|Founded||May 2, 1670|
|Headquarters||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Key people||Richard Baker, Governor and CEO|
|Revenue||$7.0 billion CAD (▼ $59.7 million FY 2009)|
|Owner(s)||NRDC Equity Partners, via Hudson's Bay Trading Company|
Lord & Taylor
The Hudson's Bay Company (French: Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson), abbreviated HBC, is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. The company was incorporated by British royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay; it is now domiciled in Canada and has adopted the more common shorter name as its legal moniker.
It was once the de facto government in parts of North America before European-based colonies and states. It was at one time the largest landowner in the world, with Rupert's Land being over 15% of North America. From its longtime headquarters at York Factory on Hudson Bay, it controlled the fur trade throughout much of British-controlled North America for several centuries, undertaking early exploration. Its traders and trappers forged early relationships with many groups of First Nations/Native Americans and its network of trading posts formed the nucleus for later official authority in many areas of Western Canada and the United States.
In the late 19th century, its vast territory became the largest component in the newly formed Dominion of Canada, in which the company was the largest private landowner. With the decline of the fur trade, the company evolved into a mercantile business selling vital goods to settlers in the Canadian West. Today the company is best known for its department stores throughout Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company Archives are located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The company is owned by Hudson's Bay Trading Company, the retail arm of American private equity firm NRDC Equity Partners, which also owns a high-end department store chain in the U.S., Lord & Taylor.
In the 17th century, the French had a monopoly on the Canadian fur trade. However, two French traders, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers, learned from the Cree that the best fur country was north and west of Lake Superior and that there was a "frozen sea" still further north. Correctly guessing that this was Hudson Bay, they sought French backing for a plan to set up a trading post on the Bay, thus reducing the cost of moving furs overland. However, the recently appointed French Secretary of State, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, was trying to promote farming in the colony and was opposed to exploration and trapping.
Radisson and des Groseilliers then approached a group of businessmen in Boston, Massachusetts to help finance their explorations. The Bostonians agreed on the plan's merits, and brought the two to England to elicit financing. In 1668, the English commissioned two ships, the Nonsuch and the Eaglet to explore possible trade into Hudson Bay. The Nonsuch was commanded by Captain Zachariah Gillam and accompanied by des Groseilliers, while the Eaglet was commanded by Captain William Stannard and accompanied by Radisson. On June 5, 1668, both ships left port at Deptford, England, but the Eaglet was forced to turn back off the coast of Ireland. The Nonsuch continued on all the way to the southern portion of James Bay, where Fort Rupert was founded at the mouth of the Rupert River. Both the fort and the river were named after the sponsor of the expedition, Prince Rupert of Bavaria. After a successful trading expedition over the winter of 1668–9, the Nonsuch returned to England.
The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay was incorporated on May 2, 1670, with a royal charter from King Charles II. The charter granted the company a monopoly over the Indian Trade, especially the fur trade, in the region watered by all rivers and streams flowing into Hudson Bay in northern Canada, an area known as Rupert's Land after Prince Rupert, the first director of the company and a first cousin of Charles. This region constitutes 1.5 million square miles (3.9 million km²) in the drainage basin of Hudson Bay, comprising over one third the area of modern-day Canada and stretching into the north central United States, but the specific boundaries were unknown at the time.
The company founded its first headquarters at Fort Nelson at the mouth of the Nelson River in present-day northeastern Manitoba. The location afforded convenient access to the fort from the vast interior waterway systems of the Saskatchewan and Red rivers. Other posts were quickly established around the southern edge of Hudson Bay in Manitoba and present-day Ontario and Quebec. Called "factories" (because the "factor," i.e. a person acting as a mercantile agent and frequently specializing in one or a small number of commodities, did business from there), these posts operated in the manner of the Dutch fur trading operations in New Netherland.
During the spring and summer, First Nations and Métis traders, did the vast majority of the actual trapping, then travelled by canoe and were received at the fort to sell their pelts. In exchange they typically received metal tools and hunting gear, often imported by the company from Germany, the centre of inexpensive manufacturing in that era. Many Métis were better known as voyageurs during this era.
The early coastal factory (trading post) model contrasted with the system of the French, who established an extensive system of inland posts and sent traders to live among the tribes of the region. After war broke out in Europe between France and England in the 1680s, the two nations regularly sent expeditions to raid and capture each other's fur trading posts. In March 1686, the French sent a raiding party under Chevalier des Troyes over 1300 km (800 miles) to capture the company's posts along James Bay. The French appointed Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who had shown extreme heroism during the raids, as commander of the company's captured posts. In 1697, d'Iberville commanded a French naval raid on the company's headquarters at York Factory. On the way to the fort, he defeated three ships of the Royal Navy in the Battle of the Bay, the largest naval battle in the history of the North American Arctic. D'Iberville's depleted French force captured York Factory by a ruse in which they laid siege to fort while pretending to be a much larger army. York Factory changed hands several times in the next decade. It was finally ceded permanently to what was by then the Kingdom of Great Britain (following the union of Scotland and England in 1707) in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. After the treaty, the company rebuilt York Factory as a brick star fort at the mouth of the nearby Hayes River, its present location. In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War a French squadron under Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse captured and demolished the fort.
A parallel may be drawn between HBC's control over Rupert's Land and the trade monopoly and government functions enjoyed by the Honourable East India Company over India during roughly the same period.
