct. 

Mink caught in the Lake Supe- 


This is a dark furred 
pelt but note how much 
white it has on the belly. 
Neck and throat to fore- 
legs being nearly all 
white while a narrow 
strip extends entire dis- 
tance. About an average 
sized skin from Yukon 
Valley, being 22 inches 
from nose to root of tail; 
tail, 8; total length, 30; 
greatest width, 4% ; 
shoulders, 3%. 


194 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

rior region, Maine, Eastern Canada, are small — usually 
under 3 pounds and when stretched less than 3,0 inches 
from tip to tip. Owing to their color and fine fur they 
are worth more than skins from the Northwest that will 
average a half larger but much lighter in color and coarser 

The inexperienced mink collector will do well to 
remember that size alone does not represent mink values. 
Should over large skins for a certain locality be offered, 
and big prices accordingly wanted, more than likely such 
skins are not native. It only costs a few cents to mail 
one or more skins a few hundred miles. 



RANGE. — Muskrat are like mink, one of our most 
common and widespread fur bearers. They in- 
habit territory from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico 
and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Naturalists 
claim to have separated no less than five distinct species 
in this fur bearing rodent. Be that as it may^ the dealer 
is unable' to distinguish any difference, except that locality 
affects the rat as to length and thickness of fur and heft 
of pelt. The muskrat of the Western states is thinner 
in pelt and shorter in fur than the Eastern and Central 
states rat. Those of the Gulf states are' so short in fur 
as to be worth only about 60% of what is paid for rats 
of the Eastern and North Central states. The most val- 
uable of all are the black rats found on the salt tide water 
that overflows the marshes along the shores of the East- 
ern states, mainly from Virginia north to New Jersey, 
where, in some localities, the per cent is 25 or even more 
of the entire catch. 

Habits and Quality. — When inhabiting rivers and 
streams, muskrat live in dens in the banks, the entrances 
of which are under water. The channel leading to the 
nest ranges upward so that the nest at its end is several 
feet above water where the banks are high enough to 
admit it. River bank dwelling rats are heavy in pelt and 


196 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

well furred. Rats that inhabit lakes with muddy margins 
and swamps, swales and ditches live mostly in houses. 
The fur is thinner and the pelt lighter than that of the 
bank rat. The house is a conical dome erected about 
three feet above water. It is composed of flags, reeds, 
grass, roots and mud and is mud plastered to exclude the 
frost of winter. The house is three to four feet in 
thickness at its base. It is roomy inside and the walls 
are about 6 or 8 inches thick. A stool or seat is erected 
inside from the same material that comprises the house. 
This seat or rest is depressed and contains the nest where 
the rat lies comfortable and warm and feels no effects of 
the storms and biting wintry blasts. Here he lives in the 
darkness of an underground world for several months 
while thick ice covers the water. When food is desired 
he must dive to bottom and secure the roots of flags and 
pond lilies which he brings up to his snug home and 

Where rats inhabit places that are poor in vegetation, 
not so good a coat of fur will be found as where the 
needed food is plentiful. This condition will be found 
in uninhabited regions where the forests keep out the 
sun and so retard the growth of grass, flags, lilies, reeds, 
etc., which rats require for food and house building. On 
the waters of such wild territory, rats are not numerous 
and their fur is thin and the pelt light and papery. Veg- 
etable food is not departed from by the muskrat except 
that clams are eaten to some extent where plentiful and 
claims attention. The rat carries the mussel upon shore 
and leaves it until dead, when it is easily opened. 


Mating occurs in March or early April and the kitts 
are born the latter part of May or the first of June. Four 
to eight constitute the number in a litter. Old rats fre- 
quently produce a second litter and the early spring kitts 
sometimes mature and rear one family the same season. 
This rapid increase is all that prevents the rat from be- 
coming extinct under the persistent trapping and hunting 
by man and boy. The rat being easily trapped, it becomes 
a victim to the small boy's first efforts at trapping. Where 
plentiful, expert trappers often bend all their efforts in 
trapping rats alone. 

Uses of Muskrat. — In recent years this fur has 
been employed in a wide range of uses and under several 
fanciful names to promote its sale. When plucked, 
sheared, and dyed, it is ''Near Seal." Made up into capes, 
collarettes, boas and muffs, it becomes Canada Mink, 
Brook Mink, River Mink, etc. Men's caps are made of 
it and overcoats lined with it. It is used to trim cloaks 
and milliners use it in trimming and making winter hats. 
There are various uses not necessary to enumerate. Rat 
fur is attractive, whether made up natural, dyed or 
blended. The fur is popular and were it not for the fact 
that the leather is not very lasting, it would rival the 
mink on account of less cost. But it is warm, rich in 
appearance, the service fair and it will no doubt maintain 
its favor indefinitely. Several million skins are marketed 
annually and at a single London sale three million were 

Primeness, Grading and Size. — Muskrat taken in 
late fall are furnished with a fair coat of fur but do not 
become full prime until early spring. The flesh side of 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

fall rats is dark or bluish, no signs of primeness, except 
a few red spots or streaks that will widen later as prime- 
ness advances. Towards the end of November some skins 


Top row fairly well skinned, stretched and handled, 
poorly skinned, stretched and handled. 

Bottom row 

have improved in quality to the extent that they are 
termed Winter rats. In such skins the pelt is at least 
one-half red. Some dark spots remain in the pelt until 
early March when the pelt becomes entirely red or flesh 


color with a white background, when they are entirely 
prime and are termed ''Spring rats." 

Only three sizes should be made in grading fall rats. 
Large and medium sizes go together. Undersized skins 
of fair thickness are termed small and very small papery 
skins are the kitts. Skins that measure 5/^ to 6^ inches 
at hips and a half-inch less at shoulders and are 14 to 16 
inches in length, class large and medium. A few skins 
are taken with dimensions, when dry, 17 or 18 inches in 
length, 7 inches wide at hips and 6^ at shoulders. Skins 
5 inches wide and 12 to 13 long are small. Kitts 8 to 
10 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide. Papery pelted 
mediums belong in the small grade of good heft and the 
papery pelted small go with the kitts. Winter rats large 
and medium class as one grade if of good weight in pelt 
and full furred. Thin skinned large and medium go with 
large Fall, and small papery Winter go with small good 
heft Fall rats. 

In a lot of 30 muskrat skins as caught by a trapper 
in Wyoming, the largest measured 15 inches in length, 5 
at hips and 4^ at shoulders. The average was much 
smaller, being only 12 long with a width of 5 at hips and 
4^ inches at shoulder. This size would be graded as 
small from Ohio, or other rat producing states east of 
the Mississippi river. The pelt also was very thin, in 
fact, papery rattling when handled, yet the fur was good 
length, thick and heavy. Such skins, however, are not 
very valuable as pelt is thin and tender requiring care 
in tanning and manufacturing. 

Quite a large per cent of rats in Spring are damaged 
by cuts received in fighting. These must be graded down 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

according to how much damaged. One or two cuts places 
a pelt one grade below and if badly cut and scored it is 
next to worthless. 


(1) Large, length, 17; greatest width, 6^; shoulders, dVz inches. 

(2) Medium, length, 13^; greatest width, 5%; shoulders, 5^/4 inches. 

(3) Medium, length, 13J^; greatest width, 6; shoulders, 51^4 inche^ 
No. 2 is not properly stretched — too pointed. ^"^^ " '" "■" 

right but should be pelt side out. 

No. 3 is shaped all 

In Central, Eastern and Northern sections primeness 
covers a good share of March and half of April. After 
this there will be some signs of shedding, such as becom- 
ing blackish around the fore legs, neck and head, as the 
result of numerous roots of summer hair that are coming 


in. Taking rats much beyond the last of March should 
be discouraged, for early April finds most of the females 
pregnant. Such slaughter is folly and ruthless waste. 

Care of Skins. — In skinning rats the pelt should 
be takferi.oif entire, ears, eyelets and noses. Pelts when 
torn off at the ears and eyes appear mutilated and it short- 
ens them sufficiently to bring a full sized skin down with 
the small. All surplus fat and flesh should be removed 
at the time of being placed on the drying board. These 
forms should come near to fitting each size in pelts so 
that the skin may not be strained and make the fur thm 
through covering too large a surface. The back of pelt 
should cover one side and the belly the other, not stretch- 
ing sidewise with a fore leg on each side of the board. 
Draw skin to full extent and use 6 or 8 nails to a side, 
pulling out the slack points and hold tight while driving 
nail. Do not remove pelts from boards until thoroughly 
dry. If partly green when removed, the pelt will wrinkle, 
perhaps shrivel. Avoid drying under the influence of the 
sun or fires. It turns pelts dark, giving an unprime ap- 
pearance. It also makes them brittle so that they will 
break. Dry only by natural evaporation in cool, venti- 
lated rooms. See that pelts are not hung in leaky barns 
or sheds where they will be dampened by rain. They will 
mildew and this nearly ruins them. Mildew also occurs 
when a large number are thrown in a pile and not turned 
over frequently and also when hung up together in com- 
pact bunches. Sweating and mildew both damage rats 
c^Onsiderably. Cured skins should be strung on a wire, 
passing it through the noses and leaving a little space be- 
tween each pelt and its neighbor. 

202 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Stretching Boards. — Boards for drying should be 
uniformly oblong, somewhat narrowed at the shoulders 
and taper rapidly from thence to the nose. However, 
rats do not want to be tapered so decidedly as skunk. 
Just taper enough so that the head and neck is stretched 
to its full extent, no more and no less. Boards should he 
y^, of an inch thick, planed both sides and after being 
formed, the corners are rounded and sand papered. The 
timber should be soft but tough such as whitewood, bass- 
wood, poplar, Cottonwood, etc. Such timber as yellow 
pine, gum or sycamore is hard to work and splits badly 
when dressed thin. The board should be at least i8 
inches long and near the base a half inch hole should be 
bored to hang up by when pelts are drying. 

In making stretching boards, patterns of the different 
sizes should be made first and all boards laid out by these 
established forms so that sizes will be exact, instead of 
hewing them out by guess. Wire stretchers are used to 
a great extent and have the merit that skins will dry 
sooner on these open forms than when hugging a board, 
but where timber exists wood stretchers are still largely 
used. A good supply should always be made ahead and 
ready for use. 

Buying and Selling. — The matter of buying and 
selling are important topics. Not many muskrat collec- 
tions in recent years have been purchased from trapper 
and country dealer on assortment. The custom prevailing 
is that of buying flat or average. So well established 
is it, that but few will sell according to grade. Buying 
flat is largely guesswork and the figure asked per skin, 
as they run, is usually high enough to make the odds 


greatly in favor of the seller. Instances of substantial 
losses being sustained by him who secures the goods are 
not lacking. The writer has seen cases where 25 cents 
flat was demanded and paid and such collections only 
graded 19 or 20 cents average and even as low as 17 
cents. A loss of $5.00 per hundred on a large bunch 
amounts to a snug sum in pocket for one and out for the 
other. The usual reason for such shortage between price 
paid and real value lies in the large percentage of small 
rats and kitts the lot contains. On the other hand, col- 
lections have been purchased that sold for a ten or fifteen 
cent raise a few weeks later, $10 to $15 per hundred, 
$100 to $150 per thousand. 

The buyer may be compelled to buy average and still 
he should not be expected to go it blind and buy a pig 
in the bag. If a speculator has his rat collection corded 
up and will not permit inspection the chances are that 
the skins underneath do not compare at all with the 
outside display. The shrewd possessor of a rat collec- 
tion is not likely to place them on sale for a flat price 
with the worst side exposed or even as the lot will aver- 
age. On the outside small rats are few and kitts none. 
On the interior 10% to 15% of kitts, large and small, lay 
concealed, if the buyer did but know it. And this pro- 
portion will hold as a rule in all collections of Fall rats. 
Every lot of much size also contains more or less of dam- 
aged skins. Shot, torn, mildewed, gnawed by mice, 
poorly handled, unstretched, shriveled, burned by coat 
of grease, all have to be deducted from the rest and as 
they each count the same as a straight pelt, averages are 
inflated and a fictitious value placed on the collection. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

If a collection of rats 
there will be a far larger 
weights than if taken from 


(1) Medium, length, 13; width at 
hips and shoulders, 5 inches. 

(2) Medium, length, 14; width at 
hips and shoulders, 5 inches. 

(3) Large, length, 15; width at 
hips, 7^; shoulders, 5^/^ inches. 

None of these skins were stretcked 

are all of the swamp variety, 
percentage' of kitts and light 
rivers and other streams and 
large clear lakes. This fact 
often sees two collections 
in the same locality that 
differs very much. One 
buyer relates that he pur- 
chased two rat collections 
about 30 miles apart. Brass 
owned one lot and Bowser 
the other. Brass has a 
good lot of Fall rats mostly 
of good heft as to quality 
of pelts and a minimum 
number of kitts. "I paid 
Brass 30 cents flat," said 
the buyer. "Bowser's lot 
contained a large percent- 
age of kitts and small and 
I could not offer but 25 
cents average for them. The 
next time I visited Bowser 
he called me to account. 
'I hear you paid Brass 30 
cents for his rats/ he said. 
*Then you come right along 
the same day and only al- 
lowed me 25 cents for mine. 
What kind of a man are 
you ?' Explanations d i d 


no good. Bowser did not listen to them, even when I 
showed a statement from my firm that the Brass pur- 
chase at 30 cents was a much better deal than the one 
where 25 cents was paid. Bowser would not sell me an) 
f ursjd^ing th^ rest of the season." 

_ af-brings the fur buyer new battles to be 

bought and he copes with his adversaries best who is 
prepared to pay the price asked for furs and grant the 
seller's own terms in assorting. The proprietor of one 
large fur house instructs his traveling buyers to make 
no deals for rats on a flat basis unless he is allowed to 
inspect the lot sufficiently to see how they run for sizes, 
kitts, percentage of Winter's, etc. Even then he would 
a little rather that no flat buying be done and such oppor- 
tunities to trade be passed by. For he declares that sel- 
dom does a lot so purchased sort out the value that has 
been paid. This brings us to the question of fictitious 
values and selling furs by unfair methods, to make money. 
Often a collection that is held for a high average offer 
has been purchased at a flat price and a high price. If 
any money is to be made, the lot must sell at a still higher 
average when unloaded on the next man. It would be 
interesting to know how the big dealer at the main fur 
center comes out on such a lot of fur as we have been 
describing when a half dozen small buyers have handled 
them and each made a rake off in profit. 

In most localities rats are trapped ofif so closely that 
but very few live to be old and of large size. We may 
expect then that the average in any collection will run 
medium for size with quite a proportion small, light and 
kitts. He who ships a lot of these young rats to some 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

firm whose price for ''Extra Large" is attractive, is made 
to realize painfully in his returns that the large rat is 

woefully lacking. Seemingly 
they endeavored to assort 
them all tO' small sizes, so he 

The muskrat supply keeps 
up well considering the enor- 
mous numbers taken each 
year. Although thousands of 
trappers were at work har- 
vesting muskrats in the Fall 
of 1912 and it was believed 
in some quarters that rats 
were wiped out, the Spring of 
19 1 3 saw more rats caught 
than ever known before. The 
Spring catch was heavier than 
the Fall. Where all the rats 
came from was a mystery. 

So long as there is water 
there will be rats. But no 
matter how numerous they are 
in a certain place, drain the 
water ofif and in a month the 
rats which existed there are 
but a memory. Restore the water after a lapse of ten 
years and the rats as quickly return in a single season. 
Water powers are being developed on rivers everywhere 
and the widespreading ponds thus formed are very soon 
inhabited by muskrats. The delay is no longer than until 


This skin, on pelt side, meas- 
ured as follows: "Length, 19; 
greatest width, 8%; shoulders, 
71^ inches. Not one skin in 
a thousand is this size as the 
Extra Large quoters know. 



vegetation starts. Many such artificial ponds have be- 
come worthy of the best trapper's attention and thou- 
sands of rat furs are taken from them. Not only is this 
fur a valuable resource but the flesh is fast becoming an 
article of food and in some quarters it has a market quo- 
tation. Trappers in close touch with the large cities ex- 
pect to market the carcass as well as the pelt. In dry 
seasons rats appear to be the least numerous and in wet 
seasons when swamps and ditches are filled and the lakes 
and streams are at a good head, rats are unusually plen- 
tiful. Considering the rapid natural increase, well 
watered sections will not see the rat extinct very soon. 



RANGE. — Skunk inhabit practically all of the United 
States and a large portion of Canada — the south- 
ern part. This fur bearer is so common and of 
such value that it yields more money than any 
other fur taken in the latitudes where it abides. Such 
skunk as inhabit regions of snow and low temperatures 
are much superior in quality of fur to those taken in the 
milder zones as is true of all fur bearers. Northern and 
far Eastern prime skunk fur is long, thick, a blue black 
and glossy, while in the warmest sections fur is shorter, 
thinner, pelt smaller and fur not so glossy. Skunks are 
partial to a settled country and are never numerous in 
wild sections very far from man and his works. They 
are quite fearless and also lawless, frequently making 
^quarters under deserted houses, barns and other build- 
ings. If not molested they will bring forth their young 
and rear them in such proximity to human buildings. 

Species and Sizes. — Skunk differ so much in size 
and in general appearance in various sections of the 
country that we are warranted in the' presumption that 
there are different species of the same' animal. In por- 
tions of the Northwest they are very large, exceeding 
those orf all other sections for size to a marked degree. 
To illustrate: An ordinary sized male skunk of Central 




and Eastern United States will require a stretching board 
8 inches wide at base and 6 at shoulders and 24 inches in 
length ; many a large Western long stripe will need a dry- 
ing board 10 inches wide at base, 8 at shoulders and 30 
inches in length for the pelt alone, tail not included. On 
account of superior size they are worth 50% to 75% 


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 
Length of body, 

inches 21 22 22 21i/4 18 22'y2 22 22^4 22 21 213^ 25 21 

Width at t a i 1, 

inches 9>-sy2 9 9 9 8 9i^ 9 8% 8^^ 10 9 S^^ 

Width at shoul- 
der, inches 6 6^/4 6 6 5^4 534 5 6 5% 5i^ 6i^ 6^4 6 

Length of tail, 

inches 14 14% 14 13 12 14 131/^ 15 14% 13 121/2 16 13 _ 

These skunk were caught by a trapper in Wisconsin — note how uni- 
form they are (with the exception of No. 12) in stripe and size. No. 12 
is a No. 2 or short. 

more than the same marked skins of similar latitudes 
where the average is much smaller. A part of the wide 
range inhabited by these large skunks is North Iowa, 
Minnesota, the Dakotas and Northern Wisconsin. Four 
grades as to amount of white a pelt may contain are com- 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

mon to all other sections, being termed Black or No. i. 
Half or short stripe or No. 2, Long narrow stripe or No. 
3, and Long broad stripe or No. 4, also called white. 

Years ago a skunk skin to be a No. i must have no 
more white than that which covers the scalp, but as this 


(1) This is what is called a star black. 

(2) The two thin white stripes and the small spot o£ white at rump 
do not lessen the value. 

(3) Stripes are a little wider and longer than on the middle skin, 
yet this is a skunk of the No. 1 grade. 

fur became more valuable and in strong demand, grading 
became so liberal that two thin forks of white extending 
from the crown two or three inches downward was per- 
missible and later on good sized skins were rated No. I 



when short narrow stripes went down to the point of 

Such is the custom when assorting for No. I's under 
ordinary conditions, as to business prosperity and exist- 
ing world's markets. If the market is 
demoralized for any cause, then the as- 
sort becomes less liberal and sometimes 
so severe that it approaches the old 
days when a No. i could contain no 
more white than the palm of one's hand 
will cover. If a star black skunk is 
undersized, such as is locally termed a 
''Kitt," it is worth no more than a No. 
2, or half stripe and should be so 
graded. If very small, it is not worth 
so much as an ordinary sized half stripe, 
because the amount of fur is less. 

There are many variations in the 
markings and to assort some odd 
marked ones, requires careful judgment 
to place them where they belong. If 
stripes are broken or branched or of 
irregular width or length the total 
amount of white portion must be esti- 
mated after taking into consideration the size of the pelt 
that is being examined. Sometimes a skin exhibits a fork 
of white, one of which does not extend below the shoul- 
ders while the other reaches to the middle of the skin. 
Ordinarily such a skin would be classed as No. 2 but there 
are instances where it will pass for No. i. To be so classed 
it must be a large, well furred skin and the stripes very 
slight, about ^4 o^ ^^ i^^h in width. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 


No. 2's are those skins with stripes 
not more than an inch wide running to 
the middle of back or an inch less or an 
inch beyond the center. If very narrow 
the stripes may extend 2/3 of the length 
of pelt and grade No. 2. An undersized 
half stripe belongs a grade below with 
the No. 3's. Especially is this true if 
the skin is very small and the stripes 
heavy as to width. Small skins with 
very short forks of white grade No. 2, 
when if the skin was of ordinary size, 
it would grade No. 1 
or black. 

No. 3's carry stripes 
not over an inch wide 
in ordinary sizes ex- 
tending the entire 
length or within three 
inches of the tail root. 

If a skin is extra large, a wider stripe 
is allowed than if of ordinary size. 
Usually a stripe one inch wide is the 
limit and ^ to ^ inch wide stripes 
make a good deal better No. 3. 
Extra small half stripes belong with 
the No. 3's and a large No. 3 with the 
narrowest stripes are really worth 
more money than a very small No. 2. 
Undersized No. 3's belong a grade 
down with the No. 4. Long stripes 




having one narrow stripe and the other extra wide, 
should be graded as No. 4 or broad. 

No. 4's are long broad stripes whose combined width 
will aggregate more white than there is of black in the 
back of a pelt. Also as previously stated, very small long 
narrow stripes are graded No. 4. Lil)- 
erality in grading depends somewhat 
upon circumstances. If a trapper, buyer 
or shipper should offer a lot of skunk 
that were all small, from a section 
where they average much larger, it is 
fair to suspect that the large skins have 
all been kept back, perhaps with a view 
of obtaining an extra price for them, 
and at the same time secure the full 
market price for the small sizes offered 
The illustrations of the four grades 
will convey a good idea of these skins, 
as skunk are sold on these, or similar 
grade, by all dealers unless selling flat. 
Some shipper sends a trial ship- 
ment about as follows: 25 No. i, 7 No. 
2, 17 No. 3, and 5 broad. Now in the 
entire list of 25 No. i, there is not one 
straight skin for that grade. They are 
either undersized or stripes reach al- 
most the middle of skin, or are too wide and other ob- 
jections prevent them from even entering the doubtful 
list. Only 7 No. 2's and all ought to go No. 3. Faults, 
undersized, stripes reach almost to tail, exceeding broad 
if only extending half way. The 3's are mostly too broad 


214 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

and should be graded No. 4. The small allowance for 
broads, there is no doubt about, for their backs are nearly 
all white. 

When such a job as the foregoing is put up to test 
the buyer's generosity and common sense, can he be 
blamed if the owner of such a lot is disappointed with 
the returns ? The dividing line is so closely drawn in the 
different grades of skunk as between buyer and seller, 
especially when this fur is in big demand and prices high, 
that many a quibble arises. Even under the most liberal 
grading, the owner sometimes demands assortments that 
can not be granted by any buyer that is sane. A fur 
hunter offers a single skin on the local market. It is an 
ordinary sized one, freshly caught and has never been on 
the drying boards. Two forks of white extend below the 
shoulders midway between that point and the middle of 
the back. He insists that it shall sell for No. i. The 
buyer is liberal in all cases but declares this skin can 
never sell for No. i. Not only do the stripes go most 
too far down to grade No. i, but they are heavy as to 
width. The owner is confident of his position and goes 
away to try some other buyer. 

Selling a skin for what it is not, many times means 
an extra dollar for the seller and a dollar donated by the 
buyer. Some raw fur firms make four sizes in each of 
the four grades of skunk. Their quoting is Extra Large, 
Large, Medium and Small. Now in such a range of 
sizes, it is easy to quote confusing prices and unheard of 
high prices for Extra Large. The facts are that the quo- 
tations for Extra Large are but a sop paraded before the 
eyes of the prospective shipper as a bait to induce ship- 



ments and cover up the deficiency in prices quoted for 
medium and small. It is rare that you will ever ship 
any skins of such proportions that they will be invoiced 
Extra Large and net you that big, attractive figure. 


(1) Large, 22' length of pelt; (2) length of pelt, 19; (3) length of 
pelt, IS inches. Greatest width, 8%, 7%, 6%. Measured on pelt side. 
These dimensions were furnished by a trapper who selected three from 
a large number — largest, smallest and average. 

In Fall and early Winter when the majority of 
skunk taken average good sizes, there should be no dis- 
tinction in sizes, except where now and then a Kitt or 

2i6 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

extra small may be found. If you do have an occasional 
small pelt in your lot, the buyer will not lose if he grades 
it merely for the amount of white. For every small skin 
he is getting a dozen or more large ones and some that 
are extra large. We will admit that a few extra large 
skins alongside of the small ones make the latter appear 
rather insignificant. Skunk skins average much larger 
early in the season than they do during the spring months. 
Evidently they go into winter quarters fat and hide in 
prime condition but towards spring when they become 
active again, they are not only poor in flesh but the hide 
has apparently shriveled, at any rate it is smaller on the 
same skunk than when that animal was fat. Skunk skins 
will not only average larger but are much more glossy and 
black during the months O'f November, December and part 
of January than later. 

Prime and Unprime. — Prime skunk are full furred 
and will be white on the flesh side after being cleaned 
of fat and the red flesh which often sticks to pelt. The 
pelt that is not quite prime will be of a bluish cast on the 
flesh side and can even be seen through a coat of grease. 
When the skin has been scraped clean the blue appear- 
ance of unprime pelts will stand out clearly. If caught 
so early that there is but little under fur and the pelt side 
is black, the skin is of no value and is termed trash, scab, 

The blue pelt or unprime No. i as to amount of 
white is graded down with prime No. 2's and the blue 
pelts No. 2 go down in the grade of prime No. 3's. Un- 
prime No. 4's are cut in price below market price for 
prime No. 4. Some fur bearers of the same species 



prime up sooner than others. Two 
skunk caught at the same time and 
in the same neighborhood may find 
one prime and the other blue pelted. 
At first sight both may appear prime 
but comparing them side by side the 
difference will be noted, not only in 
regard to color of pelt but the blue 
pelt will be found lacking in under 
fur and will present too much top 

Care and Handling. — Skunk 
are universally fat in Fall and early 
Winter. A heavy blanket of fat 
covers the body which is left on the 
carcass in skinning and still a second 
coat of grease lies next to the skin. 
This should be scraped away clean 
from the skin when it is intended to 
hold this fur for any considerable 
length of time. The tools are a sharp 
wooden knife or a dull drawing 
knife. A beam of rounded timber 
flattened on upper side is made by 
champering it to such a taper that it 
will receive any sized skin. It should 
be incorporated in a shaving horse 
so that the operator sits astride as 
he works. However, in the large fur 


Length, including tail, 
44; greatest width, 9; 
shoulders, 8 inches. This 
skin is nicely handled — 
note how well fleshed and , . , ,^ 

stretched, even the tail houses scrapmg bcams are usually 

is split and tacked out 

mounted so that the workers stand 

Fur Buyers' Guide. 

but must bend over them as they work. Scraping is done 
by downward strokes from head to rump and care must 
be taken not to scrape so close as to draw out or expose 
the hair roots. 

While skunk skins are being held, those that are dry 
and removed from the stretching boards, will remain in 
good condition if clean and they are strung on a wire 
which passes through the noses, and kept separate. Short 
wires or strong cord are attached to the main wire at 
intervals of a few feet and made fast to hooks or screw 
eyes overhead to prevent sagging. The pelts should be 
strung and not allowed to press each other and there 
should be ventilation and a circulation of cool air admit- 
ted much of the time to keep down any tendency in pelts 
to sweat. 

If fat skins are not scraped and are held long in 
moderately warm rooms, there is much danger that the 
grease will heat the pelt and loosen the fur. Sometimes 
such skins exhibit a yellow or creamy color and are waxy 
to the touch. Ten chances to one they are burned and a 
slight pull on the fur will bring away a good lock of it. 
If burned, and the fur is loose, such skins are called ''fur 
slips" or "pullers" by country dealers. Pullers have no 
value whatever. They are past redemption. Sometimes 
skunk furs that are free from fat but green and uncured 
are thrown in a pile or left in a sack closely packed until 
they become tainted. If the odor that arises is that of 
pronounced decay, the probabilities are that they have 
sweat, loosening the fur and that it is ruined. 

Skunk should not be salted. Brine forms, drips on 
the fur and spoils its appearance. It also toughens the 

Skunk. 219 

pelt so that it resists the process of tanning. The bone 
should be removed from tails to prevent rotting, and one 
more word in regard to scraping. Green skins do not 
scrape well as the fat is tough in character but when pelts 
have hung two or three weeks, the fiber of this fat breaks 
down and becomes oil. This is the time to scrape, for it 
can be done easily and clean. When this oil stage is 
attained, therein lies the danger of heating, and every day 
they are neglected at this time is hazardous. 

Shedders and Rubbers. — After skunk become 
prime but few defects will be found for some weeks ex- 
cept that a skin or two may appear at times affected by 
mange. If mangy, the under fur will be lacking, the skin 
scaly and scabby. There is little or no' value in such 
pelts. In the latter part of winter there are some rub- 
bers. Lice or fleas cause the animals to get under some 
log or snag and chafe themselves until the fur is worn 
off down to the skin. This damages a pelt greatly. A 
spot rubbed in the back no larger than a penny places a 
skin one grade below and if rubbed the size of a half 
dollar it belongs two grades below. If the rubbed sur- 
face is as large as the palm of a man's open hand, it is 
about worthless. 

By March ist in central sections and two weeks 
earlier in South Central states, skunks begin shedding. 
All trapping and otherwise securing this fur should end 
abruptly before the shedding stage has arrived. But as 
it does not, something must be said in regard to market- 
ing them. In a collection of these springy skunks, will 
be found shedders in different stages, some only slightly 
affected while others are bad shedders. To distinguish 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

skins that are shedders is not difficult. The flesh side 
has lost the flint white appearance of winter skins and is 
very red and bloodshot and the fur is thin or woolly or 

There is no hard and fast rule for grading and val- 
uing shedders. They must all be examined separately, 
regardless of white markings and valued according to con- 
dition. Many trappers and local buyers are not compe- 
tent judges of springy skins and having accumulated a 
bunch, will fight strenuously against the poorest skins 
being placed one and two grades below, as they belong. 
Some may be about worthless and yet the owner can not 
or does not want to see it. About the best way to han- 
dle the springy skunk question is to grade strictly with- 
out liberality in regard to colors. Establish a reduced 
price on all grades and low enough to meet conditions or 
money will be lost for rarely can springy skunk be bought 
cheap enough. 

In Winter a good many skins are brought in green 
and frozen with the fur outside. They are hung up in 
this condition or perhaps thrown in a heap. While it 
remains cold, this will do but when soft weather comes, 
they must be turned fur side in and stretched on boards 
or they will become slippery which is the next thing to 
spoiling and the fur loosening. If not placed on boards, 
they also shrink greatly in size in a short time and in a 
pronounced way, about the neck and head. 

Sizes and Shapes of Boards. — As previously re- 
marked, the large Western long stripes sometimes require 
a board 30 inches long, 10 wide at base and 9 at shoul- 
ders. The medium and small in these skunk will require 



boards about 2 inches less in dimensions all around for 
each succeeding size. All other states Northeast and 
Central for the full sized skins require a board about 8 

inches wide at base, 7 at shoulders 
and 24 inches in length, not including 
the tail. Medium size, 22 long, 7^ 
at base, 6>^ at shoulders. Small, 18 
long, base 6, shoulders SV^- South- 
ern skins are of smaller size. South- 
ern Ohio and Indiana are smaller 
than those of Michigan and the East- 
ern states. Ohio skunk have a larger 
percentage of blacks or No. i than 
any other state. Often an Ohio col- 
lection will run 50% to No. i. A 
large number in this section are star 
blacks, having no more white than a 
white scalp. Of course there will be 
skins that will require boards be- 
tween sizes of those I have men- 
tioned. There must be a little vari- 
ation for each grade. 

There is also a great diflference 
in the way skins are handled by dif- 
ferent men. The proper shape for 
skunk boards is uniformly oblong. 
They should taper quite rapidly from 
CALIFORNIA LONG jj , ^ j ^ ^^ shoulders 

NARROW STRIPE. "^ ^^^""^^ uciuw wntit 

Large, length of pelt, will come, to the HOse and yet not 
^:f' gre'itesrw'idth! end iu a sharp point. One trapper 
ur'ed'^on^fur''side. ^'^" shapes his boards uniform and an- 

'i:22 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

other makes the head and shoulders portion too wide so 
that the nose is not filled and finally shrivels and dries 
down hard and pointed. It makes the pelt shorter than it 
should be. A third trapper forms his boards long and 
narrow as if skunk required an exaggerated mink board, 
or cat skins were going to occupy them. The result is 
that the hips and body lack much of being filled out to 
their full extent. The skunk is comparatively short in 
body with small neck and head and boards should be' 
shaped accordingly. Buyers should always have a good 
supply of stretching boards on hand. 

Speculation. — So far as the writer has been able 
to ascertain there is more wild, reckless buying of skunk 
furs than in any other when prices are high and demand 
strong. When there is undue excitement and over-con- 
fidence in the future exists, hardly two men can be found 
of the same mind when it comes to old established rules 
in grading. Both may be eager to buy, but one of them 
must be the victor and carry off the spoils even if his 
better judgment tells him he has beaten himself. 

Brown, a country buyer, leaves a bunch behind with- 
out buying it because the owner wants to sell his half 
stripes for No. I's and his broad stripes or No. 4's for 
No. 3. Brown is hungry for furs but prudence for once 
interposes and is heeded. He does not dare buy the lot 
on such an assort. Smith, a second buyer, comes along 
shortly afterward. His appetite for skunk skins is wolf- 
ish. He has just sold a bunch he had bought on an ex- 
aggerated assortment to a buyer in the pond of specu- 
lators who is just a little bit bigger fish than himself. He 
made a dollar and a half clear and it has greatly stim- 

Skunk. 223 

ulated him. Now with blood in his eye he says to the 
owner of the bunch Brown had left, 'I'll take 'em on 
your assort." Having secured the lot Smith must now 
endeavor to find one a degree wilder than himself to un- 
load on, if he is to make anything or even get his money 
back. If he becomes nervous over the deal, he may for- 
get scruples of honesty and proceed to doctor up his pur- 
chase a bit, as a counterfeiter might a five dollar bill, to 
make a fifty of it. He pulls or shaves out some of the 
white stripes to shorten them by a half and so become 
good No. I's. Others where such work would be too 
noticeable because of length and width of stripe, he black- 
ens with shoe blacking or whisker dye. The broad stripes 
bought as No. 3 can not be improved, which causes some 

With all his cunning, skins thus tampered with are 
easily detected in daylight. The white stripe shows 
through on the flesh side although it has been blackened 
and there is a noticeable contrast between blackened fur 
and the real thing. So Smith makes it a point to sell 
some evening when the falling shades of night prevent a 
close inspection. One trick in severe cold weather is to 
shave the white portion from a half stripe while green, 
keep it fur side out, lap the shaved furrow together and 
let it freeze. I once saw a bunch of six or more which 
had been so treated and were all sold for black skins 
while frozen like a rock. Not many buyers will escape 
being taken in by this scheme. Aside from deceptions 
practiced, the prevailing excitement is sufficient to cause 
plenty of irregular if not dishonest doings. 


Fur Buyers' 


Floating reports about the country as to what this 
one and that one received for his furs and what such 
and such ones have been offered is such stimulating gos- 
sip that buyers having a 
few dollars to invest become 
keyed up to a fever pitch. 
They race and run and hire 
teams, if not owning one, 
each striving to head the 
other off and get to the spot 
where a few pelts are held, 
as if the gold of the Klon- 
dike lay in them. They go 
without meals, are up early 
and late and the few hours 
stolen for sleep are restless' 
and beset by dreams of bat- 
tling to secure a share of the 
precious loud odored peltries. 

The country buyers are 
not alone responsible for this 
excitement. It is promoted 
by the large fur firms who 
flood the country with spe- 
cials every week, each suc- 
ceeding list coming out 
higher than the previous ones 
of competitors. Certain firms 
become so anxious as to say, "Send in your furs. We 
will take them on your own assort and valuation or re- 
turn them and pay express both ways if our ideas are too 


Large, measured on pelt side, 
length, 22H; tail, 13; total, 35i^; 
greatest width, 9%; shoulders, 
7% inches. Same pelt measured 
on fur side, length, same but 
greatest width, 10%; shoulders, 
8% inches. 


5KUNK. 225 

far apart." Trappers receive the same quotations that 
are sent to buyers which excites them accordingly and 
makes it hard to buy from them. Unless the local buyer 
will pay extreme prices and be extremely liberal in grad- 
ing, the trapper will take a chance in shipping his furs or 
at least threatens to do so. For a time there seems to be 
no end to excited buying and exaggerated liberality in 
grading. Finally, all of a sudden there comes news of a 
drop. Prices have been forced too high, says the big fur 
firm and the market is demoralized. Values are about 
20% lower and still further reductions may be expected. 

The effect of this news- on the army of small buyers 
is like a 12-inch shell sent from the forces of an enemy 
to explode among them. There is a great hurry to un- 
load holdings now and this still further weakens the mar- 
ket. Losses are sustained and accepted with the best 
grace possible, after which there is a scurry to cover. 
Trappers and skunk diggers keep at work and the fresh 
catch must be sold but suddenly they come to realize that 
there are no buyers. Last week there were plenty of 
buyers but now they are conspicuous by their absence. 
They have all dug themselves into retreats before the 
Memy, a broken market. 

Now a good many are driven to shipping their catch. 
The returns show, besides a big cut in prices, that liber- 
ality in grading has been supplanted by extreme rigor 
and severity in assorting. A skunk does not go No. I 
if having much white except the scalp. Unless a long 
stripe is really narrow, it is a No. 4. No doubtful ones 
go to the shipper's benefit now. Some are thrown a grade 


226 Fur Bt de. 

helow where they should stand and assort is made in sizes. 
This all represents the difference between a booming, 
over-confident condition in the market and the reverse 
when capital is timid and traders panicky. 

Wild speculation in furs should not obtain any more 
than if dealing in grain or vegetables and perhaps would 
not were it not that there are so many grades in furs and 
such a difference in views as to sizes, qualities, colors, 
etc., which affords a wide margin for speculation. There 
is also a sort of fascination about handling furs which 
induces more middlemen dealers to enter the field than 
is necessary, more in proportion to what are needed than 
in the handling of any other commodity. 

Shipping. — Of course, skunk skins in some states 
are larger than in others, but the average is pretty much 
the same in any locality. The quotations vary somewhat 
for the various states and localities but those best in- 
formed do not see any necessity for quoting extra large, 
large, medium, small. Many reports from those that 
have shipped tend to show that the "size" method of 
quoting is not for the best interest of the shipper although 
some reliable firms do so quote. 

When sending furs out on consignment to the large 
fur houses, there is system to be observed as well as in 
buying. First, see that the skins are clean as to grease. 
Pack in sacks standing on tails or noses and snugly. Do 
not double up and wrinkle any dry pelts. Place your as- 
sort in an envelope and address on the outside. Put this 
in with the furs. See that the sack is well sewed up and 
properly tagged. Write a letter at the same time noti- 
fying the receiver of the shipment and request that the 

Kk 227 

furs be held separate until you can accept or reject the 
returns. Every trapper and handler of skunk furs should 
be interested in its conservation and continuance on the 
face of the earth. Such enormous wealth has accrued 
from it and will yet, under proper regulations, that it 
should be and is a concern of the nation. If the skunk 
should become extinct, it would be a greater calamity to 
us than the loss of a dozen dreadnought battleships. 



RANGE. — In a general way the section inhabited by 
this animal may be said to be between 30 and 40 
degrees north, although there are few if any north 
of the Ohio River in the states of Illinois, Indiana 
and Ohio. Neither do they range east of the Allegheny 
foothills in the Carolinas or Georgia ; there are, however, 
a few along the east coast of Florida. They are also 
found north of 40 degrees in the west in Iowa, Nebraska, 
southern Minnesota, southern Wyoming, all of Oregon 
and along the coast of Washington and north into British 
Columbia. They are much more numerous in parts of 
the Central West than a few years ago. 

Description. — For some unaccountable reason this 
diminutive specie of skunk is generally called civet. It 
is also known as spotted skunk. This animal (call it 
what you please) is provided with a peculiar odor some- 
what similar to the skunk, but not so powerful to carry 
a long distance through the air. To many the odor, at 
close range, is as nauseous and offensive as skunk per- 
fume. It rarely, if ever, exceeds a foot in length and the 
tail is shorter than the head and body combined. 

Size and Color. — This fur producer, like the com- 
mon large skunk, varies much in size and also in the 
amount of white in the fur as well as in the pattern of 


Civet Cat. 



■ ■■ ■ WW-* ■ ' 









Large, length, nose to tail, 16; tail, 11; 
greatest width, 6%; shoulders, 514 inches. 
Measured on fur side. 

the spots or short 
stripes. The skin is 
strong and the fur, 
especially from its 
northern range, 
good, but owing to 
s o many white 
spots the fur is not 
very valuable. 

In making up the 
so-called civet, no 
effort is made to 
eliminate the white 
as the fur is used 
natural and 
matched in such a 
way as to harmon- 
ize one skin with 
another. The made 
up article is really 
a novel and showy 
one, price consid- 
ered. The illustra- 
tion of North Ok- 
lahoma Civet i s 
made larger than 
the others of these 
skins for the pur- 
pose of showing 
more plainly length 
and quality of fur. 



The skin, while a large one, is not much longer or wider 
than two of the others shown and dimensions given. The 
illustration of the three average size furnishes a good 

idea of the pelt side. 
Civet furs are secured 
in considerable quan- 
tities in parts of the 
Central West as well 
as most of the South- 
ern states. 

Grade. — Value is 
not determined by the 
amount of white as is 
done with skunk for 
they are all well 
marked with stripes. 
Considering the small 
size and numerous 
spots and stripes if 
assorted, they would 
all be No. 4 or white. 
The skins, however, 
are classified as to size 
only — large, medium, 
small. A good many 
do not even classify 
as to size but buy flat, 
paying according to 
primeness and locality from which received. Those from 
the northern localities, such as Southern Minnesota, Iowa, 
Nebraska, etc., being most valuable as not only are such 
best furred but the skin is stronger so that the manufac- 


(1) Small, length body, 11; greatest 
width, 4; shoulders, 3>4; tail, 9 inches. 

(2) Medium, length body, 12%; greatest 
width, iY2; shoulders, 4; tail, 9 inches. 

(3) Large, length body, 14; greatest 
width, 5; shoulders, 4;^; tail, 9 inches. 

Average sizes for skins from Northern 
and Central civet states. Southern states 
smaller. Note these dimensions are pelt 


tured article has greater wearing qualities. Different 
states and localities produce skins of various sizes but 
the following dimensions of pelts, flesh side, for the three 
sizes will be found practically correct : 

Large, length from tip of nose to 
root of tail 15, width at hips 5>^, shoul- 
ders 5 inches. 

Medium, length from tip of nose to 
root of tail 13, width at hips 5, shoul- 
ders 4^ inches. 

Small, length from tip of nose to 
root of tail 11, width at hips 4>^, shoul- 
ders 4 inches. 

Of course, the shape and thickness 
of boards used in stretching will have 
something to do with sizes but it is pre- 
sumed that skins are stretched on boards 
properly shaped and not over Yz inch 
thick. The following are actual dimen- 
sions taken from a Southeastern Ne- 
braska skin: Length, from nose to root 
of tail 15^, tail 11, width at hips 6>4, 
shoulders 5 inches. The illustration show- 
ing pelt side of three skins and measure- 
ments on flesh side was furnished by a party who has 
handled large quantities of civet cat furs. 

Price. — So far the price of civet fur has been low, 
ranging from about 25 to 75 cents for prime raw skins 
in ordinary years and 5 to 20 for unprime. To a certain 
extent this article is governed by skunk values, for when 
skunk are in good demand it naturally stimulates call for 
this article. 




A fairly large 
skin, measure- 
ments taken on 
fur side. Length, 
nose to root of 
tail, 15H; tail, H; 
greatest width, 
61/4; shoulders, 5 



RANGE. — This fur bearer inhabits practically all of 
the United States and a portion of Canada. In 
widely separated sections there are considerable 
variations as to size, color, length of fur, etc., but 
as its habits appear tO' be essentially the same everywhere 
it can not be said that different species exist. Probably 
environment, climate and food have most to do in the mat- 
ter of growth and character of the fur and as regards size. 
Size. — The largest coon inhabit Wisconsin, North 
Iowa and the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas. 
Good sizes are found in Michigan, North Ohio, North 
Indiana, North Illinois and the Eastern States but the 
average is noticeably smaller than those of the North- 
western states mentioned. South Ohio, Indiana, Illinois 
and North Missouri coon are smaller than those inhabit- 
ing the North range of the same states. The farther south 
the coon is found the smaller is the average size, the 
thinner are they furred and it is also shorter. One fea- 
ture that makes any well furred skins valuable is heft or 
thickness of leather in the pelt when tanned. North- 
western, Central and Eastern are possessed of good leather 
as to thickness. South Missouri and Arkansas coon are 
thin in leather and the lightest weights of all come from 
the Gulf States and Pacific Coast. 


The Raccoon. 


Size of Skins and Quality. — Different sections 
produce so many sizes in coon and various styles of han- 
dling that it is practically impossible to set down very 
positive dimensions in the matter of measurement. The 
best we can do is to give the approximate sizes found in 
a certain locality or range of territory. The buyer in 


(1) Large, dark Northwestern well handled, length nose to root of 
tail 30; width at hips and shoulders, 24 inches. 

(2) Central section medium, poorly skinned and handled. Length 
nose to root of tail 20; width half way between hips and shoulders, 16 
inches. Correct handling would have added at least one-fourth to its value. 

each section must become informed as to what constitutes 
a large, medium or small pelt for his locality, not only as 
required by the large fur dealer but he will also be gov- 
erned in a large measure by custom among local buyers 
with whom he must reckon. 

234 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

In some quarters grading coon has become so liberal 
that small sizes have almost disappeared. Unless a skin 
is very small it is termed medium and good sized me- 
diums, if well furred, grade large or at least bring a large 
coon price. Under such strained liberality in grading coon, 
the majority of all prime skins sell at one price, almost 
the only departure being that Extra Large bring a special 
figure over the ordinary sizes. No skins are termed small 
unless greatly undersized and on the kitt order. This, 
hov^ever, has nothing to do with correct grading or meth- 
ods followed elsewhere. The object of these lines is not 
to set any new standards in grading as to measurements 
of pelts, but place before the reader such dimensions in 
inches for them as is fair to all concerned and likely to 
be accepted by the large dealer. 

A fair standard of size for the Northwestern coon 
is as follows : 24 x 28 inches, 26 x 28 and 24 x 30. These 
are measurements for full sized skins and mean width 
across base of stretched skin and length from tip oi 
nose to root of tail. Three dimensions are given as 
representing different ways of handling both square and 
flaring. Large sizes also are not exactly the same before 
being stretched. Two coon may each come under the 
head of large and one be two inches longer than the 
other. Medium and small sizes in Northwest coon meas- 
ure about an inch less all around as sizes recede. 

In North Central sections and the Eastern states 
extra large skins will equal those of the Northwest. 
Ordinary large sizes measure 22 x 24, 20 x 26, and 20 x 
28 inches. Medium, 18 x 20, 18 x 22, and 20 x 22. Small, 
16x20 and 14x22. These measurements represent va- 

The Raccoon. 


rious ways of handling as well as variation In coon of a 
certain grade before being skinned. South Central sec- 
tions such as South Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Mis- 


Small — Length of pelt, 13 J^; tail, 9; greatest width, 12; shoulders, 12 

Large— Length of pelt, 21; tail, 9; greatest width, 19; shoulders, 19 

These skips are what are known as square stretched — many skins are 
handled in this way by Southern hunters and trappers. 

souri, South Pennsylvania and similar latitude find the 
coon an inch or so less in width and length than the 
skins of the North Central sections. The skins of Ar- 

236 Fur Buyers^ Guide. 

kansas and South Missouri and similar latitude are still 
smaller and the smallest coon of all inhabit the Gulf 
States and Pacific Coast. 

The fur of Northwestern coon is long, thick and 
dark grey, sometimes tinged with dark brown. The pelt 
is heavy also. There are, however, some skins of light 
grey as found in all furs regardless of section. In the 
North Central states the skins are weighty as to leather 
and the color varies from light grey tinged with brown 
to dark greys with brown and black effects. Occasionally 
a decided black pelt is taken of superior value. The 
Ohio, Indiana and Illinois coon are lighter colored as a 
whole than those about three degrees of latitude farther 
North. The farther South we proceed the smaller are 
the sizes with thinner pelt and shorter fur. Arkansas 
and South Missouri skins are the last in fairly well furred 
skins. In the Gulf States the smallest, thinnest in pelt 
and shortest furred of all coon exist except those of the 
Pacific Coast which are only a trifle better in the fur 
market. Full sizes of these semi-tropical coon are 14 to 
16 inches wide and 18 or 20 inches long. 

The photograph showing Northern and Southern 
Coon Skins is an interesting one, showing as it does the' 
general ways these skins are handled in the different 
parts of the country as well as the color of the fur. No. 
I shows a large, dark and silky New Hampshire skin, 
cased, which is the method used by most trappers and 
coon hunters in not only New Hampshire but most of the 
New England states where skins run well to this char- 
acter. No. 2 shows a large, light colored, short furred, 
square and nicely handled Louisiana skin which is the 

The Raccoon. 


method used by the best trappers and coon hunters not 
only in Louisiana but most of the states bordering on the 
Gulf of Mexico as well as other Southern localities. 

It will be seen by the figures given that there may 
be as many as three' dimensions under one head. It de- 


(1) Large, Cased, New Hampshire— Length of pelt, 25; tail, 10; total, 
35 inches; greatest width, 10; shoulders, 8. 

(2) Large, Open, Louisiana— Length of pelt, 22; tail, 9; total, 31 
inches; width, hips and shoulders same, 19 inches. 

pends upon a slight difference in the size of animals and 
also in what manner the pelt is stretched. If two coon 
of exact size were to be stretched by different men, one 
will make a large skin of his coon while that handled by 
the other man will only go medium. It depends upon 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

dimensions and shape. Give two large skins of equal 
size to different men and when stretched one measures 
20 X 24 while the other is 18 x 26. One of them endeav- 
ored to stretch his pelt square 
but made it too long and con- 
sequently too narrow. But 
for all that the dimensions are 
different, they are both large 

Primeness and Handling. 
— A No. I or prime skin is 
full furred and the flesh side 
is entirely white with a thin 
film of fleshy red covering it. 
A No. 2 in quality is full 
furred but still hairy and the 
flesh side bears a bluish ap- 
pearance. A No. 3 contains 
about a half growth of under 
fur but the whole pelt is very 
hairy and the pelt side is 
black. A No. 4 possesses but 
a very small growth of fur, 
is nearly all hair and very 
short and the pelt side is 
black. In one state where the fur bearers are protected 
by law during a closed season, no trapping can be done 
early enough to find pelts in the No. 3 and No. 4 stage. 
Trappers found with them in their possession are fined 
iud the dealer who buys such pelts is fined and the pelts 
confiscated and destroyed. 

COON SKIN, early 


Length of pelt, 2'3; tail, 8; 
total, 33; greatest width, 18; 
shoulders, 14 inches. Poorly- 
handled, skin salted, size medium 
but owing to season caught No. 
2 or lower. 

The Raccoon. 239 

All prime skins do not grade No. i. It depends upon 
how well furred and other conditions to be mentioned 
later on. If a large prime coon is very poor in fur, it 
goes down into the No. 2 grade. If badly handled, torn 
or shriveled or perforated by many shot or is badly bit- 
ten by dogs, tail bone left in and partly rotted or darkly 
bloodshot from the manner in which it was killed, it is a 
No. 2 or No. 3 according to condition. A prime skin small 
and badly handled, is not worth so much as a large No. 
2, well handled and not damaged. 

Coon being an animal which lays on a heavy supply 
of fat, the pelt should be cleaned of all loose fat at the 
time of skinning. After the skin has been stretched two 
or three weeks, the fat will break down in tissue and 
assume an oily character. This is the time to scrape the 
pelt clean and it should not be neglected if these furs are 
to be held long or they may be heated by the oil and 
cause sloughing of the fur or at least loosen it so that it 
may be pulled away easily. Care must be taken not to 
scrape a pelt with such vigor as to draw out the fur or 
expose the roots. Scrape just close enough to remove 
the grease and no more. 

Coon are sometimes stretched by the careless, in- 
different, or ignorant with such a coating of fat that it 
becomes oil, turns rancid, yellow and thick and shortly 
the fur roots have been heated and sweating occurs, 
which loosens the fur. Such a skin is ruined. The long 
coated coon often become filled with burrs of the dock 
in the back and hips and the tail may be a solid knot of 
the fur matted with burrs. These should be removed 
with a curry comb and brush, being careful not to pull 

240 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

out . the fur. The whole coat should be cleaned and 
combed out and brushed so as to give it a presentable 
appearance. Certain trapped coon wallow in sticky clay 
in their efforts to escape until the fur is balled and matted 
together. When this condition becomes dry, whip it with 
sticks and after being broken up, comb and brush and 
shake it out clean. 

The trapper of the Northern and Eastern sections 
believes firmly that there are two species of coon. He 
will tell you that there are the common grey coon inhab- 
iting the hills which are not very large and do not care 
so much about being around the water as tha other kind 
of coon. The other species he calls the swamp coon, de- 
cidedly larger, darker colored, longer furred, long legged 
and capable of a long run when pursued by dogs. 
Brought to bay, he is a very strong, fierce antagonist for 
any dog to cope with and sells his life dearly. This 
species inhabits the river bottoms, spring brooks, swampy 
lands, and never strays far from water. This is a pet 
view of the back country trapper and we are not disposed 
to contradict and disturb him in his opinion, if we had 
grounds for argument. 

In some years the darker colored skins are worth an 
extra price and at other times no difference is made be- 
tween them and ordinary colors, unless a pelt is strictly 
black. As a rule, coon are dyed and but few made up 
naturally so that dark shades are not in superior requ^'^t 
or more valuable. 

Coon are handled both square and flaring. If evenly 
done, either of the two styles sell equally well. If 
stretched square, a nail is driven in the end of the nose, 

The Raccoon. 


after which the principal efforts are directed in drawing 
the skin upward and outward at the shoulders to make 
square corners and attain the same width that the skin 

will be at its base 
when all is tacked. 
This method shortens 
a skin more than 
stretching slightly ob- 
long but the average 
w i 1 1 be w i d e r. A 
trapper known as one 
of the best square coon 
skin stretchers d e- 
scribes his method as 
follows : Skin as usual 
but split nose and head 
down even with ears; 
stretch outj^oth points 
of nose — one each way 
— and nail. Next pull 
out and nail longest 
part of each front leg ; 
then pull up and nail 
balance of fore legs. 
You now have the top 
stretched and have 
used more than a 
dozen nails. Now be- 
gin at top right hand side, nailing down, using a nail about 
every inch but do not stretch. Now begin at top on the 
other side and stretch and nail as you go down. You 
will now find that the skin is loose through the center. 


This pelt, although not properly stretched 
measured as follows: Length of pelt, 30 
tail, 8; total, 38 inches; width at hips, 22 
shoulders,^ 18. Neither front or hind legs' 
included in measurement. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Catch hold of tail and pull down and nail, also nailing 
from tail each way across. The job is now complete and 
if correctly done, the skin is square. 

This fur is handled both cased and open. The large 


These five skins are all large and dark, representing the best skins 
from Pennsylvania, New York and New England States. Skins taken 
from full grown coon are usually 26 or 27 inches long with a width of 10 
inches cased. 

and heavy northern skins are preferred cased (skins from 
all other sections open), yet no difference is made in their 
value. Cased skins from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North- 
ern Iowa and Nebraska require boards up to lo inches 

The Raccoon. 243 

at base. If handled square, the largest would stretch 
about 26 X 32, or thereabouts. In any case, the first move 
is to tack the pelt at wide intervals all around to deter- 
mine its size. Some points will be long and of no use 
to the skin. Tack them temporarily. When the probable 
dimensions of a pelt has been determined and laid out by 
boundary nails, begin and pull out the skin between these 
guiding nails and tack about one inch apart, keeping them 
in a straight line. This is the plan to follow for sides, 
bottom and all around. When fully nailed it should be 
tight like a drum head. The finishing touch is to trim 
off shanks and little flippers of skin that extend beyond 
the main dimensions and spoil the appearance of the pelt. 

Custom in the handling of skins must be observed 
just as established requirements in grading can not be 
ignored. There are a good many defects in coon furs, 
some of which are : unprime, heated, faded, scorched, 
thin, rubbed, tails rotten from bone being left in, woolly, 
no guard hair, and shedders. It is rather difficult for 
the amateur buyer to make money on coon furs. Either 
he grades against himself for sizes, or buys unprime at 
prime prices, buys No. 3's for No. 2 and 4's for 3's. 
Sometimes a collection of November coon will not assort 
more than 25% prime. They may be well furred and 
good sizes and still a trifle blue. The longer held and 
dryer the unprime become, the bluer the pelt will be. We 
have seen pelts that when fresh were only slightly blue 
but became almost black after being held two months. 

In Northern latitudes the majority of coon are prime 
by November 15th, a few earlier and some later, depend- 
ing upon weather conditions, whether seasonable or not. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Shedding occurs in 
two or three weeks 




Length of pelt, 29; tail, 
131/^; total 421/^; width at 
hips, 14%; shoulders, 12 
inches. Open, this skin 
would have stretched at 
least same length (29) 
and 29 across hips and 
24 at shoulders. 

come charitable and 
quality that is not in 

Central sections by March ist and 
earlier in the South. Not all are 
shedding at the same time but the 
majority are and all will be in the 
same stage in a few days. At this 
time the flint white color that is 
seen in skins of winter quality gives 
way to a very red and almost crim- 
son color as if drenched in blood 
and dried. The fur becomes thin 
or woolly and theguard hairs crum- 
pled at their tip ends. In some 
skins of late winter the guard hairs 
are entirely absent, which gives an 
otherwise good coat of fur a flat 
appearance. When springiness be- 
comes still more pronounced skins 
become bluish in spots, particularly 
around the head and fore legs. The 
taking of coon should stop at once 
when signs of shedding appears. 
The shedder is most difficult to sell. 
Nobody wants them. The blue pelts 
of late fall are far preferable. 

Always remember that while 
buyer and seller are trying to deal, 
friendship is set in the background. 
The owner is going to drive as hard 
a bargain as possible. If you be- 
so overpay the market and buy for 
the goods, he has fattened his pocket 

The Raccoon. 245 

while your purse has become correspondingly lean. You 
will not make any profit and it may be difficult to get the 
money back that you paid when you come to sell. San- 
ity should always govern a buyer and such lots of furs 
that he can not buy on a fair assortment and at prices 
somewhat near market values, he should pass by. 

Do not strive to bag all the furs you come to and 
compete with the plunger and imprudent buyer you know 
of who has a hard time of it to sv/ing out even when he 
sells. It is better to buy a hundred dollars worth of furs 
and make a profit than to secure a thousand dollars' 
worth and make nothing. And besides, the lack of profit 
is the larger amount of work to be done in caring for the 
big, unprofitable lot. 



RANGE. — The scope of country inhabited by opos- 
sum is more restricted than that which marks the 
bounds of any other common fur bearer in the 
United States. The so-called cotton states are the 
real opossum country, and still the northern boundary of 
its habitat extends into Central Pennsylvania, North 
Ohio, North Indiana, North Illinois, Southern Iowa, etc. 
It is not very plentiful, however, after leaving the cen- 
tral portions of the states last mentioned. 

Opossum are the only marsupial, or pouched animal, 
of the Western Hemisphere. The young are born when so 
small as scarcely to be out of the embryo stage. They 
are at once placed in the pouch by the mother and each 
of these little blind, hairless mites seize a nipple and be- 
come so firmly attached that it is impossible to separate 
them from their hold. If the body be pulled sufficiently 
strong, the head will separate from the neck and still 
cling to the teat. In five or six weeks the young are about 
the size of mice and in two months are able to leave the 

Size and Color. — The length of a full grown opos- 
sum is about i8 or 20 inches excluding the tail, which is 
bare and scaly like that of a rat. The color is of a grizzly 
grey, often mixed with black in the half grown ones and 




sometimes nearly white in the older animal. As to the 
character of its food, it consists of fruit, grain, vege- 
tables, small mammals, young birds, eggs, insects and it 
will also make occasional forays on poultry. It grows to 


(1) Large— Length, 24; greatest width, S^^; shoulders, 8 inches. 

(2) Length, 22; greatest width, 7^/^; shoulders, 7 inches. Will also 
class large. 

(3) Medium — Length, 19; greatest width, 6; shoulders, BVo inches. 

(4) Small— Length, 14; greatest width, 5%; shoulders, 5 inches. 
These skins represent a fair average grade for the Northern opossum 

States. In Southern States average sizes are somewhat smaller. 

full size in about eight months if food is plentiful. Ap- 
proximate sizes are : 

Extra large, 9 inches at base of skin, 8 inches at 
shoulders, 22 inches long. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Large, i8 to 20 inches long, 8 at base, 7 at shoulders. 

Medium, 16 to 17 inches long, 7 to 7^ at base, 6 to 
6y2 at shoulders. 

Small, 12 to 14 inches long, 5^ to 6 at base, 5 at 

Extra Small, about 5x1-?. 


(1) Small— Length, 14; greatest width, 6; shoulders, 4^/^ inches. 

(2) Small— Length, 151/^; greatest width, 6%; shoulders, 5% inches. 

(3) Medium— Length, 20; greatest width, 7^^; shoulders, 6 inches. 

(4) Medium— Length, 18; greatest width, IV^; shoulders, 5l^ inches, 
(u) Large— Length, 261/^; greatest width, 10; shoulders, 7% inches. 
(6) Large— Length, 221/^; greatest width, 9; shoulders, 7 inches. 

_ These skins show the relative sizes — large, medium, small— yet No. 3, 
which is 20 inches long but only 6 wide at shoulders, is classed laro^e by 

There are also many kitt opossums caught, no larger 
than a half grown muskrat and some no larger than a 
large barn rat. Such sizes are worthless. 

Its Fur and Uses. — In its northern range the opos- 
sum is in fur of marketable quality about four months, 

Opossum. 249 

dating from November ist to March ist. Previous to 
this they are unprime and hairy with but little under fur. 
After March ist they begin to shed the winter coat and 
return to hair again in a few weeks. The fur is made 
up both natural and dyed. When colored it is used to 
imitate skunk fur, called by the furrier black marten. 
Collarettes, boas and muffs and many other things are 
made of opossum. 

Grading, Sizes and Primeness. — Opossum furs 
are more difficult to grade than any other on the list of 
native furs. A skin may be prime in pelt but have no 
fur, a condition not often found in any other fur. The 
sizes are large, medium and small, and as to primeness, 
the grades are Nos. i, 2 and 3. A pelt that measures 8x18 
inches may be termed large and the two smaller sizes one 
inch less in width and about two in length successively. 
A No. I opossum is not only white on the flesh side but 
is full furred. If poorly furred it must be graded No. 2 
or No. 3 according to how poor it may be in fur. If the 
pelt is prime but there is no fur, the skin is classed as 
trash and of no value. 

The pelt side of No. 2 possesses a yellowish cast 
when dry and the fur is hairy. If containing no under 
fur, it is trash. If not well furred, a No. 2 is graded 
No. 3. No. 3's are unprime in pelt and have but a small 
growth of fur. The poorly furred and damaged prime 
skins also go into the No. 3 grade. All opossum which 
have no fur and only hair are trash and have no 
value. Among the early caught will be a good many 
that are trash. A collection of opossum skins that 
are all early caught and unprime are the most undesirable 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

peltries that the fur handler can purchase. The demand 
for early opossum is not good and the outlook for making 
a profit on them is not encouraging. More than 500,000 
opossum are marketed in a season and besides the fur 
value, the flesh is quite highly prized. Not only is it 
eaten commonly by the inhabitants throughout its range, 

but it finds a ready sale 
in the large cities. 

Opossum pelts are 
very fat in late autumn 
and early winter and 
should be scraped to pre- 
vent heating. Leave pelt 
side out. Opossum skins 
are often bought flat but 
unless the buyer is fa- 
miliar with skins from 
that particular locality, 
the seller may try to 
work him by offering a 
skinned lot, that is, part 
of the largest and best 
taken out. In buying 
flat, all worthless pelts, 
either large, furless, 
badly dog chewed and 
very small are thrown 

LARGE CENTRAL WEST .'^"*- P"" Auctuates but 

OPOSSUM. is largely governed by 

Length of pelt, 30; greatest width, 10; S k U U k ValuCS which 
shoulders, 8 inches. A very large skin, , • i (.. , . . . 

the largest out of hundreds, represent- artlClC, aitcr bcmg dyed, 

ing Southeast Iowa, Northern Missouri •, • i ^ • •. , 

and Central Western Illinois. it IS USCd to imitate. 



Buyers who usually can quickly judge whether the 
fur is prime at a glance at the flesh side of pelts, may be 
mistaken on this article. Opossum caught weeks before 
the fur is full length and even with little or no fur, only 

hair, in some instances, have an 
apparently prime pelt. The ex- 
perienced buyer, however, knows 
that when unprime they show a 
dark blue spot on the under side 
at the throat. The plainer such a 
spot or spots, the poorer furred. 
Some trappers also know this and 
those inclined to be tricky are 
careful to leave considerable' fat 
on and around head and neck. 

West Virginia being located 
south of the Ohio River, those 
not familiar with the fur pro- 
duced there, will be surprised at 
not only the quality but the size' 
of some of the fur bearers. This 
is especially true of opossum, 
which are also as well furred gen- 
erally as those farther north. One 
of the best average collections of 
opossum that the writer ever saw 
was secured from territory lying 
between the Great Kanawha and 
Little Kanawha Rivers. This col- 
lection was secured from trappers 
principally in the counties of Jack- 


Length, 26; greatest 
width, 10; shoulders, 7 
inches. Very few opossum 
are as large as this one. 
Considerably dog chewed. 

252 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

son, Roane, Wirt and Calhoun. They were not only well 
furred but very large average size, perhaps 50 would class 
extra large. 

At Catlettsburg, Kentucky, in the 90's I bought a lot 
of more than 1,000 opossum secured from the Sandy 
River country or Southwestern West Virginia and North- 
eastern Kentucky. These were fairly well furred but the 
sizes were much smaller than fifty tO' a hundred miles 
north. For many years I traveled and bought thousands 
of opossum and other furs on both sides of the Ohio 
River, from Pittsburg to Cincinnati, so I know the sizes 
from the different localities. It has also been my privilege 
to stand in the fur assorting room of New York and St. 
Louis dealers and see lots from all the opossum produc- 
ing states opened and graded. Strange, but skins that 
came in from the territory between the Great and Little 
Kanawha Rivers of West Virginia, averaged better furred 
than other southern localities and apparently as well 
furred and larger than those north of the Ohio River. 
Some' splendid skins are, however, secured in Southern 
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, parts of 
Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia. Farther 
south, even though having size, the fur is not so dense 
and is shorter. 

Probably 75% of the opossum are from the states 
bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, 
Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee. Several states 
immediately north of those mentioned are, however, 
really in the opossum country, including Virginia, Ken- 

Opossum. 253 

tticky and Missouri. Further north they are not so plen- 
tiful and as already stated very few are found north of 
Central Pennsylvania, North Ohio, North Illinois, South- 
ern Iowa, etc. 



CHE TIMBER WOLF — RANGE.— The large grey 
or timber wolf inhabit Canada, Alaska and the 
West and North sections of the United States. 
There are a good many packs of these wolves at 
the present time inhabiting North Michigan, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota and Maine, They constitute a scourge among 
the deer supply and in spite of high bounties to encourage 
wolf trapping and hunting, the animals appear to be on 
the increase in places. Large bounties have been the 
means of some wolf hunters making wolf taking a dis- 
honest source of revenue'. They make a business of 
hunting up the young in Spring while they are helpless 
in the nest. From four to six pups are frequently secured 
irom one lair. They are nursed and grown for a few 
months until large enough to claim the bounty paid for 
adult wolves, when they are killed. These men never 
kill the mother wolf if it can be avoided. It would destroy 
the "Goose that lays the golden egg." This manner of 
securing wolf bounties is unlawful and those who work 
such schemes are careful to keep it secret. 

Species. — Owing to a number of varieties, perhaps 
different species, there is considerable difference in size 
and color. In Florida there is a small black wolf; in 
Alaska and Northern Canada the Arctic wolf, the color 


Wolves and Coyotes. 



Large— Length nose to root of tail, 60; tail, 20; total length, 80; 
greatest width, 25 inches. This pelt shows rare specimen of the black 
timber wolf and was secured in the Mackenzie River District of Canada. 

Large grey timber wolf from Mackenzie District, Canada. Length 
nose to root of tail, 58; tail, 20; total, 78; greatest width, 24 inches. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 


Length of pelt, 49; tail, 20; total, 69; 
greatest width, 23% inches. This pelt is only 
an ordinary sized one. 

of which is pure 
white with black 
tipped tail, as well 
as a black specie ; 
the Red wolf of 
Texas and the 
Brindle wolf of 
Mexico. The most 
common variety, 
however, is the 
grey wolf, often 
called the Timber 
wolf, Lobo and 
Wolf to distin- 
guish it from the 
prairie species. All 
these, however, 
according to nat- 
uralists, belong to 
the group known 
as Timber wolves. 
Size and Color. 
— Timber wolves 
are from 5 to 6 
feet in length in- 
cluding an 18 or 
20 inch tail. The 
color varies from 
plain grey to spec- 
imens that are al- 
most white in the 

Wolves and Coyotes. 257 

far North and a litter sometimes contains one or more 
black whelps. In Northern sections prime^ perfect skins 
are thick furred and silky. The hair between the shoul- 
ders is coarser and longer than that which covers the 
rest of the body. Occasionally blue wolves are found in 
the far North. 

Uses. — Well furred timber wolves are specially 
adapted for making sleigh and automobile robes and driv- 
ing coats. They are also dyed black, brown and blue and 
are often sold under fictitious names when made up into 
boas, muffs, capes, collarettes, etc., being called blue 
wolf, blue lynx and other fancy names to help sell the 
goods. Wolf is also much used for floor rugs in homes 
and offices, especially west of the Mississippi River, and 
thousands of the best skins are tanned and made up by 
taxidermists. Wolf fur is moderate priced, although 
used throughout the civilized world. 

Grading. — Not only sizes, but color, quality of fur 
and condition of pelt must be taken into consideration. 
The color may vary from almost black in the Florida 
pelt to white for the Arctic region skin. The majority 
are grey, being darkest on the back and dusky on shoul- 
ders and hips. The fur is usually long and shaggy. 
Wolves from the north and mountainous sections are 
usually darker, fur finer and silkier than the fur of those 
from a level or prairie country. In states or provinces 
where the topography varies from plains to high moun- 
tains, such as much of the Rocky and Cascade Mountain 
country, the quality of this article varies from good to 
poor. Take the' state of Colorado, for example: The 
high mountain-caught will average with a level country 


258 Fur Buyers'* Guide. 

farther north, foot hills with Northern Kansas and Mis- 
souri, plains with Oklahoma and similar. 

Sizes are hard for the inexperienced to determine, 
for remember that a large wolf may weigh anywhere 
from 75 to 150 pounds, depending upon where caught. 
One weighing 75 pounds, of the Florida specie, is large, 
while the largest from Alaska and Northern Canada may 
weigh up to 150 pounds. By far the majority of pelts, 
classed large, will be greys of the Southwest, West and 
North with weights varying from 75 to more than 100. 
It is from size of pelt that the dealer judges, but how is 
he to know, when receiving shipments, unless familiar 
with the peculiarities of the various skins from the va- 
rious sections, but that the pelts were originally from an- 
other part of the country than from which he received 
them? Maybe where caught, skins which the dealer 
grades as medium are considered large. Again, the inex- 
perienced dealer may put medium into large. 

The buyer who expects to handle this article, from 
all parts of the country, will find that assorting sizes 
correctly is not learned in a day, week or month but takes 
years to master thoroughly. Shedders, rubbed, poisoned, 
scalped, early caught, summer killed, etc., are all met with 
in the buying of wolf to which must be included the as- 
sorting for sizes — large, medium, small — also Nos. 2, 
3, and 4. 

Wolf should be handled open. It is difficult to give 
the exact sizes for large, medium, small, owing to the 
varying size of this animal in different parts of the 
country. From end of nose to tip -of tail the average 
size for the skins from the Northwest are approximately : 

Wolves and Coyotes. 



Length nose to root of tail, 64; tail, 21: 
total, 80; width, 151^ inches. 

Large, 5 feet, 6 

Medium, 5 feet, 
2 inches. 

Small, 4 feet, 
10 inches. 

Nicely handled, 
full furred pelts 
are often taken for 
No. I of a smaller 
size than one not 
so well furred or 
improperly h a n- 
dled. A No. 2 is 
not full furred and 
pelt at least partly 
unprime or a prime 
scalped. No. 3 is 
apt to be unprime 
in both pelt and 
fur, although a 
prime pelt may be 
so badly handled 
or damaged by 
dogs to so class. 
No, 4, no fur, un- 
prime pelt, badly 
damaged skins, 
torn by dogs or 

26o Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Wolves from the different parts of the country vary 
in size but undoubtedly the largest come from the far 
north including parts of Alaska and Canada. It seems 
that from the North country there are also more colors 
and in addition to the gray variety are a very few black 
and some white. The illustration of Northern Large 
Grey Timber Wolf Skin shows to what immense size 
the wolf in the North attain. This pelt, including tail, 
is 85 inches or j feet i inch long. Pelt is cased yet is 
15^ inches wide, equal to 31 if split or open. 

Coyote or Prairie Wolf — Range. — The coyote 
is a small wolf inhabiting the Plains States. It is found 
as far south as Texas and north into the western por- 
tions of Canada. The Hudson Bay Company handles 
several thousand skins annually. The Canadian coyote 
is fuller furred than those of Western United States. 

Color. — The color is grey or grizzly with dark 
tipped guard hairs. The under fur is slate blue as a rule 
but sometimes brown. The best, longest and thickest 
furred skins are inclined to coarseness. Prairie wolf take 
dyes well and it is used extensively in robes, coats, muffs, 
boas and for other purposes where long furs are wanted. 

Value and Uses. — The fur varies from flat and 
coarse in the South, Southwest and parts of the West to 
fine and silky in the North and high mountain localities. 
The latter are much more valuable but numbers small 
compared with the less valuable skins. Thousands of 
the best specimens do not reach the regular fur buyer or 
collector but are sold to taxidermists and made into rugs, 
robes, etc., usually at prices above fur values. If skins 
have been scalped, it detracts about one-third from the 
value of the pelt. 

Wolves and Coyotes. 


Grading. — Coyote are classified large, medium, 
small, Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Skins should be cased, for open 
they are not so desirable by about 10%. This fur from 

various localities 
varies and to the 
trade is known as 
soft, silky, ordinary, 
coarse, hairy. D i f- 
fereni parts of the 
country produce 
various sized pelts. 
The following di- 
m e n s i o n s are of 
stretching board pat- 
terns much used by 
trappers : 

Large, hips 10 
inches, shoulders 9 

Medium, h i p s 9 
inches, shoulders 8 

Small, hips 8 
inches, shoulders 7 

Length of board 
4>^ to 5 feet, although the largest skins will be only 
about 4 feet from end of nose to tail. 

A No. I large, medium or small must be prime in 
fur and pelt, but may vary somewhat from sizes as given. 
No. 2 skins are those! secured before the fur is thick or 




Large, Dark — Length of pelt, 46; tail, l7; 

total, 63; greatest width, 13; shoulders, 11 


Small, Light — Length of pelt, 31; tail, 13; 
total, 44; greatest width, 12; shoulders, 9 
inches. Both measured on fur side. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 



I— I 





I— I 







Wolves and Coyotes. 


full length. A No. i pelt, scalped, becomes No. 2. No. 3 
are those with their fur and pelt damaged, torn, etc. No. 

4 are those with little or no 
fur growth, badly torn by 
dogs or otherwise. 

Coyote skins while vary- 
ing in size, are stretched dif- 
ferently. One hunter or 
trapper may stretch as long 
as possible, regardless of 
width, while others use wider 
boards. The total length of 
large skins will, therefore, 
vary several inches. The 
long stretched skins will 
probably be 10 to 12 inches 
wide at root of tail and i to 
2 inches narrower at shoul- 
der. Other skins may be 13 
inches but taper to 9 inches 
or less at shoulders, the wide 
stretched skin, of course, be- 
ing the shorter. A medium 
is an inch smaller than large, 
both at hips and shoulders 
and 3 tO' 5 inches shorter. 
A small is about the same 
under medium as medium is 
less than large. 

The buyer of this article 
must be on the look- 


Length of body, 45; tail, 13; 
total length, 58; greatest width, 
111/^; shoulders, 9 inches. Fairly 
large for that section, but fur is 
not long or thick. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 


(1) Medium^ — Length of body, 36; tail, 14; total, 50; greatest width, 
12; shoulders, 10 inches. 

(2) Medium — Length of body, 36; tail, 14; total, 50; width at hips 

and shoulders same, 12 inches. Both skins are from the Province of 
Alberta, Canada. 

(3) Large — Length _ of pelt, 38; tail, 16; total, 54; greatest width, 13; 

shoulders, 11 inches. Skin should have been stretched longer and not' so 

wide. This skin is from Western Nebraska. All three measured on fur 

Wolves and Coyotes.- 


out for those affected with mange. Such skins are of 
Httle or no vakie. Many are also poisoned. Such skins 

are apt tO' be dam- 
aged, especially hair 
loose. When this 
article is cased and 
offered for sale pelt 
side out the fur 
should be examined. 

The two Rocky 
Mountain Section 
Prairie wolf skins 
shown here are both 
large, measuring as 
follows: (i) Length 
of body 41 >^, tail 16, 
total 57>^ inches; 
greatest width 14^, 
shoulders 9>^. (2) 
Length of body 4o; 
tail 16. total 56 inches; 
greatest width 14, 
shoulders 9. These 
skins are probably 
overstretched at the 
hind quarters as a 
glance at the skins 
will indicate. A fur- 
ther and somewhat 
more careful observa- 
tion of the skins will 


(1) Large — Length of pelt, 42; tall, 17; 
total, 59; width at hips and shoulders same, 

9 inches. 

(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 34; tail, 
16; total, 50; greatest width, 12%; shoul- 
ders, 10y2 inches. 

(3) Large — Length of pelt, 42; tail, 17; 
total, 59; width at hips and shoulders same, 

10 inches. 
Although the center pelt is 9 inches 

shorter than the others width is greater. 
This pelt should have been stretched 
longer and not so wide. All measured on 
fur side. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

show that (i) is darker especially on hips and tail than 
(2) yet the two were caught on the same ranch and 
within a half mile of each other. 

There is considerable difference in shade or color of 

the prairie wolf or 
coyote skins in the 
same locality as well 
as in the different 
parts of the country. 
Color does not have 
much to do with the 
value as it is the 
soft, silky skins that 
are most valuable 
and these may be the 
lightest colored as 
well as the dark. 

The illustration — 
Timber and Prairie 
Wolf Skins — show- 
ing a hunter and 
trapper of the Lake 
Superior region 
holding up a timber 
wolf skin with three 
of the prairie wolf skins hanging against the building 
shows the difference in sizes. The timber wolf is large, 
measuring from end of nose to tip of tail 7 feet, 9 inches ; 
width across shoulders, toe to toe, 5 feet, 3 inches ; width 
at narrowest part 2 feet, 6 inches. The three prairie wolf 
skins are also large but measure only from nose to tip 
of tail, 5 feet; width, cased, 12 inches. The three skins 
are practically all of the same dimensions. 


Wolves and Coyotes. 




RANGE. — There are at least ten species of the 
land otter, four of which are American. The 
otter in general outline is that of a giant or an 
exaggerated mink and its habits are much the 
same. It is never found living far from lakes and 
streams and its farthest departure from water is seen 
in its travels overland from one stream to another or 
from stream to lake as the case may be. The range 
of the otter covers practically the entire Western Hemi- 
sphere, that is, both North and South America. It does 
not take kindly to the encroachment of the settlers and 
is never numerous in a settled region. 

Quality. — The finest furred skins come from Lab- 
rador, Canada, Nova Scotia and the York Fort district 
of the Hudson Bay Country. The best otter as to fur 
and color come from East Maine where they are very 
dark. The poorest qualities come from the Gulf and 
Pacific Coast, the pelt being heavy and the fur short 
and light colored. The average color is a liver brown, 
the under side of the body being still lighter colored. 
When the top hairs have been plucked out, the under 
fur assumes a shade from light tan to golden brown. 
From some sections certain otter appear singed, the 
guard hairs being wilted down as if burned. This 
condition detracts greatly from ordinary values. Con- 




sidering that the otter is found from Alaska to Labra- 
dor and from near the Arctic Coast to the very southern 
parts of the United States (a distance of 3,ocx) miles 

north and south) this fur shows 
but little variation in size, color, 
or quality. This is because they 
are much in the water. The tem- 
perature of the water in Winter 
is about the same all over the 
United States, Alaska and Canada. 
While Southern otter average much 
lower, it is partly due to their be- 
ing caught before mid-winter and 
before cold weather has primed 
them. Strange, but true, more ot- 
ter are caught in October and No- 
vember in the Southern states than 
farther north. 

Primeness. — There are four 
degrees of primeness in otter and 
the same considerations that apply 
to the different stages of primeness 


Large — Length nose to root of tail, 40; 
tail, 17; total, 57; greatest width, 9; shoulders, 
7 inches. This pelt represents a good average 
large for the New England States, New York, 
Pennsylvania, the Virginias, Michigan, Wis- 
consin, Minnesota, Canada, etc. About the 
only sections where otter average much larger 
is from Florida and other states bordering on 
the Gulf of Mexico, as well as parts of the 
Northwest — Oregon, Washington, British Co- 

270 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

in mink, apply to otter, the prime being all red or 
white on the flesh side, while the No. 2's are bluish 
and the fur more hairy than the No. i and the whole 
coat may be short. The No. 3 is very short in fur and 
coarse hair predominates and the pelt is black. No. 4 
are black in pelt and there is hardly any growth of fur 
as to quality and length, being mainly short hair. 

Sizes. — Otter vary greatly in size. While the 
largest skins may measure 4j/4 feet in length, not includ- 
ing tail when on the drying board and 9 to 10 inches in 
width at the hips, a small skin may not be more than 
30 tO' 34 inches and 7 inches wide. The tail is 14 to 18 
inches or longer occasionally. 

Stretching Boards. — The general shape of otter 
drying boards is the same as for mink, holding their 
width well and not tapered until the shoulders are 
reached, where they should be about an inch narrower 
than at base of skin. For the neck and head the board 
tapers moderately rapid so that if a skin is 8 inches 
at the hips when on the board and 7 at shoulders, it 
will be about 6 inches across the ears and 4 inches where 
eyelets come on the board. Boards should be made 
of three sizes from such tough, soft wood as poplar, 
whitewood, cottonwood, basswood or white pine, }i inch 
thick, planed and sanded and in length from 4^^ to 5^ 
feet. Boards for medium should be ^ inch narrower at 
hips and shoulders than for large ; small, ^ inch less 
at both hips and shoulders than medium. Some claim 
that otter should be stretched a little different and recom- 
mend boards of the following dimensions : - 




Large — Length nose to 
root of tail, 35; tail, 22; 
total, 57; greatest w'Jth,' 
10; shoulders, 9^4 inches. 
This pelt was stretched 
too wide, especially neck 
and forequarters. Note 
great length of tail 
which indicates a large 

Large, hips 91^ inches, shoul- 
ders 7 inches. 

Medium, hips 8^ inches, shoul- 
ders 6^ inches. 

Small, hips 8 inches, shoulders 
5^4 inches. 

The larger skins will often 
measure better than five feet from 
tip to tip. Tails should be split, 
stretched out and tacked. This fur 
is always cased and should be left 
fur side in, otherwise it will fade 

In buying otter skins it is 
necessary to know primeness and 
sizes or a blue pelt may be bought 
for No. I and a medium bought for 
large or a small graded medium. 
Shade of fur and whether singed 
or not must be ascertained. The 
next consideration is section from 
which skins come, Western and 
Southern being worth far less than 
the Eastern and Northern skins. 
Now and then an otter is caueht in 
localities where none have been for 
years. Such skins, according to the 
opinion of the owner, are always 
No. I and large. Like mink, otter 
vary considerable in size in 
different parts of the country. 

2J2 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

although skins averaging largest are from Florida, while 
the largest mink are caught on the plains of the North- 
west. A few otter pelts brought to our notice measured 
as follows: 

Two from British Columbia, 62'^ and 65 inches 
from tip to tip. 

One from Ohio, weight 40 pounds and measured 
71 inches. 

Three from Maine exactly alike being 61 inches from 
tip to tip and 8 wide. 

One from Oregon, 75 inches from tip to tip. 

Two from Michigan, each 66 inches from tip to tip. 

One from Washington, 64 inches from tip to tip. 

Three from Massachusetts, largest 57 inches and 
weighed 30 pounds. 

Few animals are as difficult to skin as the otter. 
The hide is not only tough but can not be pulled or 
peeled off, necessitating much use of the knife. The 
tail is large, gristly, requiring the use o^ a knife con- 
stantly. To skin the tail is more of a job than' to re- 
move the pelts, of a half dozen mink. 

Some handlers' of furs buy pelts occasionally on the 
animal, that is, carcass and all. Unless a party, so buy- 
ing, has been a trapper, knowing about how a pelt will 
look when skinned and stretched, compared with same 
on the carcass, his judgment may not be of the best. 
No doubt many will be interested in the measurements 
of an otter as caught and after the pelt is on the stretch- 
ing board. The illustrations herewith show a fair sized 
otter of the Lake Superior region the same day caught 
with trap on foot and pelt on board. The descrip- 



tion under tlTe two illustrations show that the pelt was 
stretched 10 inches longer than the carcass and the tail 
i^ inches longer. It will be seen from illustration, how- 
ever, that the pelt was stretched rather long and narrow. 



. Before Skinning — Length of body, 2S%; tail, I6I/2; total, tip to tip. 
45 inches; around hips, 14%; around shoulders, 14 inches. 

Stretched on Board — Length of pelt (nose to root of tail), 38U: 
tail, 18; total length, 56^^ inches; width at hips, 7%; shoulders, 7 inches. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 


Large — Length, nose 
to root of tail, 38; tail, 
18; total length, 56; 
greatest width, 8; shoul- 
ders, 7 inches. Pelts se- 
cured in Northern and 
Western Alberta. Rocky- 
Mountain sections of 
British Columbia and 
Yukon are similar. 

The following information was 
furnished by a party who handled 
•"housands of Canadian otter skins, 
principally from the Eastern Prov- 
inces, buying largely direct from 
trappers : 

Otter get prime, that is, white 
smooth pelt, very late in the au- 
tumn, even in northern latitudes 
not much before the loth of No- 
vember. All amphibious animals 
change the looks and appearances 
of their pelts three if not four 
times during the twelve months. I 
mean otter, beaver, mink and musk- 
rat. When unprime in the summer 
months the pelt is of a burnt greasy 
color, this is when the hair is thin- 
nest, September and October the 
pelts become of a slate blue color, 
hair thicker and about October 20 
the blue color becomes spotted with 
white and hair much thicker and 
of a rich appearance. From the 
latter date, if cold weather sets in, 
the pelt changes very quickly to 
pure white, with a smooth glossy 
finish. After the cold winter 
months have passed these changes 
take place in reverse order, back to 
the thin greasy skin of the summer. 

Otter. 275 

The male becomes prime much before the old female 
as the latter suckle their young very late in the year. 
The otter is only really prime and well furred between 
November 15 and March 15. Like the beaver, when the 
March sun has its strength, the otter delights in sliding 
down crusted slopes and basking in the hot rays, both 
of which stunts are detrimental to the fur. 

The ordinary size of a full grown male otter is : 
Length, from nose tO' root of tail, 40 inches; greatest 
width, 9 to 10 inches. 

Female otter, full grown, length, nose to root of 
tail, 30 inches ; greatest width, 8 to 9 inches. 

Any buyer having skins offered him with the fur 
side out to be suspicious, either, that the pelt is damaged, 
or not prime. I maintain the only exception tO' this rule, 
of having the flesh side out, would be with the colored 
and valuable foxes. With them it is necessary to see 
the full hair to properly estimate the skin's value. 

In Canada the darkest and richest otter skins come 
from the Labrador Coast, north of Lake Superior and 
the Mackenzie River. 



RANGE. — The range of the beaver once covered 
about all of America where there was timber of 
the kind this animal used for food. At present 
this interesting fur bearer is found mainly in Can- 
ada and Alaska. There are few beaver today south of 
Upper Michigan, Northern Minnesota, Northern Wis- 
consin, Northern New York and Maine. There are, how- 
ever, some on the Pacific Coast, in the Rocky Mountain 
States and a few in certain Southern States. 

Years ago this fur bearer was nearly extinct in the 
United States, but under timely laws that afforded a per- 
petual closed season, it has increased surprisingly so that 
from some sections complaints are heard on account of 
dam building having flooded large areas, in killing val- 
uable timber and doing other damage. The catch is now 
limited by law in most states and provinces sO' that noth- 
ing short of reckless law violation will bring them to the 
point of total destruction again. 

Size and Color. — As otter resemble the mink in 
outline, so does the beaver remind one of a giant musk- 
rat, to which species it belongs. The length is from two 
to two and a half feet usually although some are as much 
as three feet, not including the tail, which is nine or ten 
inches. The weight of a full grown beaver varies from 
40 to 60 pounds and even more. 




The color runs from light brown to dark brown. 
The under fur is a mouse color, is less than an inch in 
length and is protected by stiff guard hairs two or three 
inches long on the upper part of the body. The fur is 
shorter and dense on the under side of the body and the 
whole coat is waterproof. While the ordinary color of 


Small — Length, 24; greatest 
Width, 17 inches. 


Medium— Length, 28; greatest width, 
22 inches. 

beaver is nut brown, there are extremes in paleness and 
dark shades. The lightest colored specimens, as well as 
largest, are found in the Pacific Coast and Rocky Moun- 
tain states usually. Some skins that come from around 
Hudson Bay are nearly black. 

Handling and Grading. — Beaver should be 
stretched round, rather oblong and open. Some are 
cased, handled, but this is not desired by the trade. Large, 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 













1— 1 









tfc a^r^t^ 
















1 '*-' 

CO cJ 



24x28 inches and up, providing furs are in good con- 
dition. Pelts, of course, are not all stretched oblong, 
many being round and in that condition, 26 x 26 is equal 
to 24x28. Many pelts are much larger, 27x31, and 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ even larger. Me- 
dium, 21 X 25 and up 
tO' 23 X 2"] inches or 
thereabout. Small, 
18x22 and up to 
20 X 23 o r there- 
about. Kitts, under 
18x22. Skins from 
Rocky Mountain 
states average some- 
what larger. Beaver 
Castor is bought by 
the pound. Beaver 
skins were bought 
by the pound during 
early days. A large 
skin, when properly 
fleshed, would weigh 
about lYz pounds, 
an extra large one 
up to i^ pounds. Beaver should be handled open, being 
one of the three B B B, or Beaver, Bear, Badger. The 
other fur mostly handled open is the Timber wolf. 

Primeness. — ' Beaver skins present different degrees 
of primeness, depending upon when caught, the same as 
muskrats. The prime pelt is red and white fleshed while 
the No. 2 will be bluish and the coat hairy. No. 3 are 



Lerxgth, 39; greatest width, 30 inches. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

still more dark pelted and coarse in coat and lacking in 
under fur which is short. A No. 4 may be termed a scab 
or trash, of little or no value. Beaver skins should be 
cleaned of flesh and fat to prevent heating the pelt and 
so destroy the fur. 

The value of beaver pelts does not vary as much as 

most of the other fur 
bearers of America. Be- 
tween the largest and 
best Northern skins and 
those of the South or 
elsewhere there is but a 
variation of about $2.00. 
Neither has this article 
undergone the radical 
fluctuations in price like 
some of the other 
articles of recent years. 
Beaver was one of the 
first animals hunted and 
trapped for fur in 
Medium - Length, 28; greatest width, America and in the earlv 

23 inches. J 

days was one of the 
chief articles of commerce with the Old World. Not 
only are beaver pelts valuable but the flesh is eaten and 
the castors are valuable, being used in the manufacture 
■of perfume. They are also used by trappers in making 
scent to lure fur bearing animals. There is always a cash 
market for beaver castors. 

Beaver, otter and muskrat being water animals, 
there is not so much difference in the priming up time of 




fur and pelt as with other fur bearers in the various parts 
of North America. The pelt of the beaver averages pretty 
much the same thickness, making no difference where 
caught. This is accounted for from their being so much 

in the water. The 
greatest variation is 
in color and quality 
of fur. 

A trader who for 
almost fifty years 
bought beaver pelts 
by the thousands 
over much of East- 
ern and Central 
Canada says : 

Prior to the 
American buyers 
coming over into 
Canada, beaver were 
always bartered or 
bought by the skin, 
large prime, mid- 
dling prime and 
small prime. The 
buying of these 
skins by weight was 
an unfortunate innovation, as many unscrupulous trap- 
pers and small traders called on their ingenuity to add 
weight to the skins passing through their hands. This 
was done in many ways. However, anyone used to han- 
dling clean, pure skins would at once detect any abnor- 
mal surplus weight. 


Large — Length, 40 inches; greatest width, 
31 inches. Some very large and dark skins 
are secured from waters flowing into Hud- 
son Bay. 

282 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Beaver in the three sizes mentioned and understood 
to be killed in prime season weigh, with very little va- 
riation : Large, i;^ pounds; middling, i to i^ pounds; 
small, 10 to 12 ounces. 

In dimensions the three sizes were: 

Large, lengthwise 34, width 24 inches. 

Middling, lengthwise 24, width 18 inches. 

Small, lengthwise 21, width 14 inches. 

Beaver in the Northern part of Canada become 
prime about the end of September and remain so up to 
about the twentieth of March. They are at their very 
primest both as to color and richness of fur during No- 
vember, December and January. The darkest skins come 
from clear water lakes and rivers, while the browner and 
light colored ones are taken in grassy and swampy sur- 
roundings. This characteristic of darkness of color ap- 
plies to all amphibious (water) animals. Beaver, otter, 
muskrat and mink are of richer and darker fur when 
they inhabit clear water. I have often astonished an In- 
dian by picking out a certain skin and saying, ''You killed 
or caught this in a clear water lake." 

While the beaver retains his deep, rich, fur until May 
or June the fur has lost its value as a prime skin by the 
action of the March and April sun rays. These animals 
delight to pass hours in those months basking in the sun, 
the consequence is the color of the fur is bleached sev- 
eral shades lighter and the ends of the hairs are hooked 
and crinkly as if singed by a hot iron. 



CHE BLACK BEAR. — RANGE. — According to 
the naturalist there are only three distinct species 
of bears in N^orth America, which are the Black, 
Grizzly and Polar. The Brown, or Cinnamon, is 
merely a color phase of the Black Species. This is the 
smallest bear of the three species. Its range is wide, 
covering at one time a good portion of the United 
States as well as Canada, Alaska, Nova Scotia and New- 

Color and Quality. — The best skins come from 
Canada. Those from the interior of Alaska are good 
but along the southeast coast are somewhat coarser. 
The British Columbia Bear is coarse in pelt and thinner 
furred as the coast is approached. Pelts from the in- 
terior are generally long and heavy furred. The color 
is distinctly black on the surface and brown underneath, 
though in some jet black specimens the fur retains almost 
the same hue to the roots. A large Black Bear, when in 
good condition, will weigh 400 to 450 pounds or more, 
but the lower figures constitute a large bear. If one is 
found weighing around 600 pounds, it may be termed 
extra large. 

Hundreds of skins are still secured from the North- 
ern New England States, Adirondacks and Allegheny 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Mountain regions. Those caught in Pennsylvania and 
North are well furred^ if taken in proper season, but 
in size seldom exceed 300 pounds. Some very nice pelts 
are also taken each season in the northern parts of Mich- 


Large — Length, tip to tip, 70; width at shoulders, 64; hind quarters, 
58 inches. Had feet and claws been left on spread or width would have 
been about a foot greater. 

Medium — Length, tip to tip, 58; width at shoulders, 64; hind quarters, 
60 inches. Claws and feet on. 

These skins are full, large and medium for bears from the New 
England States, New York and Pennsylvania. Those from the Virginias, 
Carolinas and otker Southern States average somewhat smaller. 

igan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are far more 
bear skins handled yearly than generally supposed. From 
the United States some 5,000 and Canada about 3,000 are 
sent to Europe for the sales each year. Others are used 
in this country so that the catch is probably around 

Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar. 


10,000 annually. Of the brown, or cinnamon only a 
few hundred are secured each season — probably 200 
to 500. 

Uses. — Black bear is used for many ordinary pur- 
poses where a long, shaggy, black fur is desired, the 


Medium bear, 5 feet 4 inches from tip to tip; width at shoulders from 
claw to claw, 5 feet; narrowest part, 3 feet. 

Small bear, 4 feet from tip to tip; width at shoulders same; narrowest 
part, 2 feet 6 inches. Bears much larger than the medium here shown are 
secured from not only Wisconsin but Michigan, Minnesota, etc. 

principal advantage being in its natural color which re- 
quires no dye to blacken. The fur of cubs is very soft 
and is suitable for coat collars, muffs and boas. Bear 
is used extensively for driving coats, rugs and sleigh 

286 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

SizES^ Handling^ Etc. — This fur varies from 
large to cubs, including yearling and two years. It is 
also classed large, medium and small as well as No. 2, 
3 and 4. The skins also vary considerable in size, owing 
to age and condition the animal was in when killed. 
A bear hunter and trapper who has caught more than 
two hundred during his time, principally in Michigan, 
sends the following dimensions of the largest of his 
catch : Lengtl), 8 feet, 2 inches ; width, 7 feet, 4 inches. 
The best bear is prime in pelt and the fur thick, even 
with a good growth of guard hairs, the entire coat being 
soft and glossy in the best. Off qualities are the un- 
prime thin furred, rubbed on hips, flanks, neck, etc. No. 
2, in primeness, are hairy and the supply of underfur 
is less than on prime pelts. Nos. 3 and 4 are practically 
all hair and of little use except in the making of the 
cheaper driving robes. A large per cent of bear skins 
offered the buyer are of the lower grades and smaller 
sizes from the fact that the animal is killed whenever 
possible. As a result many bear are killed durmg sum- 
mer and early fall months. 

Canadian Skins. — The black bears of the North- 
ern parts of Canada are at their best and primest just 
after the berry crop and just before they hibernate for 
the winter. 

They mate in early July and bring forth their young 
in February. They generally have two at a birth, oc- 
casionally three, but this is the exception. The cubs of 
the last winter hibernate with the dam the second winter, 
thus, when the hunter digs out a den in March or April 
he generally finds cubs of two sizes. 

Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar. 


Touching on the primeness of skins, the very finest 
for richness of fur is found on a two-year-old just be- 
fore denning up. Good skins are also gotten from den 
bears up to the end of January, unless a he-bear has 

denned in some 
ragged hole, or 
has been partly 
exposed to the 
weather. He re- 
tains his good 
coat of fur 
longer than the 

Trappers gen- 
erally take up 
their bear traps 
around the tenth 
of June. After 
that date both 
male and female 
shed their coats 
rapidly, and the 
skin for three 
months only rep- 
resents the hide 
for leather. Ap- 
proximate sizes 
forblack bears in 
the North Coun- 


Large — Length, 79; greatest width, 49 inches. rOllOWS ! 

288 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Large male bear, length, 6 feet, width, 4 feet. 

Full grown female, length, 5 feet, width, 3 feet. 

Two-year-old cub, length, 4 feet, width, 2 feet, 6 
inches. There are, of course, exceptions to these meas- 
urements but as an average or normal size the fore- 
going is a fair average. 

The grading of bear skins for valuation is so evi- 
dent that almost any handler of fur can do it correctly. 
When the skin is coming common the hair is off in 
patches, reaching up the sides, till at last there is only a 
ridge of old hair along the back bone. In August the 
new hair comes out all over, is a deep black, is full, but 
as yet short in length. From the end of this month, the 
hair becomes glossy and richer as the days go by. 

In a year of mountain ash and other late fruit the 
bears keep out later, sometimes holing up only after con- 
siderable snow is on the ground. Pelts taken at this time 
are always good color and heavy furred. 

Grizzly Bear — Range. — The Grizzly Bear once 
inhabited all of the Rocky Mountain Range where it 
found a natural place tO' den in the rocky caverns. It 
inhabits Alaska and the Mt. St. Elias Grizzly is of the 
largest size and is frequently termed the Silver Tip. It 
is now extinct or practically so. 

Color, Size, Etc. — The Grizzly attains to a length 
of 8 feet to 13 feet and weighs from 800 to 1,100 pounds. 
It is the largest of all bears. Probably the average 
weight of the males is about 800 pounds. The fur is 
rather coarse and while the general color is grizzly grey 
some specimens are light colored, almost white and 
yellow grizzlies occur and in fact all shades from light 

Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar. 



This pelt is only about an average size for the large yet measured from 
nose to tail 10 feet 9 inches; greatest width (shoulders) 10 feet 6 inches; 
hind quarters 9 feet 3 inches. As these skins are largely used for rugs they 
should be carefully skinned around head as well as claws left on pelt. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

to dark Grizzly are found. The skin is thick and heavy 
and there is a growth of hair between the shoulders 
of such length as to form a well defined hump. In 

the best skins 
this hump adds 
greatly to beauty 
and value. The 
value of the skins 
is just about the 
same as the com- 
mon black bear 
when sold to the 
regular fur trade 
to be used for lap 
robes, coats and 
rugs. Few skins, 
however, are thus 
sold but are 
tanned and made 
up by taxider- 
mists where they 
command a much 
higher figure. The 
head and claws 
must be left on to 
command highest 
prices. In Alaska 
brown bear have 
been killed, the 
pelt of which 
measured 10 feet 
from tip to tip. 


Medium — Length, 74; width at hind quarters 
and shoulders, 41 inches. Pelt heavy and full 

Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar. 


arctic ocean region (GREENLAND) POLAR BEAR SKIN. 

Large — Length nose to tail 10 feet 8 inches; greatest width (shoulders) 
10 feet 2 inches; hind quarters 9 feet. This skin is off a fairly large only 
as the neck is longer than other species, which accounts for length. Most 
skins are either mounted or used for rugs, so must be carefully skinned to 
command highest value. 

2.^2 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

The Polar Bear. — The Polar Bear has a wide 
distribution. It inhabits the western shores of Iceland, 
the coast of Greenland and the northern extremity of 
Norway and Sweden. It is found on St. Matthew Island 
in Behring Sea and in the Arctic Regions of Canada 
and Alaska. 

Color, Size and Quality. — The polar bear is 
white the year round. Both feet and legs are covered 
with long, coarse hair. The feet are provided with long, 
powerful claws. The Polar Bear grows to a large size, 
in fact, it is but little exceeded, if any, by the Grizzly. 
Specimens have been known to weigh i,ooo pounds and 
some skins measure ro feet or more. The tail is only 
about 4 inches in length and the neck is longer than in 
other bears. It is bold in disposition and will fight 
fiercely, though not with the tenacity of the Grizzly. 

Food. — ■ Polar bears feed upon fish and seals and 
yet its own flesh is said to be palatable and is preferred 
to seal flesh by the Esquimaux. The best skins come 
from Greenland and being well cleaned of oil by the 
natives, the fur does not turn yellow as it would if left 
in the grease. This fur is made into rugs and robes and 
is sometimes dyed black. The milk white skins are the 
most valuable and in the best request. Ofif qualities are 
the dirty whites or dingy yellowish skins. The number 
of skins sold yearly in London is only some 200 to 300 
although they do not all reach that market. The annual 
production probably does not exceed 500. 



RANGE. — This animal is much Hke the mink in gen- 
eral form and is about like the mink of Western 
United States for size. The range is Canada, 
Alaska, Labrador, Nova Scotia and Northern, 
North Western and North Eastern United States. Penn- 
sylvania is about as far south as it has been found. 

Color, Etc. — The general color is nut brown, 
though pale skins are yellow, and dark skins almost black. 
The yellow colors are worth the least and the really dark 
skins are very valuable. The tail is thick and bushy, ap- 
pearing more like fox fur than in being closely allied to 
the mink. There are many shades of color between dark, 
brown and pale, such as orange, cinnamon, golden yellow, 
etc. The guard hairs are tinged with a much darker 
color than the under fur. 

Sizes and Handling. — Marten are assorted for 
colors and also sizes, large medium and small. Most 
skins grade into the first two sizes, small skins being few 
in any original trapper's lot of this fur. Marten are dried 
on boards, shaped the same as for mink. Before being 
thoroughly dried, skins are removed from the boards and 
turned fur side out and in that way presented when of- 
fered for sale. Thin boards should be inserted after be- 
ing turned to firmly establish the shape and prevent any 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

tendency to shrivel or wrinkle. The entire hind legs and 
feet are usually skinned out and left on the pelts of mar- 
ten, even the toe nails being left in the fur of the foot 
after being unjointed from the foot itself. Why this is 

done any more than with mink we do 
not know, except that it is a custom 
just the same as the entire leg and 
foot of lynx is skinned out and left 
on the pelt. 

General Remarks. — But few 
furs possess so wide a range of val- 
ues. From about $2.00 for small pale 
to $30.00 for large, well furred skins 
of the darkest shade. Every section 
produces a particular type of marten. 
Some are fine in coat, some are' 
coarse and different districts turn 
out various shades of color. Idaho, 
Montana, Wyoming and other Rocky 
Mountain States produce yellow 
shades of marten almost exclusively. 
Those from the New England States 
and the Adirondacks are never of 
the darkest shades. 

As marten are usually found 
high up among the mountains their 
BRITISH COLUM- fur is fine but in some localities the 

BIA MARTEN i • i- t,. -u 

gj^jj^ color IS orange, light brown, etc. 

Large — Lergth of Marten is the first of the fur bearers 

pelt, 21; tail, 10; total, , • ^t, t. i. j: J 

31; greatest width, to prime Up, evcu though not found 
inches.^ °" ^^^' ^ in the high altitudes. A fur dealer 

Marten. 295 

of Maine who has traveled along the coast north to Lab- 
rador, says : ''Marten in that country are prime by Oc- 
tober I, having a beautiful and glossy coat." While 
marten prime earlier than other furs, as a rule, they shed 
out in the Spring a good deal earlier, becoming thin 
furred and woolly in March, even in the North, 
which greatly reduces their value. The buyer who knows 
furs, even though he has never handled many marten 
skins can detect the rubbed and shedding much easier 
than to value correctly the varying shades of color that 
are characteristic of this fur. It is not always the largest 
marten skin that is most valuable — a smaller dark one 
may be worth double a larger but lighter colored one. 

This article is assorted large, medium, small, Nos. 2, 
3 and 4 and further as to colors. There are few very 
small — mostly large and m^edium. Neither are there as 
many No. 2 and below as with most furs, the reason 
being that marten is the first fur animal to prime up in 
the fall. It is also largely caught by experienced hunters 
and trappers and is correctly skinned and handled. Skins 
on the stretching boards for the three sizes are approx- 
imately : 

Large, 4^ inches at hips, 3^ at shoulder, length, 
nose to root of tail, 19 to 20 inches. 

Medium, 4% inches at hips, 3^4 at shoulders, length, 
nose to root of tail, 17 to 18 inches. 

Small, 334 inches at hips, 3 at shoulders, length, nose 
to root of tail, 15 to 16 inches. 

Pelts are usually turned by trappers before' they are 
thoroughly dry and kept and marketed fur out. Buyers, 
therefore, must take length of fur into consideration if 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

they judge sizes from dimensions of boards used in 
stretching. No. 2 are those caught before fur and pelt 
are full prime. Nos. 3 and 4 are few and far between. 
They are the summer caught, badly damaged, etc. Color 


(1) Small — Length of pelt, 16; greatest width, 3%; shoulders, 3 inches. 
(6) Small — Length of pelt, 15; greatest width, S^/^; shoulders, 3 inches, 

(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 17; greatest width, 4; shoulders, 3 inches. 
(5) Medium— Length of pelt, 17; greatest width, iy^; shoulders, 8 inches. 

(3) Large — Length of pelt, 19; greatest width, 414 ; shoulders, 3% inches. 

(4) Large — Length of pelt, 20; greatest width, i^; shoulders, 4 inches. 

values can only be learned by experience' and close obser- 
vation. A very dark, fine furred marten may be worth 
$30.00, a brown, fine furred, same size, $15.00, same size 
in lighter shades from $5.00 up to $15.00. Very few 
skins class dark except from certain localities in Canada. 

Marten. 297 

The average value of the Hudson Bay Company collec- 
tion of marten for the past fifty years was only $4.80, 
while mink averaged for same time, $2.00. 

Values since 1900, of course; have been higher. Per- 
haps the years from 1900 to 191 5 the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany collection of marten averaged $8.00 and mink $3.50 
in London, but remember, about $1.00 for marten and 50 
cents for mink must be deducted for expense in selling. 
Marten are a difficult fur for the buyer and collector to 
make any money on. Trappers usually think that they 
do not get full value for this article. As values are de- 
termined by both size and color it is no wonder that those 
who handle a very few are often mistaken as to their 
value. The darker the skin, the more valuable, and as 
most marten are pale or of a yellowish cast they do not 
command anything like the darker shades. 

Marten, like all furs, has its ups and downs. Prices 
since 1900 up to about 19 13 were higher than for somei 
years previous. Even before the outbreak of the great 
European war values had declined wonderfully, so that 
during recent years the average value of all skins — 
United States and Canada — was probably around $5.00. 

A trader, who for many years was in position to see 
and handle thousands of marten skins yearly from va- 
rious parts of Canada, says : 

Marten differ very much in darkness and richness 
of their fur. Those that are trapped in mountainous 
countries with a mixed growth of forests, being smaller 
and lighter in color. The best skins come from the black 
spruce country of Labrador and portions of the Macken- 
zie River country, especially down near the mouth of that 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

river, or around 65 degrees and north, 
of a rich, dark brown color and of a 
ance. They are from a half larger to 
twice the size of skins caught in the 
higher lands where the growth is birch, 

balsam, ash, 
white spruce 
and alder. 
Marten caught 
after October 
25 are prime in 
the extreme 
North and in 
Labrador they 
are prime two 
weeks earlier 
than that 

Marten, hav- 
ing a thin skin, 
change from 
white, or prime, 
on the flesh 
side, very rap- 
idly, especially 
the female. I 
have caught 
marten in Feb- 
ruary, after a 
three days' rain 
and thaw, the 

They are large, 
very rich appear- 


Large, Dark, Mackenzie 
River — Length, IdV^; tail, 
9; total, 2'8%; greatest 
width, 414; shoulders, 4. 
Fur of under side or belly 


Large, Dark — Length, 
20; tail, lO; total, 30; 
greatest width, 4%; 
shoulders, 3% inches. 
Wrinkles in skin are 
from folding. A val- 
uable specimen, being 
darker than the average 
taken from Maine or 
the Eastern Provinces 
of Canada. 



bellies of which were as black as in summer, the hair, of 
course, being unaffected. A few days subsequent cold 
weather brought others back to the original state of 
primeness. The dark or finest martens are very easily 

graded or classed. They are all dark that come from the 
part of the country designated. They differ one from 
another only in the length of fur, size of skins and rich- 
ness. Those, however, that are caught in the mixed soft 
wood country vary very much in size, color, and fullness 
of fur, and can even be graded into firsts, seconds, thirds, 
fourths and fifths in value. 

Considerable value and appearance is taken away 
by the very slovenly way in which some of this class of 
skins are gotten up. These ordinary marten are caught 
by all manner of people, from shanty men, railroad men, 
down to farmers' boys. Many of these people use any 
kind of old thing to case the skin on, out of all proportion 
both in length and breadth. In buying furs along the 
frontier of civilization I have often had to have skins 
soaked in water and when thoroughly wet, re-cased into 
something like proper shape. 

Marten, born in the Spring as they are, reach almost 
full growth by the time the trapping season commences. 
The female becomes unprime much earlier than the 
male. Generally, if the season remains cold, the trapper 
continues his endeavors for marten up to the first week 
in April. 

The size of a well proportioned male marten is as 
follows : 

Length, nose to root of tail 20, width at base 5, shoul- 
ders 4% inches. 

300 Fur Buyers^ Guide. 

Female, length, nose to root of tail 17, width at base 
4, shoulders 3^ inches. 

These measurements are for the dark and best as 
before mentioned, that is, those from Labrador and the 
Mackenzie River Country near the Arctic Ocean. Mar- 
ten, both male and female, from other localities, will 
average considerable smaller. 



RANGE. — The largest member of the marten family 
is represented in this fur bearer. The length of 
body is 24 to 30 inches and the tail from 12' to 18 
inches in length. It bears a number of names, 
such as Pennants Marten, Pekan, Black Cat, etc. The 
former range of fisher covered the greater portion of 
North America but continued hunting and trapping has 
reduced its territory to parts of Canada, Alaska, Cali- 
fornia and other parts of the Pacific Coast. A very 
few are still found in the Rocky Mountain States, 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, the Adirondacks and 
Northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The 
name fisher is misapplied and not appropriate, for while 
it will eat fish, it does not catch them. Neither does 
it inhabit the shores of streams and lakes from choice 
but is partial to high, dry, wooded and rocky sections 
where the country is hilly and rolling or even moun- 

Fur, Color and Quality.. — The fur is coarser 
and not nearly so valuable, size considered, as that of 
the marten. The general color might be said to be 
dark brown, yet some specimens are quite pale while 
others are almost black. The general color is black 
or very dark on throat, legs, belly and hind parts; head, 


302 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

shoulders and upper back grizzly, with grayish white; 
tail, a brownish black. The fur is not as fine and soft 
as that of the marten, although longer. Fisher is made 
up largely into boas and muffs. 

Handling and Grading. — This article is handled 
cased and should be turned fur out. Skins are classed 
large, medium, small and the darker, the more valuable, 
the grade for sizes being: 

Large, 7^ inches at hips, 6 at shoulders. 

Medium, 6^ inches at hips, 5/^ at shoulders. 

Small, 6 inches at hips, 5 at shoulders. 

The length of an average No. i pelt from end of 
nose to root of tail is about 32 inches, although some 
are an inch or two longer, while others are as much 
shorter, depending much upon the width stretched. It 
is not uncommon for skins to measure upwards of 50 
inches from tip to tip. The tail is long, full and bushy, 
being quite valuable, perhaps more so than the tail of 
any other of the fur bearers. 

Fisher are also classified as to color — dark, brown, 
pale. The best — darkest — come from the North. This 
article should largely grade dark and brown for it is 
found only in the timbered localities. 

No. 2 and lower grades are the poorly furred and 
unprime skins but with the exception of some rubbed 
and a few otherwise springy few classify below No. 2. 
The size also runs well to large, being more than both 
medium and small if correctly handled. 

The yearly catch was never very large and of 
recent years has been somewhat further reduced. The 




(1) Small — Length, nose _ to root of tail, 22; tail, 15; total, 37; 
greatest width, 8; shoulders, 6 inches. 

(2) Large — Length, nose_ to root of tail, 30; tail, 18; total, 48; 
greatest width, 9; shoulders, 7 inches. _ 

Both are rather light-colored, being dark only on hind quarters and 
tail. Skins from the Hudson's Bay section. 

(3) Medium — Length, nose to root of tail, 25; tail, 13; total, 42; 
greatest width, 8; shoulders, 6i/^ inches. This pelt is from the Rocky 
Slountains and is about an average color of those secured from eithef 
Canada or the United States. 

(4) Medium — Length, nose to root of tail, 23i^; tail, 151^; total, 39; 
greatest width, 7%; shoulders, 6 inches. This pelt is from the Lake 
Superior region. 

304? Fur Buyers' Guide. 

annual catch is now probably 5,000 or thereabout. The 
Hudson Bay Company offerings of recent years has 
varied from 2,^000 to 3,000 and another 1,000 is sold 
by other firms in London yearly. Perhaps another 1,000 
are used in America. By far the larger part of the catch 
is made in Canada. The average value of this article 
for fifty years prior to 1909 was only about $8.00 in 
London, During the years of 1910, 191 1 and 1912 it 
scored, in sympathy with other furs, a heavy advance. 

A buyer of fisher skins, in various parts of Canada, 
for some twenty-five years says : 

I don't know how this animal got the name "fisher.'* 
There is nothing characteristic of the name about him. 
One might call him a "big marten" for he is of that 
family, resorts or lives in the same coi?ntry, feeds on 
the same food and without any distinguishing appearance 
from his cousin, the marten, except in color and size.. 
They at times are found in the low lands and swamps 
but their usual home and resort is the mountains and 
along the foot-hills. 

The fur is of a brownish grey color and when 
prime, which is about the same time as the marten, 
they have a heavy, rich coat of fur. The skin itself is,., 
strong and durable. The principal market for its use, 
for many years, has been Russia. 

The Indians trap them as readily as marten in 
figure four deadfalls only made heavier and larger. 
Fisher are more plentiful from the Ottawa River west, 
being seldom found east of the Sagueiiay River or north 
of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

The length of a full grown male, from tip of nose 




Large — Length, nose to 
root of tail, 31; tail, 19; total, 
50; greatest width, 8; shoul- 
ders, 7 inches. This pelt is 
not only large but about as 
dark as they get. 

to root of tail is from 26 to 28 
inches, width, 7 to 8 inches. The 
female is usually two-thirds this 
size. The tail on both sex is 
fully half the length of the body. 
A very strong, pungent odor 
pertains to these animals. While 
not as objectionable as that of 
the skunk, it is still far from 

In grading these skins for 
value, size must not always sway 
the buyer, the darkest and finest 
fur being more often found on 
the smaller sizes and females 
than on the extra large ones. 
As already said the duration of 
the prime state of these animals 
coincides very closely with that 
of the marten, from October to 
early April. During most of this 
period the skin is white and the 
fur rich and glossy. 

The fisher is not like the wol- 
verine, maliciously destructive. 
In destroying marten deadfalls 
he is merely endeavoring to get 
at the bait. When the trapper 
constructs a deadfall sufficiently 
large he catches as readily as a 




can or Canada Lynx is found throughout most 
of the wooded parts of Canada. It is fairly 
plentiful in Alaska and the Pacific Coast States. 
It is seldom found south of North Michigan, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota and Maine. Nova Scotia and Eastern Hudson 
Bay produce the softest and best furred skins. Cali- 
fornia and north-west lynx is coarser in fur and in 
shade more red than those of the best sections. 

Color. — In the severest climate lynx are the lightest 
colored but the fur is thick and soft. The feet have 
great pads or cushions of thick hair to protect them from 
snow and frost. The upper part of the under fur is a 
sort of red brown but next to the skin it is drab or 
blue. The blue skins are quite rare but the drab or 
maltese color when found, is very handsome. The fur 
on the belly is much longer than on the back; it is 
about three inches in length, soft and white with rather 
dim, dark spots. The tail is only two or three inches 
long and the ears are furnished with tufts or tassels 
of dark hair. In all specimens there is a beard or fringe 
of whiskers which encircles the face. The whiskers are 
white and bristly and the claws keen and retractile. 




Sizes and Uses. — A moderate sized lynx is about 
three feet in length and stands eighteen inches high. 
The hind legs are very much longer than the front 

ones. Lynx lose 
their beautiful 
coat in summer 
and are covered 
with brown 
hair. The skin 
is rather thin 
except at the 
neck and head 
where it is much 
thicker as if it 

were a provision 
of nature to pro- 
tect the males 
when fighting. 
Lynx fur is used 
both natural and 
dyed over a 
large part of the 
civilized world. 
Many skins are 
dyed black, some 
brown, blue or 
silvered. The 


The middle pelt is one taken from same sized 
animal as the one being held up. Note how 
large and furry the feet and legs are. 

fur of the belly makes handsome boas, muffs and trim- 
mings. Large increases in the catch of lynx occur every 
two or four years. On these occasions increase appears 
to be caused by rabbits being periodically plentiful, which 
is the natural food. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Handling and Grading. — Skins should be cased 
and turned fur side out by the catcher as soon as dry. 
Lynx is assorted for sizes and Nos. 2, 3 and 4. The 


(1) Small — Length of pelt, 31; tail, 4%; total, 35i^; greatest width, 
10; shoulders, 9 inches. 

(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 35; tail, 5; total, 40; greatest width, 11; 
shoulders, 10 inches. 

(3) Large — Length of pelt, 40; tail, 6i^; total, 45%; greatest width, 12; 
shoulders, 11 inches. 

Northern section skins, measured on fur side. 

(4) Large — Length of pelt, 43; tail, 5%; total, 48%; greatest width, 
10; shoulders, 8 inches. Ontario skin — measured on pelt side. 

(5) Large — Length of pelt, 42; tail, 5%; total, 47%; greatest width, 12; 
shoulders, 10% inches. 

(6) Medium — Length of pelt, 36; tail, 5; total, 41; greatest width, 
11; shoulders, 10 inches. Northwestern section skins — measured on fur side. 

best, finest and heaviest furred are from the far North. 
This fur is not assorted for color. Grades according 
to sizes are : 



Large, 1 1 at hips, 9^ at shoulders ; length, end of 
nose to root of tail, 38 inches. 

Medium, 9^ at hips, 8^ at shoulders; length, end 
of nose to root of tail, 34 inches. 

Small, 8% at hips, 7^ at shoul- 
ders; length, end of nose to root 
of tail, 30 inches. 

Very few lynx other than prime 
skins are secured. The No. 2 and 
lower grades will be the rubbed and 
shedding mostly, as few are caught 
in the fall before they are prime. 
Those early caught will be short in 
fur, having a "flat" appearance and 
the pelt as well may show unprime. 
Sizes, as given, will, of course, 
vary somewhat in the skins from dif- 
ferent parts of the country. Again 
some pelts may be handled different 
from measurements given. If 
stretched wider, length for large will 
be less, while if handled narrow, 
length will be more. A smaller, well 
handled and full furred skin will 
go for No. I than if not properly 
cared for. 

The catch yearly is probably much more than the 
offerings at the London sales would indicate, as thou- 
sands are used in America by taxidermists and furriers. 
More than three-fourths of the catch is in Canada. 

The following was furnished by a party who was so 


Medium— Length of 
pelt, 36; tail, 5; total, 
41 inches; greatest 
widthj 11; shoulders, 
8; hind legs when 
spread, 22. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

situated that he saw thousands of lynx skins brought in 

and sold or traded to the Hudson Bay Company, at 

various Canadian posts : 

The Canadian lynx (loup cervier) is common all 

over the wilds of Canada. Their stamping ground is in 

and around young growth 
of timber, such places 
being the home of rab- 
bits, partridge and other 
small game which con- 
stitutes the lynx's prin- 
cipal food. 

The fur of these ani- 
mals while not very long 
is of a fine, silky texture 
and of a pleasing grey 
color. Unless in an un- 
prime' state the skin is 
not very strong and has 
to be handled with care. 
In the summer months 
a lynx is the most de- 
jected and miserable 
looking animal that 
roams the forest. They 
are almost utterly devoid 
of hair, so with his short 
stump of a tail and un- 
gainly walk he must be 
the butt of all other peo- 
ple of ''the glades." 


(1) Small — Length of pelt, 23; 
greatest width, dVz inches. This skin 
was secured near Great Slave Lake, in 
the Northwest Territory. 

(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 88; 
greatest width, 8; shoulders, 7 inches. 
This pelt was well furred. In the Far 
North an occasional skin of this color 
as well as white are secured. The blue 
one was caught in Yukon. 



The skins are classified as follows: Large (he); 
female; small. (Dealers in the United States, I believe, 
classify large, medium, small). By small I mean of either 
sex, kitts of the Spring. Many of these kitts are killed 
by the trappers early in the winter before they have 
reached their full growth. These kitts 
when killed in December and January 
are about half the size of the mother 
lynx. They are beautifully furred at 
that time, but lack in size. The three 
sizes are about as follows : 

Large (male) length 48, greatest 
width 12 inches. 

Medium (female) length 40, 
greatest width 10 inches. 

Small, length 30, greatest width 
8 inches. 

These measurements are from tip 
to tip, not nose to root of tail. 

Like all other animals, if they are 
well fed while growing, they develop 
out bigger. I wish to state here that 
the sizes I give, with reference to size 
of lynx skins, are' more of an approx- 
imate to the ordinary run than a fixed 
size, just as some men are six feet tall 
and some only five. 

When the lynx is prime the pelt 
side is pure white with a clean, waxy 
surface, while the fur is of a mottled 
steel-blue grey and very fine texture. 




Large — Length of 
pelt, 421/^; greatest 
width, 9; shoulders, 8 

312 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

In the unprime state, or staged, the fur is scant, of a red- 
dish color and the pelt side is either black spotted or all 
black. When in the common state the skin is utterly use- 
less for either fur or leather. 

Prime lynx became in great demand some years 
ago and the price bounded from three to four dollars 
each to twenty and twenty-five dollars. Fashion in furs 
makes the price and no doubt the future, as the past, will 
see fluctuations in the value of this article. 



RANGE. — The wild cat is really a small type of lynx 
but differs from the true lynx in being much 
smaller, short furred and mottled. The tail is very 
short like that of the Canadian lynx which has 
given it the name of bob cat in the western part of its 
range. It inhabits practically all of the United States, 
except the central portion and part of the west. It is 
found in the Eastern States, Virginia, Texas, California, 
Colorado and other Western states as well as those bor- 
dering on the Gulf of Mexico and the lower Mississippi 

Color. — The color and markings of wild cats vary 
greatly according to section. Those of the Western states 
are pale grey ; of California, a reddish cast ; of the South, 
spotted. The coat is often ringed and mottled, but some- 
times plain brown, and there are occasional maltese spec- 
imens. Skins are sometimes three feet in length by lo 
or 12 inches in width when cased. Wild cat is a useful, 
cheap fur. A few are dyed to imitate true lynx. 

Grade and Handling. — This article from the best 
sections (where the fur is soft, long and silky) is known 
to the trade and in some price lists as "Lynx Cat." Some 
years ago many skins were handled open but they should 
be cased unless sold to taxidermists for rug or robe pur- 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

poses. While it really makes little or no difference yet 
most cased skins are turned and marketed fur out. This 

fur is assorted 
principally for 
sizes which are: 
Large, 9 at 
hips, 7 at shoul- 
ders, length, nose 
to root of tail, 
36 inches. 

Medium, 8 at 
hips, 6 ^ at 
length, nose to 
root of tail, 32 

Small, 7 at 
hips, 55^ at 
length, nose to 
root of tail, 28 

These dimen- 
s i o n s will, of 
course, vary 
somewhat for 
skins from the 
various parts of 
the United States. Trappers using narrower or wider 
boards must be taken into consideration when assorting 
as well as primeness and quality of fur. The lower 


(1) Small — Length, end of nose to root of tail, 
28 inches; greatest width, 7; shoulders, 5%. 

(2') Medium — Length, end of nose to root of 
tail, 33 inches; greatest width, 8; shoulders, 6%. 

(3) Large — Length, end of nose to root of 
tail, 40 inches; greatest width, 9^; shoulders, 7%. 
This is an unusually ^ large skin. All measure- 
ments taken on fur side. 

Wild Cat or Bay Lynx. 


grades will be the early caught, generally an unprime 
pelt and little or no fur. Such skins grade down to Nos. 
2, 3, 4 or go into trash. The judge of 
fur skins will be able tO' tell into which 
they belong; others can best learn 
from experience. Total yearly catch 
is probably double the quantity offered 
at the London sales. 

There is considerable difference 
in the size of wild cat in the various 
parts of the country as well as in the 
quality of fur. The illustration show- 
ing an average large wild cat is taken 
from one caught in the mountain re- 
gions of Pennsylvania and measured 
as follows: Length, end of nose to 
root of tail 38, greatest width 8>4, 
shoulders 7 inches. Some skins from 
the New England states as well as 
New York, Pennsylvania and even 
farther south in the Allegheny Moun- 
tains are somewhat larger. The di- 
mensions of the skin shown are also 
a fair average for large from other 
sections of the' country such as North- 
ern Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, 
etc. Occasionally skins are secured that are much larger. 
A trapper who has trapped in various states east of the 
Mississippi River sent measurements of one he caught in 
Northern Michigan that was 4 feet, 11 inches from end 





Fur Buyers' Guide. 

of nose to claws on hind legs when cased stretched, 8 
inches across shoulders and 15 at hind quarters. This 
trapper, who has caught probably fifty wild cats in his 
time and seen as many more caught by other trappers, 

says that the one 
described was the 
largest he ever 
saw. This would 
indicate that one 
in a hundred at- 
tain to this size 
even in the Lake 
Superior region, 
which may be 
said to include 
Northern Mich- 
igan, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota and 
Southwest On- 

In certain 
parts of the 
country — mainly 
Rocky Mountain sections — many skins are handled open 
for rug purposes. Where taxidermists want the skins 
for rug or robe making they often pay more than the 
skins are worth upon the market for general use. Skins 
should be in perfect condition to' meet the demand of tax- 
idermists and while large skins are usually in best de- 
mand, others, of course, are bought. The open skin was 
taken in one of the Rocky Mountain ranges and repre- 


In certain parts of the country a good many 
skins are used for rugs. Value for this purpose 
depends not only on size but claws must be left 
on as well as head properly skinned. 

Wild Cat or Bay Lynx. 317 

sents a skin of bright color. This skin is above the 
average for even large skins, being 40 inches from nose 
to root of tail, 34 from toe to toe across shoulders and 17 
at narrowest part. 

The buyer of this article should keep in mind that 
wild cat, bay lynx, catamount, lynx cat, or whatever 
name this fur may be known by in your locality, can 
readily be told from the Canadian lynx in that the hair 
is shorter and coarser, the feet smaller and not so heavily 
furred as the Canadian lynx. Wild cat furs are often cov- 
ered with small spots, small dots or stripes, etc., as per 
the illustrations shown of these furs while lynx are prac- 
tically of one shade of color, same as mink, marten, fox, 
coon, muskrat, beaver, otter, etc. 

Wild cat are seldom found in Canada while the Can- 
adian lynx inhabits, more or less, all states bordering on 
Canada. The lynx being the more valuable of the two 
furs, inexperienced buyers should keep in mind that a 
few black hairs apparently grown in the ears of a wild 
cat don't make it a lynx skin. There are "tricks in all 
trades" and some even change the saying to "the fur 
trade is all tricks/' 



RANGE. — This fur bearer, of little value, house pet, 
game, poultry and bird destroyer, also mouse and 
rat catcher occasionally, is plentiful throughout 
America, being even more abundant in the cities 
than elsewhere. It is found under the kitchen stove to 
the deep forests. Scat ! 

Uses. — Although the house cat pelt and fur com- 
mands a small price, from 25,000 to 55,000 have been 
sold during a year in London. Perhaps as many are used 
in America, so that the catch is well up tO' 100,000 yearly. 
This article is used extensively for children's furs such 
as boas, muffs and for trimming coats. 

Value and Color. — In the raw condition from first 
hands skins are usually worth 5 to 10 cents for kittens 
or half grown, 10 to 15 for mottled and sundry colors, 
20 to 30 cents for prime, full sized, well furred black and 
solid maltese. How well or how poorly furred the domes- 
tic cat may be largely depends upon its living quarters. 
There are many homeless cats, living entirely in the open, 
upon what game they can catch. These wild or semi- 
wild cats live by day under barns, old deserted houses, 
etc. I say by day for when the house cat becomes wild, 
it quickly takes on nocturnal habits and is but little abroad 
in daylight. 


Cats — House and Ring Tail. 


The fur of the wild house cat is far superior to that 
of the pet cat that has warm rooms to sleep in. Cats of this 
kind are frequently singed from getting too close to the 
stove. It is not uncommon to find such shedding during 
the coldest weather. The woods cat, as hunters and trap- 
pers sometimes term the wild house cat, is usually large, 
long and lank, often giving the hounds of the coon hunter 
a stiff chase to tree. Every one that 
is killed and skinned adds a few cents 
to the fur hunters. At the same time 
a small game and bird destroyer has 

been put out of the 


Superstition ex- 
ists today in the 
minds of many en- 
lightened persons in 
regard to killing 
cats. They believe 
that such an act will 
bring bad luck. We 
are unable to see 
that life is any 
dearer to a cat than 
to a fox, mink, 
J skunk, coon or any 
other animal that is 
killed for its fur. 

Handling and 
Grading. — Boys 
and the inexpe- 


Large — Length, nose 
to root of tail, 26; 
greatest width, 7; shoul- 
ders, 6 inches. 


Large — Length of 
pelt,_ 28; tail, 10; total, 
38 inches; greatest 
width, eVz; shoulders, 
5%. Measured on pelt 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

rienced trappers are the greatest cat pelt producers, yet 
thousands are killed and skinned by hunters and trappers 
if caught. This fur should be cased. 
The fur is of satisfactory quality dur- 
ing December, January and February. 
The best furred pelts are from the 
Northern states. While the article is 
of small value, yet it is classed not 
only for sizes large, medium, small 
but as well for colors, not dark, brown, 
pale, but black, maltese, sundry. Black 
and maltese are practically of the 
same value and worth more than sun- 
dry or other colors. 

Cat skins should be stretched long 
and narrow, more the shape of fox 
or mink, rather than short like skunk. 
The following dimensions are much 
used by trappers in making boards for 
the various sizes : 

Large, 6^ inches at hips, 5^ at 

house cat 


Large— Length nose cViniilrlpr<; 
to root of tail 20; ^i^uumcib 
greatest width 9; 
shoulders 8 inches. 
Pelt should have cVinii1r1<=>rc 
been stretched longer ^iiC>lilueib 
and not so wide, 
also poorly skinned. 

Medium, 6 inches at hips, 5 at 

Small, 5^ inches at hips, 4^ at 

Length of large from tip of nose to root of tail, about 
30 inches, medium 26, small 22. 

Ring Tail Cat — Range. — They are found only 
in the warmer parts of the Southwest and West, namely 
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California and 

Cats — House and Ring Tail. 


North several hundred miles along 
the Pacific Coast. They are more 
plentiful in Mexico than any portion 
of the United States unless it would 
be Southwestern Texas. 

Size and Handling. — This fur 
producer is about the size of the mink 
or civet cat, the 
weight of a grown 
one being seldom 
much over four 
pounds. The skins 
should be cased and 
may be marketed 
either fur or flesh 
side out. The aver- 
age hide will be 
only about 4 inches 
wide and 26 from 
tip of nose to end 
of tail — about half 
of which is tail. 

Grading. — Val- 
ues have ranged 
from 10 to 75 cents. 
Ringtails (perhaps 
so called from the 
many rings on tail, 
having more than 
coon) are not 
graded for colors, 


Length, nose to 

root of tail, 18; 

tail, 18; total, 36; 

greatest width, 5; 

shoulders, 3% 
inches. Classed as 


Large— Length nose to 
root of tail 20; tail 20; 
total 40; greatest width 
514; shoulders 4^/4 inches.' 
This pelt represents a 
large and well furred 
specimen — in fact one 
of the very best. 


322 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

only as to sizes, large, medium and small and degrees of 
primeness. While the fur is soft and fluffy, absorbing 
dye readily, the quality of fur is poor. The color is a 
light, greyish brown on back, lighter on sides and belly. 
There are a good many unprime, both as to pelt and fur, 
offered the fur trade, coming as it does from so far 
south. The No. 2 may, therefore, be those not prime 
in fur or a damaged pelt, owing to warm or wet weather. 
Nos. 3 and 4 are those with little or no fur growth, or a 
badly damaged pelt. The total catch is only a few thou- 
sand yearly and mostly sold to dealers in the Southwest. 



RANGE. — This thick pelted animal, and of rather 
small value, from the fur point of view, is found 
mainly west of the Mississippi, being most plenti- 
ful in the prairie sections of the West and North- 
west. They are also occasionally found in Wisconsin, 
Michigan and other states as well as parts of Southern 
Canada. It is not found in Labrador or Alaska. 

Description. — It forms a branch of the weasel 
tribe, characterized by a long body, short tail and it se- 
cretes an odor. This animal is one of the most powerful 
of the weasel species. They are great diggers, having 
long claws, strong feet, with neck and shoulders a mass 
of muscle. 

Color and Value. — The color of the hair and fur 
is grey and yellowish — grey on the outside and yellow- 
ish underneath; on legs and neck dark or nearly black. 
Two light colored lines mark the head from nose to base 
of skull. This fur has certain uses but the hair itself is 
of most importance, being used for paint and lathering 
brushes, depending upon length. In order to be of most 
value, the fur should be 2 inches long or even 3 if guard 
hairs are' to be taken into consideration. Sometimes the 
coat of a prime badger is only about one-half inch in 
length. Such extremely short coated skins are almost 
worthless, even though the pelt is large and prime. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 


(1) Large, Open — Tip of nose to root of tail, 32; tail, 7; greatest 
width, 22; shoulders, 20 inches. 

(2) Large. Cased — Tip of nose to root of tail, 30; tail, 6; greatest 
width, 11; shoulders, 10 inches. 



Handling. — This is one of the few articles in which 
it makes little difference whether handled open or cased, 
being worth practically the same. Most skins are, how- 
ever, handled open. Skins are usually in fur from No- 
vember until March 
or a little later, espe- 
cially in Northern 
localities. Primeness 
of pelt is sometimes 
of no consequence as 
regards character or 
fur growth, in the 
badger's coat. The 
pelt may be prime but 
fur so short or en- 
tirely lacking that the 
skin has little or no 
value. Opossum is 
the only other pelt 
that may be prime 
or lacking in fur. The 
"prime" opossum pelt, 
but not having full 
fur growth is easily 
detected by the experienced opossum fur buyer by the 
small dark spot or spots on the neck of such pelts — see 
page 251. Badger have no such marks, although a glance 
at the fur side is sufficient. 

Badger are assorted for sizes — large, medium, small. 
No attention is paid to colors but length and condition 
of fur is considered. As this fur is handled more or less 


Large — Length of pelt, 34; width, 20 
inches at hips and shoulders. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

both cased and open 
a No. I skin handled 
either way is not only 
illustrated but the di- 
mensions given. 

Large, open, tip of 
nose to root oi tail 32 
inches, width at base 
22, shoulders 20 
inches, tail 7 inches. 

Large, cased, tip of 
nose to root of tail 30, 
width at hips 11, 
shoulders 10, tail 6 

Medium will b e 
about four inches 
shorter and two 
inches narrower at 
hips and shoulders 
for open skins and 
one inch at hips and 
shoulders for cased. 
Small will be about 
the same proportion less than the medium is under the 
large. Buyers of this fur should remember that a prime 
hide does not always mean a full furred one. The total 
catch of badger is something like 10,000 a year. 


Large — Length of pelt, 291/^; tail, 7; 
total, 361/^; greatest width, 23; shoulders, 
2iy2 inches. Short furred although caught 
February 21. 



RANGE. — The territory in which this animal is still 
occasionally found reaches north to the Arctic 
Circle and South to the Great Lakes on the East- 
ern side of the continent and as far South as Colo- 
rado and Utah in the West. They are probably most 
plentiful in Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia and the 
Northern portions of the Rocky Mountains, although not 
plentiful anywhere. 

Color and Quality. — The body is covered with a 
thick, wooly, under fur while the top hair is long and 
coarse. The general color of the body is a dark or dusky 
brown with a much lighter strip crossing the shoulders 
and extending down each side. The fur is of fair value, 
being used mainly for rugs and robes, although used to 
some extent in fur articles for wear — muffs, capes, trim- 

Handling and Grading. — This article should be 
cased. To the fur trade it is known as wolverine but 
hunters and trappers perhaps know the animal best (or 
worst) by some of the following names: carcajou, glut- 
ton, mountain devil, skunk bear. The average sized 
grown animal will measure 30 inches or thereabouts, 
from end of nose to root of tail so that the pelt will 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

stretch fully 3 feet from nose to root of tail. The length 
of tail is some 13 inches. The shape of the skins will be 
about the same as the larger coon 
skins when cased. 

This fur is graded large, medium, 
small and further as to color, the finer 
furred and darker being most valuable. 
Skins are prime from the middle of 
November until March. The No. 2 
are usually the rubbed or shedding, 
as few are' caught or killed early in 
the season. The yearly catch is not 
large, being probably under 3,000. 

General Remarks. — It is a most 
mischievous animal on the trap line. 
Being very difficult to trap itself be- 
cause of an inordinate degree of sus- 
picion, it visits the trap line, springing 
traps, carrying away baits and hiding 
them and also destroying any such 
furs, as valuable marten, it may find 
in the traps. Many a trapper has 


CANADA wol- 
verine SKIN. 

abandoned a certain neighborhood 

when a wolverine found it and began 
its depredations on the trap line. 
Some wolverines are trapped, how- 
ever, by hiding the bait, as in a cache, 
instead of placing it out open and con- 
spicuous. Through its efforts to break 

into such a bait concealed place, it forgets to avoid traps 

that may lie concealed. 

Large — Length, 
nose to root of tail, 
51 (tail ofif) ; greatest 
width, 91/^; shoulders, 
81/^ inches. This pelt 
is stretched several 
inches longer than 
the average large. 



The wolverine feeds on mice, v^oodchucks and other 
small animals and on the carrion of large game, either 
left behind by hunters or that have been wounded by 
them and lost. Wolverines are active throughout the 
winter and are great travelers, covering many miles in a 
single night. 

A trader who in his many years' experience was lo- 
cated in several places in Can- 
ada, says: 

This animal, under the 
name of wolverine (or car- 
cajou) and several other 
names, is known all over Can- 
ada, being heartily detested by 
trappers wherever found. Its 
fur value is not great, size 
considered, but as a destroyer 
of fur in traps it has no equal, 
often following a line of traps 
for miles. 

Except at the mating sea- 
son you rarely find more than 
one at a time in quite an ex- 
tent of country. Over this 
well defined country these sol- 
itary marauders beat up and 
down, destroying, devouring 
and defiling whatever they 
find. The wolverine can give 
points to any fox, in cunning, 
and he seems imbued with a 


Medium — Length, nose to 
root of tail, 30; tail, 12; great- 
est width, 18; narrowest part 
back of shoulders, 14 inches. 
This pelt was not properly 
stretched. The spot on back 
is of a different color than 
balance of fur. Spots or 
stripes of this or similar kind 
are on all wolverines. 

330 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

fiendish impulse to do all the michief he can. Authen- 
ticated stories of what this ''bush devil" has done would 
fill pages and from any one not conversant with the wilds, 
would hardly receive credence. With the cognomen of 
''Indian Devil" he is well named. 

A full grown is about 34 inches long, nose to tip of 
tail, 10 inches broad and is, when prime, of a dark coffee 
color with an orange stripe, more or less well defined run- 
ning down each side. The ears are rounded at the tip 
and the tail is about a quarter the length of the body. 
The skin or pelt is very strong and durable and the fur, 
which is thick, wears well and does not change its color 
by the sun's rays as most other furs do. 

Cased, with the pelt side out, traders not well versed 
in skins have been known to purchase one of these, think- 
ing it was a fisher. One can always tell the difference 
by the tail and ears. A fisher's tail tapers off to a sharp 
point while that of the wolverine terminates abruptly as 
if chopped off in infancy. The ears, as I have said, are 
rounded and set closer to the head. 

Considering the skins of these animals are so rare 
and their durability unsurpassed, it is strange they do not 
command a higher price with the manufacturer. 

Wolverine, like fisher, are very partial to the flesh 
of the porcupine and they are the only two animals I 
know of that deliberately a.ttack and successfully compass 
the "quilly gentleman." 



RANGE. — While the ordinary weasel covers a wide 
range of country, it is of practically no value ex- 
cept where inhabiting a latitude sufficiently cold, 
in the winter months, that the ordinary brown 
coat turns white. The "white weasel country" includes 
all of Alaska, Canada, Newfoundland, New England 
States, those bordering on Canada, Wyoming, Colorado, 
South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Northern parts of Illi- 
nois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Color. — The only milk white weasel skins are the 
ermine or stoat of Europe. They are more valuable than 
the American weasel, its near relative. The farther north 
the weasel is found in this country, the better furred and 
whiter as a rule. No weasel are strictly white. Even 
the best skins are tinged with yellow. All weasels every- 
where are brown in summer. In the colder regions the 
coat begins to turn white in October and by the middle 
or last of November all are white. In the meantime there 
are many intermediate shades, such as white streaks, run- 
ning through the brown, or else the coat is spotted, or 
half white and half brown. Others are a reddish grey 
when the turning white hairs are blended with the brown. 
None of the various color markings are worth more than 
the brown, which has been 5 cents or less. 


332 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Value and Uses. — Prior to 1900 white weasel was 
of little value, selling for about 10 cents for the best 
skins. About the years 1904-5 the price advanced won- 
derfully, as high as $1.50 being paid. Of more recent 
years values have ranged both above and below the dollar 
mark for best. Weasel are used for trimming coats of 
some dark fur where the contrast between black and 
white or brown and white makes an extremely attractive 
and showy garments, suitable for riding coats, street wear, 
etc. The demand for this article seems to be greater in 
the European countries than on this side. 

Sizes. — This fur animal varies greatly in the sec- 
tions where it turns white during the winter months and 
what is large in some places would be called medium in 
others. Some of the largest sizes noted are : 

Massachusetts, 2>^ inches wide, 21 from tip to tip, 
6 of which was tail. 

British Columbia, one of the largest of 61 caught 
measured 22^ from tip to tip, 9 being length of tail. The 
smallest in this lot was only 8 inches from tip to tip. 

One selected from a lot of over 100 as caught by 
trappers from all parts of the white weasel country meas- 
ured 2^ inches wide, 26 from tip to tip, 9 of which was 

I have found three or four distinct sizes of the white 
weasel, writes a Central Minnesota trapper. The figures 
given are the measurements taken by myself from the 
skins of the white weasel last winter, and as I had forty 
skins to select from, the average from the figures given 
are correct. The measurements given are from tip of 

White Weasel. 


nose to tip of tail. The length of tail runs from two 

and a half inches 
on a small weasel 
to six inches on 
an extra large. 

legtii of white 

weasel from 

t:p to tip. 

Extra Large — 17>^ 

Large — 15 inches. 
Medium — 13 inches. 
Small — IQi^ inches. 

A traveling 
buyer, who has 
bought thousands 
of the skins 
throughout Mich- 
i g a n, Northern 
Ohio, Indij^na and 
Illinois, says : ''A 
large weasel on 
the drying board 
will measure i8 
or 19 inches, tail 
included, the 
length of skin 
alone being about 
12 inches, width 
in widest place 


_ Tow row are medium, ranging from UVz to 16 
inches long, including tail; greatest width 2V'>- 
shoulders, 2. . /j. 

. Bottom roware small, ranging from 13 to 14 
inches long, including tail; greatest width, 2' 
shoulders, 1%. ' 

The length of these skins is sufficient to grade 
better, but they were stretched long and narrow. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

2^ to 2% inches. It is rare that width is 3 inches. 
Medium sizes are from one to two inches less in length 
and nearly the width of the large skins. Small, or kitts, 
are 13 to 14 inches in length including tail and the width 
at base of skin is about 2 inches. 

Handling and Grading. — Weasel should be cased 
and left fur side in when removed from stretching 


(1) Large, Fur Out — Length tip to tip, 19; greatest width, 2%; 
shoulders, 2^/4 inches. 

(2) Large, Fur In — Length, including tail, 18; greatest width, 2%; 
shoulders, 21/4 inches. 

(3) Medium, Fur In — Length, including tail, 17; greatest width, 2; 
shoulders, 2 inches. 

(4) Small, Fur In — Length, including tail, 13; greatest width, 2; 
shoulders, l^^ inches. 

(5) Greyback, or in the turning stage from brown to white. 

White Weasel. 


boards. This article is assorted for sizes, large, medium, 
small and also as to colors, white, stains, greybacks, etc. 
As already shown, sizes in the different parts of the 
country vary, yet the following figures are based on actual 

measurements of skins from 
various parts of the country: 

Large, length to base of tail 
13 inches, tail 6 inches; over all 
19 inches, width at base 2>^ 
inches, at shoulders 2>4 inches. 
Medium, length to base of 
tail II inches, tail 5 inches; 
over all 16 inches, width at base 
2!4 inches, at shoulders 2 

Small, length to base of tail 
9 inches, tail 4 inches, over all 
13 inches, width at base 2 inches 
at shoulders i^ inches. These 
measurements are about stan- 
dard size but some variation 
should be allowed. A weasel 
measuring 12 inches to the base 
of tail is usually graded large, 
while others will be larger than 
the figures given. 

Buying from first hand, that 
is the catcher, is usually on 
grade. In addition to large, 
medium, small, skins are fur- 
ther classified white, yellow. 


Top row are each lli^ long, 
exclusive of tail; 214 wide at 
tail and 2 at shoulders. 

Bottom row, 10 long, ex- 
clusive of tail; 1% wide at 
tail, iVz at shoulders. 

Tails on all are practically 
of same length — 4 inches. 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 


greybacks, etc., the "yellow cast" from many localities 
being as high as two-thirds, including those badly 
"stained" to some only slightly. Dealers know all this 
and if buying flat, figure on same. No brown 
or grey backs are taken on a flat deal unless 
previously arranged. 

The dividing line between the brown and 
the "white turning," generally speaking, is 
near 41 degrees north latitude or Central 
Pennsylvania, North Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, 
South Iowa and Nebraska. In the Rocky 
Mountain region and high altitudes they are 
found somewhat further to the south. The 
annual catch is probably more than 300,ocx), 
two-thirds being secured in Canada. 

This small animal, like most of the other 
fur bearers, varies in size not only through- 
out Canada but in the "ermine" states of the 
United States. A trapper of the Lake Su- 
perior region, who has probably caught a 
thousand since the writer became ac- 
quainted with him and in whom we have 
confidence, furnished the following from 
his returns : 

Large, tip to tip 18, tail 5 to 6, hips 
2, shoulders i^ inches. 
Medium, tip to tip 15, tail 4 to 5, hips i^, shoul- 
ders i}i inches. 

Small, tip to tip 12, tail 3 to 4, hips i^, shoulders 
1% inches. 

This trapper keeps a record of sizes, date caught, 


Length of pelt, 
15%; tail, 81/2; 
greatest width, 3; 
shoulders, 2% 

White Weasel. 337 

shipped, etc., so that his figures must be correct. Meas- 
urements are for pelt side. If fur side is out, add about 
Yi inch for hips and shoulders for the three sizes. 

Note that a 6 inch tail is the longest mentioned (this 
perhaps is an average) for from other localities where 
the skins are an inch or two longer and proportionately 
wider, tails frequently measure two inches more, or 8 
inches. The length of tail is usually considered a fair 
guide as to the size of skin but not always. 




RANGE. — The former range of this valuable fur 
bearer was from Santa Barbara Islands, just off 
the coast from Los Angeles, north along the coast 
of California, Oregon, Washington, British Co- 
lumbia and Alaska to the Aleutian Islands and across to 
Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands off the northern coast 
of Asia. 

Since 1912 the catch has been small and the range 
of the few remaining seems to be confined to the Aleu- 
tian and Kuril Islands. 

Size and Handling. — A full grown sea otter meas- 
ures from nose to tip of tail, anywhere from 4 feet to 4 
feet and 6 inches. The largest weigh up to about 80 
pounds. The skin is very loose on the body and when 
stretched or ''nailed out" on a frame, the largest have 
been known to be as much as 8 feet 6 inches from tip to 
tip by 3 feet wide. Skins are handled both open and 
cased. The white hunters, as a rule, skin by ripping up 
from end of tail along belly up to the under lip, then from 
the middle of the breast down each fore-leg and from 
the anus down the inner edge of each hind-flipper (leg). 
The pelt is then stretched in much the same way as a 
coon. The otter hunters call this ''staked out." 


Sea Otter. 


The native hunters skinned their otter *'on the 
round," that is, a cut being made along the inner edge 

of the flippers (hind legs) 
through the anus and down the 
tail. The skin is taken off by 
gradually cutting and pulling 
down over the body and head. 
The pelt being stretched on 
boards and when wedged a full 
grown skin will measure 6 feet 
6 inches to 7 feet from tip to 
tip, having a width of 14 to 15 
inches at hind quarters and 10 
to II at shoulders. Regardless 
of which method is used in 
skinning and stretching, much 
care is taken to remove all fat, 
etc., and the skin scraped and 
dried. The cured skins when 
dried are turned fur side out. 

Fur and Color. — The fur 
is from i to i>< inches in 
length, very fine, soft, dense 
and silky with many longer 
hairs which are coarser and 
stiffen Near the pelt the fur 
is of lustrous, pearly whitish 
color, gradually darkening to- 
wards the ends so that the out- 
side is black in the best skins and various shades of brown 
in others. The finest skins, black, have white silyery 


340 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

hairs scattered quite evenly, about ^ inch apart all over. 
Pelts of this kind, if full size, properly furred and tipped, 
of a uniform color throughout (head excepted, which is 
probably white) is considered a No. i skin and commands 
a good price. 

The next grade is somewhat lighter, yet dark colored, 
although it may be well furred and tipped. Next is the 
dark brown skins and then those of lighter shades, which 
may or may not have silvery tips. Next are the rusty 
brown and last the ''woolly" skins which have short fur 
but few or no long hairs and the color may be an ash- 
grey or mouse. Some pelts of this description look as if 
the fur had been clipped with shears. 

Degrees of Primeness. — Of course, the various 
grades as described, have different degrees of quality. 
With perhaps the exception of the best grades of black 
fox, size, perfection of fur and evenness of color and tips 
are of first consideration. There are some pelts large, 
well furred, even in color, but the tips are not evenly 
distributed and in some pelts there are none, on others 
there may be a ''woolly" patch (sometimes in the middle 
of the back) which greatly detracts from its value. Again 
other are of a beautiful black, furred evenly and tipped 
from shoulders to end of tail but the head and belly are 
white or practically so. In others the tips have a singed 
appearance or may be slightly curled up, while still 
others the ends appear broken off. The imperfect skins, 
as a rule, are those of full grown animals. Young and 
not full grown are usually even colored and fur of the 
same quality throughout but the silvery tips are often too 

Sea Otter. 341 

abundant and close. In some skins the longer hairs are 
not silvery, as they should be, but may be black or brown. 
The buying of sea otter was a ticklish business, espe- 
cially where competition was strong, for it took expe- 
rience and judgment to be able to correctly classify the 
skins into the proper grade. The animal now, however, 
is so rare that very few traders, even along the Northern 
Pacific Coast or the Behring Sea, see a pelt much less get 
an opportunity to buy one. Skins are always prime and 
range in value from $200 to $1,000. This animal is now 
quite scarce, dwindling from upwards of 5,000 in the 
early 8o's to 1,000 in the 90's and to a few hundred since 
1900. In 1913 only 81 were caught. 



RANGE. — The range of what used to be best known 
as panther once included all the timbered and 
mountain sections of the United States. At pres- 
ent it is found in the Rocky Mountain States and 
those bordering on the Gulf of Mexico; in Canada it is 
probably found in parts of British Columbia ; it is pretty 
generally distributed over Mexico. 

Description. — This animal, known under several 
names, such as cougar, puma, panther, catamount and 
mountain lion, is the largest of the cat tribe in either 
North or South America. Mountain lion is a powerful 
beast of prey, is short haired, of a light tan or fawn 
color, although some have a grayish coat and still others 
yellowish brown, according, no doubt, to age and season. 
A large male will measure nine or ten feet from end of 
nose to tip of tail. Ordinary sizes, however, do not ex- 
ceed about 8 feet from tip to tip. The weight of the 
large ones is from i6o to 175 pounds. Heavier ones have 
been killed but the weight of the most are less than 150 

Habits — This bloodthirsty animal is very destruc- 
tive to deer and other game — even worse than timber 
wolves. It also kills stock for ranchers located in the 
foot hills near mountains. Owing to its game and stock 
killing, there is a large bounty on mountain lion scalps in 


Mountain Lion. 


most of the states where it is found. Most of the blood- 
curdling tales told about panthers, painters, mountain 

lions (they are all 
one and the same 
animal) are lies pure 
and simple. . Ordi- 
narily, this animal is 
a coward, afraid of 

Uses. — Skins are 
used largely for rugs 
and to some extent 
for robes. Large, 
perfect specimens 
command a good 
price, when accept- 
able, for rugs with 
mounted heads. For 
such purposes there 
can be no defects in 
the coat, neither can 
skins be scalped or 
o^therwise mutilated 
to collect bounty. 
The toes and nails 
must bei left on and one missing is a defect. 

Handling, Price, Grade. — Strictly speaking, the 
skins do not belong in the fur class. "Mountain Lion, 
$2.00 to $6.00," is about the way this article reads on the 
fur lists of those who quote them at all. Not being what 
is properly a fur skin, many dealers in raw furs do not 


The mountain ranges of Montana, Wyom- 
ing, Colorado, New Mexico and all states 
west to the Pacific, as well as those of South- 
ern British Columbia and all of Mexico, are 
the section from which skins of tkis animal 
are principally received. 

344 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

handle the skins. The skins have a hair growth only — 
no fur — which is short and not dense. 

Skins should be handled open for they are used 
mostly for rugs and robes. Those who trap or kill moun- 
tain lions derive the most money through the existing 
bounties paid by the respective states. The majority of 
skins that are sent to fur dealers are those on which 
bounty has been collected and many have been scalped 
or otherwise damaged. The value of such pelts range 
from about $2.00 to $ or maybe a little more. 

Dealers in furs classify the skins according to size, 
large, medium, small. Color makes little or no difference. 
The large sizes, measuring 10 to 11 feet, that we read 
about being killed, dwindle to 9 feet or less in reality. 
The average full grown, in fact, will measure 7 feet or 
thereabouts more often than 8 or more. A pelt that will 
measure 5 feet from end of nose to root of tail is a large 
skin; medium, about one foot less, and small, six inches 
to a foot under medium. Of course, these measurements 
will vary somewhat. 



-jn|LASKA FUR SEAL — RANGE. — This seal — 

p4 the most valuable — inhabits Behring Sea and 

J I the rookeries (breeding grounds) are the St. Paul 

and St. George Islands which constitute what are 

known as the Pribilof Islands. Other than during the 

breeding season they range southward. 

Description. — An average male seal will measure 
about 6 feet long and weigh near 400 pounds. They have 
been known to reach a length of "jYz feet and a weight of 
600 pounds. Females are much smaller, weighing 150 
pounds or less and are usually a few inches under 4 feet 
in length. The color of the guard or long hairs is chest- 
nut brown to black of males although the old are much 
mixed with grey, especially on the back; females are 
usually lighter colored than males. 

History. — From millions of seals which came to 
the Pribilof Islands to breed when the fur first came into 
fashion, the herds dwindled to probably 50,000 by 1910. 
From 1890 to 1910 the North American Commercial 
Company had the exclusive right to the seal industry, 
paying an annual rental of $60,000.00 to the United 
States, in addition to $7.62^ per skin and 50 cents for 
each gallon of oil shipped from either St. George or St. 
Paul Island. There was a further revenue tax of $2.00 
upon each skin. 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

The seal industry has been a very profitable source 
of income to the United States Government but owing to 
pelagic killing (unlawful) by not only Americans but 

others, in July, 191 1, 
the United States, 
Great Britain, Rus- 
sia and Japan en- 
tered into a treaty 
which provides for 
the prohibition of 
pelagic or open sea 
sealing for a period 
of fifteenyears. Dur- 
injg the same year 
(1911) the United 
States enacted a pro- 
vision prohibiting 
land killing of seals 
on the Pribilof Is- 
lands for a period 
of ten years, except 
under certain condi- 
tions ; a few thou- 
sand are killed as 
food for the natives 
and skins sold. 

While this val- 
uable fur producer 
is not apt to regain its former large numbers, yet with 
the protection now given, the herds should and no doubt 
will, largely increase. 


This fur is very coarse looking in its 
natural state but when plucked is soft and 

Seals — Fur and Hair. 


Killing and Handling. — During the palmy days 
of the industry, when 100,000 were taken annually, the 

entire number was 
handled in about six 
weeks, June 14 to 
August I St. While 
the seals might re- 
main on the islands 
longer, the fur de- 
teriorates after the 
latter date. Expert 
skinners can remove 
a pelt in a minute 
and a half, yet four 
minutes is the time 
usually required. 
After the skins are 
flayed off they are 
salted and placed in 
piles, "hair to fat 
and salt between." 
If this is not done 
at once and the 
weather is warm, an 
hour's d e 1 a y w i 1 1 
spoil it. If salt is 
not properly applied 
or skins allowed to 
lay too long without 
flaying (removing flesh and fat) the skin becomes pinky. 

FUR seal skin plucked. 

A plucked skin is one having had the long 
outer or guard hairs removed. 

34^ Fur Buyers' Guide. 

Grading. — The skins are assorted as follows . 

Middlings, Middling and Smalls — 4 to 5 years. 

Smalls — 4 years. 

Large Pups — 3 years. 

Middling Pups, Small Pups — 2 years. 

Extra Small Pups, Grey Pups — i year old. 

Odd, Faulty. 

The general color of males is a dark grizzly, but 
sometimes yellowish or a light brown. The under fur is 
thick and heavy and of a deep red color. Skins not in 
prime condition are known as "stagey." 

Hair Seals. — There are several different varieties, 
or species, such as the Greenland, Harp, Foetid and 
Hooded found in the North Atlantic around Greenland, 
Labrador, Newfoundland and south as far as the New 
England Coast. These should not be confused with the 
pelt and fur of the Alaskan fur seal which -furnishes the 
valuable article, known as sealskin, to the trade. The 
hair seals are valuable for oil and the skins are used for 
making leather only. 



JTTlHILE the majority of those that handle furs will 
fl A I not be particularly interested in this chapter, 
^^r there are fur buyers who handle more or less 
sheep pelts, hides, calf skins, etc. 

Sheep Pelts. — In many states the sheep pelt trade 
is of more importance than is generally known. Travel- 
ing country fur buyers handle a good many thousand 
each year. The writer, during the winter of 1892-93, 
bought about 2,000 pelts from farmers in Gallia and 
Meigs Counties in Southern Ohio. At that time the hilly 
farms of that part of the state were covered with sheep 
(some of them dead) which I bought from 10 cents up. 
Those at 10 cents I skinned — hard, cold, disagreeable 
work — but I made good wages. 

No doubt there are places now where the buying of 
sheep pelts would add materially to the fur buyer's in- 
come. In addition to pelts from sheep that have died 
from disease and improper care, farmers kill for mutton 
and often have a number of pelts ranging from shearling 
up. Country and town butchers at certain seasons have 
pelts for sale. 

Wool on pelts with a growth of ^ inch or less is 
classed as shoddy. The wool is not worth as much per 
pound as longer growth. Pelts bought green should be 


350 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

salted. A large pelt, during the summer season, will re- 
quire about a half gallon of salt. Butchered pelts are 
worth more than those that have died from disease, as 
both pelt and wool are valuable, whereas the diseased 
pelt is of little value except for the wool. Pelts are class- 
ified as follows : 

Packer and Country sheep pelts. 

Packer and Country lambs. 

Packer and Country shearing. 

Montana Butcher dry pelts, full wooled. 

Utah butcher dry pelts, full wooled. 

Colorado and New Mexico dry pelts, butcher. 

Montana and Utah murrains. 

Dry flint shearlings, good stock. 

Dry flint shearlings, damaged. 

Colorado and New Mexico, country collections. 

Packer pelts are 
those taken off by the 
large packing houses 
where thousands of 
sheep are slaughtered 
each week. The aver- 
age buyer will not 

bundle of sheep pelts. handle any of these 

as they are sold in car 
lots direct to pullers, tanners, etc. Sheep pelts are done 
up in bales of some six to a dozen, depending upon length 
of wool. The two strings (hide sisal) should first be laid 
down and crossed. Bottom and top skins should be pelt 
out so as to keep wool as free from dirt as possible. 

Pelts^ Hides, Skins. 351 

Hides, Calf Skins. — The opportunity to buy hides 
and calf skins will depend largely upon how near you 
are to some established hide dealer. Where there are 
such it may not pay to handle as the margin of profit will 
be small. If no dealer is near, you should be able to 
gather up a good many, especially during the fall and 
early winter months when farmers kill for their own use. 
In localities where the dairy business is carried on exten- 
sively most calves are either killed and skinned or soon 
vealed so that many skins are sold. 

The classifications of hides and skins are as follows : 
No. I and 2 heavy steers, 60 pounds and over. 
No. I and 2 heavy cows, 60 pounds and over. 
No. I and 2 buff hides, 40 to 60 pounds. 
No. I and 2 side-branded steers, all weights. 
No. I and 2 side-branded cows, all weights. 
No. I and 2 bulls, all weights. 
No. I and 2 extreme light hides — 25 to 40 pounds. 
No. I and 2 calf skins, 8 to 15 pounds — no skins 

with kip hair. 
No. I and 2 light calf skins, 7 to 8 pounds. 
No. I and 2 kip, 15 to 25 pounds. 
Deacons, 7 pounds and less. 
Slunks, skin of an unborn calf. 
No. I and 2 horsehides — all weights. 
Pony, colt skins and glue stock. 
Hog skins. 

The usual difference between Nos. i and 2 hides is 
one cent a pound in extreme (25 to 40), buffs (40 to 60), 
and heavy cows ; one and one-half cent a pound on steers, 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

calf and kip. Bulls, branded steers and cows generally 
sell flat, not selected. Horse hides, hog skins, deacons 
and slunks sell at so much per skin. Size and free from 
rubbed ( dragging) determine grade and value of horse 

Hides are also further classified green, green salted, 
dry and dry flint. A green hide is one as taken off the 
animal and includes tail bone, horns, sinews, etc., not 

salted. A green salted 
is one that has been 
salted folded or 
spread out for at least 
24 hours and up to six 
months or even 
longer. A dry salt is 
one that has been 
salted but left spread 
out where it will dry 
out within a couple 
of weeks. A flint is one that has been dried without salt. 
The price increases from a green to a flint but as the 
weight decreases there is little, or no difference, in the 
price that a hide will bring in the several ways that it may 
be handled. When hides were cheap there was but one 
cent difference between each classification, namely : green, 
7 cents per pound; green salted, 8 cents; dry salted, 9 
cents ; flint, 10 cents. Now, that values are much higher, 
the spread between each classification is greater. Sup- 
pose a green hide weighs 60 pounds and is worth 10 cents 
a pound or $6.00. The same hide^ salted a few days, 
weighs about 50 pounds, therefore, the green salted must 


Pelts, Hides, Skins. 353 

bring 12 cents a pound to realize $6.00. If made a dry 
salted, the weight is further reduced, say to 40 pounds, 
when price must be 15 cents to equal $6.00. The same 
hide not salted becomes a flint and weight reduced, we 
will say to 30 pounds, when price must be advanced to 
20 cents to equal $6.00. 

Although the writer spent several years upon the 
road buying not only furs, roots, sheep pelts, but hides 
from butchers, mostly green salted, yet he was not sure 
as to shrinkage of hides under the various ryiditions 
handled, therefore, secured the following from a dealer 
v/ho has been in the business for years, buying and han- 
dling several car loads of hides each month : 

"Green hides in summer will shrink out 12% to 15% 
by salting, making them green salted. These same hides 
in winter will not lose more than 10% and be green salted 
hides. Beef hides are better in August, September, Octo- 
ber and November. After that they get long haired and 
shaggy up to March and in general worth 10% less in 
price. In the South hides get grubby in December and 
stay grubby about 90 days. In the North they do not get 
grubby until, say February, and stay grubby for about 90 
days. Of course, in a great many sections, from lack of 
swampy land and care given to cattle, they have no grubs 
at all. In April and May cattle running on new grass, 
their hides will shrink 15% on account of moisture in 
hides. The weight of green hides is about 15% more 
than green salted, 30% more than dry salted, and 50% 
more than flint dry. This is a very close estimate of 
weight in different stages." 


354 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

In some sections grubs are much worse than others. 
In the latitude of Southern Ohio they usually make their 
appearance by the last of November or the first days of 
December. Further north they do not make their appear- 
ance before January and in some localities there are none 
whatever. One grub, if it has eaten through the hide, 
even no larger hole than a straw, makes it a No. 2. Grubs 
will be found on the back near the rump and can be de- 
tected by the appearance of the hide which shows a 
bloody or ''jelly like" substance. 

A cut anywhere in body of hide makes a No. 2, so 
that careful skinning should be done. Calf skins that are 
badly scored (so that the thumb nail can punch through) 
is as bad as a hole and such skins go into the No. 2 class. 
There is a class of hides known as ''packer" but the hide 
buyer will not come in contact with any. These are the 
hides taken off in the large slaughter houses, principally 
of the West, being uniform, closer trim and only coarse 
special hide salt is used in curing. 

Where salt is cheap It is safest to handle hides by 
salting, for during warm weather they may spoil instead 
of curing properly. The high altitudes, Rocky Mountain 
sections, produce many flint hides. 

Hides are done up in separate bundles, hair out, for 
shipment and tied with a special hide twine or sisal. The' 
fur dealer and country buyer of hides, if having no reg- 
ular hide twine, use binder twine doubled or first class 
wool twine, yet neither are strong enough for large and 
heavy hides. 

Deer Skins. — The summer coat is short and the 
hide is of the best quality for leather then. When the 

Pelts^ Hides, Skins. 


hair is long on deer or cattle, it detracts from the hide 
to support such growth. Deer skins should not be salted. 
The process of tanning and dressing deer skins to make 
'he buckskin of commerce, is different from the pre- 
liminaries relating to preparing cattle or horse hides,^ 
which are cured in salt. Salt toughens deer skins and 
makes tanning difficult. 


Summer deer skins are almost unknown now on ac- 
count of game laws everywhere which prohibit such 
slaughter, it being unlawful to have in one's possession 
skins of grown deer in the red or summer coat or fawn 
skins in the spotted coat. Deer skins are bought by the 
pound and classed green, dry salted and dry. Like cattle 
hides, the value per pound increases from green to dry 
but as weight decreases there is little or no difference in 
price per skin. A few elk, antelope and moose hides are 
still marketed. They, like deer skins, are mostly sold 
W weight and classified green, dry salted and dry. 



seng should be dug carefully so as to not cut or 
bruise the roots as this hurts their sale. After dig- 
ging, wash just enough to get the dirt off, but in 
no case attempt tO' make the root white. If a brush is 
used to get the dirt out of crevices it should be used very 
lightly and never so that when the root is dry it will not 
show dark or dirt color at the bottom of the creases that 
run around the roots. Gray or yellow gray is about the 
color desired but of the two extremes it is better not to 
wash at all than to wash too much. 

In drying, the roots should always be placed in the 
shade and should be laid on a screen or sieve and in a 
place where there is free circulation of air. It is not 
necessary to remove the fiber roots of wild ginseng, the 
same as it is with the cultivated. The practice of string- 
ing roots and hanging them up to dry cannot be too 
strongly condemned. 

Fur buyers generally make about three grades of 
wild root — Northern, Middle and Southern — although 
some dealers go so far as to grade it by states. The 
practice of grading In this manner comes not from the 
quality of the roots in the different sections of the country 
but from the practices of the collector. In the North the 


Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal. 



roots are never strung 
on strings, neither does 
the Northern man collect 
seedlings and pieces of 
stems. The Chinaman 
wants whole roots with- 
o u t blemish and no 
Chinaman or dealer can 
tell whether whole roots 
of fair size are from the 
North or South. 

Note the illustration, 
showing at natural size, 
what is found in 
large quantities in 
many lots of 
Southern wild 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

root. Such trash is absent in the wild collections from 
the North. The presence or absence of this trash really 
makes the difference in price between Northern and 
Southern wild root. 

The illustration — Good Wild 
Roots — are reduced in size. Roots 
of this class will demand top price 
for wild root if free from trash ex- 
cept the fiber roots that naturally 

If the digger would leave the 
little roots to grow he would get as 
much money for what he did collect 
as he would if he added the trash. 
Later, he or some one else would have the pleasure of 
digging a good root in place of one almost worthless. The 
digger of wild ginseng finds not only small but all shapes 
of roots. This is caused from the hard soil, rocks and 
tree roots among which it grows. The illustration of 



Roots — Ginseng and Golden ^ al. 



• j 



1- ^^ ■ 

• Sit: ;«<■ 



j; ,J' 

small wild is natural size, but not^ as well the shape m 
which it grew — down, then up, then down. 

Buyers may have some root offered them green, so 
they will be interested in knowing how much green it 

takes to make a 
pound dry. Inhere 
ig^no correct rule to 
go by, or rather one 
that will answer for 
all seasons and for 
both wild and culti^ 
vated. Spring dug, 
or say up to August, 
will require about 4 
pounds to dry a 
pound; fall dug, 
about 3 pounds and 
5 or 6 ounces. In 
parts of the North- 
west, such as the 
state of Oregon, 
roots dry heavy^.and 
3 pounds will about 
make i pound dry. 

In the pile of Ore- 
gon green ginseng 
there was 90 pounds when dug. This root is short and 
thick set — chunky — with very little fiber root and will 
dry out 30 pounds, or very near it, of marketable root. 
The root is cultivated and was dug the latter part of Sep- 
tember. Some raisers in the Northwest have tried to 



Fur Buyers' Guide. 

dispose of ginseng similar to the roots shown as being 
wild. Eastern dealers say there is no natural wild grow- 
ing in Oregon but that wild transplanted from some of 
the ''ginseng country" farther east does well there. 


The illustration of West Virginia Wild Ginseng Just 
Dug shows the genuine wild as it grows in that state. The 
majority of these roots are large and when dug in Sep- 
tember and October about 3^ pounds of green will make 
one of dry. This proportion will hold where the roots 
are very late dug regardless of sizes. Early in the season 
it takes about 4 pounds of green to make one of dry, 


Ginseng and Golden Seal. 


iuaking iif .aJtference whether the roots are large, me- 
■j, v>r small. These weights are based on green roots 
— just dug. If oitered for sale after being dug a few 
days they are partly dry and, of course, less amount will 
make a pound when dry. ^2c 

Wild ginseng, as well as golden seal, is z^^"*^- ' 
bought not only by fur dealers but produce 
men and druggists. The latter, as a ruh 
do not handle large lots, buying mainl 
from diggers who are apt to have a 
few ounces, or pounds, at most. Cul- 
tivated is usually dried by the grower 
who then sells to some of the larger 

Cultivated Ginseng Roots. — 
The same instructions as to digging 
and drying wild roots apply to these 
except greater care must be used to 
have plenty of air or use artificial 
heat.. This is necessary, as the cul- 
tivated root is larger and dries 
slower, being liable to sour and 
spoil if not properly handled. There 
is really no accepted method of 
grading cultivated ginseng but 
its value is determined owing 
to its likeness to wild. The 
vnld root, grown as it is, 
among trees and other 
plants that sap the soil of 
its fertility, takes up much ^^ ^^wE^i^toor.^^^^'^^' 


Fur Buyers' Guide. 

of the 

moisture, makes a very slow growth ^. "d for 
acquires age before its size would tempt tVxe -^ 

lector to dig. This slow growth 
and great age gives it the 
quality the Chinese like. Cul- 
tivated, therefore, is classed 
largely according to its resem- 
blance to the wild root. 

Good wild root seldom has 
lateral branches, is of light 
weight in proportion to its 
size, having 

choice grade of 


around the root rather 
than up and down. 
The body of the root 
is spongy or corky 
and will bend some- 
what before it will 
break. In grading cultivated the first, or best grade, m 'st 
come as near to having the above characteristics as pob- 
sible. The illustrations of the three roots, page 360, are 
such while the single root, page 361, represents those of 
ideal shape. 


Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal. 


This grade of root is light weight but not so light as 
the wild. A bushel basket well rounded up and shaken 
down will weigh just about 25 pounds. One other test 
for roots of this grade is that you should be able to take 
a sharp knife and shave ojET thin slices without their 

breaking. Roots of the same grade 
otherwise, if on attempting to shave 
off a slice will crumble and break 
into small pieces, are not as valuable. 

The two straight roots repre- 
sent a choice grade of roots though 
not as large. These are small roots 
that have been crowded and stunted 
in their growth and closely resemble 
the wild. See page 362. 

Next in value we would class 
roots that have the above named 
valuable traits except they are irreg- 
ular in shape. Such roots when 
well wilted, in process of drying, 
can be helped in shape a little by 
bending in side roots and wrapping 
a narrow piece of cloth around them 
until dry. This quality of root if 
extremely sprangly and having 
many large straggling side shoots 
is of low value and at times prac- 
tically unsalable. A root of this 
character can be helped some by 
breaking- off the sprangles as indi- 

SMOOTH SKINNED i , , • • , •,, 

HARD GINSENG. cated by the Imes m the illustration. 


Fur Buyers' Guide, 

Note marks or lines like this / across the small roots 
which are from ^ to ^ inch from main root. Root is 
still green. See illustration, page 362; Irregular Shaped 

A still poorer grade of root is the smooth skinned, 
hard root which is generally caused by digging the crop 

too young or before it is ma- 
ture. It is also sometimes 
caused by light, sandy soil. 
The defects in roots of this 
kind are hard to bring out in 
illustrations but can easily be 
recognized by the eye. The 
root is hard, very heavy for 
size, cuts under the knife hard 
and brittle. The skin shows 
few or no wrinkles around the 
root. This and the sprangly 
roots are of the lowest grades, 
except diseased 
roots or roots of 
the shape of the 
three which are 
unsalable save when 
broken up and sold 
as coarse fiber at 
Small roots when short and thick 


about $1.00 a pound 
set are salable. 

There is one other grade of dry ginseng root that is 
desirable but of rather uneven quality. We allude to 
transplanted wild root. Illustration — Transplanted Wild 
Ginseng Root — shows an exceptionally good root of this 

Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal. 365 

class. The neck of the root is small, which is very desir- 
able. ^ Shape is also good and the wrinkles show well. 
Root is rather hard yet it represents a good type of root. 

In preparing roots for market the fine fibrous roots 
should always be removed and kept separate. It is a 
question if the average grower should attempt to trim or 
sort his roots beyond this. He is not familiar with the 
demands or orders of the dealer, therefore is liable to trim 
ofif and lose weight where he need not. Better to send to 
an honest dealer and let him do the sorting and grading. 

The Chinese are very expert and will look at a pile 
of root and decide very close what it is worth, even 
though there may be a half dozen grades in the pile. In 
other words, if you have ten pounds of root worth $6.00 
per pound and another ten pounds worth $4.00 per pound 
and mix them together the chances are that you will get 
fully as much. The Chinaman wants to get the good root 
so will pay $5.00 or maybe a trifle over, rather than 
under. At the same time he seems to know exactly, by 
looking at the pile, how much good and how much poor 
root there is in the lot. 

All pieces of root should be sorted out and sold by 
themselves as coarse fiber. 

Golden Seal. — There is little to be said about dry- 
ing the wild seal root other than to wash clean and dry 
in the shade, taking care that it dries properly so as not 
to mould. Cultivated seal requires much more care in 
washing but must be washed clean even if the body of 
the root has to be broken in order to do it. After the 
roots are fully dried they should be placed in some tight 
package to keep them from the air and light as this root 

366 Fur Buyers' Guide. 

loses strength fast. The fiber root should not be separ- 
ated from the rhizome (main root) and no care need be 
taken to avoid breaking either the rhizome or the fiber 
(small) roots. 

Golden Seal, fall dug, either wild or cultivated, dries 
out about same as ginseng, namely, 3 1/3 pounds of 
green making one of dry. 

There is but little difference in the value of Golden 
Seal whether from the garden of the grower or the dig- 
ger who secures the wild. Neither is there a difference 
in the value of this root from the various parts of the 
country. Buyers, however, must be on the lookout for 
frauds and deceptions as there is a root that very closely 
resembles Golden Seal found in some parts of the country 
which has little value. 

Note. — Those e specially interested in Ginseng, 
Golden Seal, Seneca and other marketable plants will find 
in "Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants," a book of 367 
pages, price $1.00, a much more complete description of 
the various plants, where found, with illustrations of 
both the roots and tops. 


A Book of Information on Raising Fur-Bearing Animals. Tell ing 
all About _ Enclosures, Breeding, Feeding. Habits, Care, Etc. 

THIS book is now in its FIFTH EDITION. It is 
the recognized authority on raising all kinds 
of fur-bearing animals. All of the questions 
asked, or you may wish to know, are answered in 
detail in this book. It is the only guide for those 
who are contemplating the raising of fur-bearers 
for profit, and its accurate descriptions of the 
animals and their habits, when in the wild State, 
make it interesting and valuable to all. 

The information has been secured from reliable 
sources, mainly from those who have already 
raised the various animals. A part was taken 
from the United States Government reports of 
their investigations. 

Foxes— More than forty pages are devoted to foxes. The business of 
handling valuable foxes as carried on in Canada is explained. 

Mink— The chapter on Mink Raising is more complete than in the 
earlier editions and as well illustrates a minkery showing: 1st, floor plan; 
2nd, end view; 3rd, completed building. 

Marten— A chapter on Marten Raising has also been added. 

Skunk— This chapter contains 35 pages of information as well as 11 
illustrations. One of the illustrations shows skunk skins and how they 
are graded. Removing scent sacs is fully explained and illustrated by 
two drawings or diagrams showing the scent sacs and how far and 
where to cut to expose sacs and ducts. After looking at these and read- 
ing explanation anyone can easily remove the scent sacs. 

Chapter Headings— Read them and it will be seen at once that this 
is a very practical book, covering the subject of Fur Raising or Fur 
Farming thoroughly. Book contains 278 pages, 5x7 inches, printed on 
good paper, with 49 illustrations and drawings. The book contains 16 
chapters as follows: 

I. Supply and Demand 

II. What Animals to Raise 

III. Endosares 

IV. Laws Affecting Far Farming 
V. Box Trap Trapping 

VI. Fox Raising 

VII. Fox Raising in Canada 

VIII. Skunk Raising 

IX. Mink Raising 

X. Opossum Raising 

XI. Muskrat Raising 

XII. Raccoon Raising 

XIII. The Beaver and the Otter 

XIV. Marten Raising 

XV. Killing, Skinning & Stretching 

XVI. Deer Farming 

If you have ever thought of raising fur-bearing animals, better send 
for this book at once. Maybe after reading you will conclude to go into 
the business, for there has been money made at the business and will be 
for years to come by those who are suited to the industry— the book tells 
this and lots more. 

This book bound in cloth will be sent postpaid to any address for 60c. 

A. R. Harding, 75 N. Ohio Ave., Columbus, Ohio 


For Hunters, Trappers, 
Fisherman, Sportsmen, 
Campers, Prospectors, 
Fur Farmers, Ginseng and 
Golden Seal Growers, etc. 

Below we list books published by A. R. 
Harding, any or all of which would be valuable 
to any outdoor man. The prices quoted after 
each book include postage, so that there are 
no additional charges. Should you wish them 
insured the cost will be 5c extra, to Canada cost 
to register is loc. If two or more books are 
ordered together there is a reduction of loc on 
60c books, and 25c on $i.cO' books. 

Bee Hunting, 80 pages, paper 25c 

Mink Trapping, 190 pages, cloth 60c 

Fox Trapping, 200 pages, cloth 60c 

Steel Traps, 333 pages, cloth 60c 

Canadian Wilds, 277 pages, cloth 60c 

Deadfalls and Snares, 232 pages, cloth. 60c 
Land Cruising and Prospecting, 200 

pages, cloth 60c 

Fur Farming, 266 pages, cloth 60c 

Science of Trapping, 245 pages, cloth.. 60c 

Hunting Dogs, 253 pages, cloth 60c 

Ferret Facts and Fancies, 214 pages, 

cloth 60c 

Wolf and Coyote Trapping, 252 pages, 

cloth eoc 

Camp and Trail Methods, 274 p., cloth. 60c 

Science of Fishing, 258 pages, cloth 60c 

A Trip on the Great Lakes, 212 pages, 

cloth 60c 

3001 Questions and Answers, 396 pages, 

cloth $1 

The Cabin Boat Primer, 276 p., cloth. . . $1 
Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper, 318 

pages, cloth. $1 

Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants, 

318 pages, cloth $1 








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