In 1821, the North West Company of Montreal and Hudson's Bay Company merged, with a combined territory that was extended by a licence to the North-Western Territory, which reached to the Arctic Ocean on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Before the merger, the employees of the HBC, unlike the North West Company, did not participate in its profits. After the merger, with all of its operations under the management of Sir George Simpson from 1826 to 1860, the company had a corps of commissioned officers, 25 chief factors and 28 chief traders who shared in the profits of the company during the monopoly years. Its trade covered 7 770 000 km2 (3,000,000 square miles) and it had 1,500 contract employees.:8–23 These officers, together referred to as the Commissioned Gentlemen, would be promoted first to the rank of Chief Trader. A Chief Trader would be in charge of an individual post and was entitled to one share of the profits of the company. Chief Factors sat in council with the Governors and were the heads of districts. They were entitled to two shares of the profits or the losses of the company. The average income of a Chief Trader was £360 and that of a Chief Factor was £720.:690
Although the HBC maintained a monopoly on the fur trade during the early-mid 19th century, there was competition from James Sinclair and Andrew McDermot (Dermott), independent traders in the Red River Colony, who shipped furs by the Red River Trails to Norman Kittson:60–72 a buyer in the United States.
Throughout the 1820s and 1830s the company controlled nearly all trading operations in the Pacific Northwest, based out of the company headquarters at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Although authority over the region was nominally shared by the United States and Britain through the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, company policy, enforced via Chief Factor John McLoughlin of the company's Columbia District, was to actively discourage U.S. settlement of the territory. The company's effective monopoly on trade virtually forbade any settlement in the region. It established Fort Boise in 1834 (in present-day southwestern Idaho) to compete with the American Fort Hall, 483 km (300 miles) to the east. In 1837 it purchased Fort Hall, also along the route of the Oregon Trail, where the outpost director displayed the abandoned wagons of discouraged settlers to those seeking to move west along the trail. The company's stranglehold on the region was broken by the first successful large wagon train to reach Oregon in 1843, led by Marcus Whitman. In the years that followed, thousands of emigrants poured into the Willamette Valley and in 1846 the United States acquired full authority of the most settled areas of the Oregon Country south of the 49th parallel. McLoughlin, who had once turned away would-be settlers as company director, now welcomed them from his general store at Oregon City and was later proclaimed the "Father of Oregon". The company retains no presence today in what is now the United States portion of the Pacific Northwest.
Also during the 1820s and 1830s, HBC trappers were deeply involved in the early exploration and development of Northern California. Company trapping brigades were sent south from Fort Vancouver, along what became known as the Siskiyou Trail into Northern California as far south as the San Francisco Bay Area. These trapping brigades sent into Northern California faced serious risks, and were often the first to explore what was one of the last regions of North America to remain unexplored by Europeans or Americans.
One major event that lead to the demise of the HBC's monopoly in Rupert's Land was the Guillaume Sayer Trial in 1849. Sayer, a Métis trapper and trader, was accused of the illegal trading of furs and brought to trial by the Court of Assiniboia, which was heavily stacked with either HBC officials or HBC supporters. During the trial, a crowd of armed Métis men led by Louis Riel Sr. gathered outside the courtroom, ready to support their Métis brother peacefully or by force if necessary. Although found guilty of illegal trade by Judge Adam Thom, no fine or punishment was levied — many reports state it was due to the intimidating crowd gathered outside the courthouse. With the cry, "Le commerce est libre! Le commerce est libre!" ("Trade is free! Trade is free!"), the HBC could no longer use the courts to enforce their monopoly on the settlers of Red River.
Another factor was the findings of the Palliser Expedition of 1857 to 1860, led by Captain John Palliser. Although the initial report was unfavourable towards settlement, it sparked a debate which ended the myth being propagated by the Hudson's Bay Company that the Canadian West was unfit for agricultural settlement. In 1863, the International Financial Society became the majority shareholders of the HBC.
In 1870 the trade monopoly was abolished and trade in the region was opened to any entrepreneur. The company relinquished its ownership of Rupert's Land under the Rupert's Land Act 1868 enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
One aspect of the company's operations was the Hudson's Bay Company Stores, trading posts that were established across northern Canada. Today, this is the only part of the company operation remaining, in the form of department stores under the name The Bay. The first department store opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1881 (this building is considered the flagship store). Others soon followed. Many Hudson's Bay Company stores were, until quite recently, the only stores in remote towns. More recently, the stores in major downtown locations have been transformed into boutiques.
In 1970, on the 300th birthday of the company, head office functions were transferred from London to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. As the company expanded into the east, head office functions were moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Today there are four retail divisions: The Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters, and Fields, after Designer Depot was sold for lagging sales performance. Northern Stores are no longer operated by HBC, but by a corporation organized in 1987 under the name The North West Company. Simpson's department stores which were acquired by Hudson's Bay Company in 1979 were converted to The Bay stores in 1991. In the 1970s and 1980s, HBC operated a chain of catalogue stores under the name Shop-Rite. In these stores, little merchandise was displayed openly: customers made their selections from catalogues, and staff would retrieve the merchandise from storerooms. This form of retailing, now largely disappeared, was referred to as "catalogue showroom".
The legacy of the HBC has been maintained in part by the detailed record-keeping and archiving of material by the Company. Before 1974, the records of the HBC were kept in the London office headquarters. The HBC opened an Archives department to researchers in 1931. In 1974, the Hudson's Bay Company Archives were transferred from London to their Canadian headquarters in Winnipeg and granted public access to the collection the following year. In 1991 the archival records of the company were donated to the Archives of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In 1987, HBC sold off its Canadian fur auction business to Hudson's Bay Fur Sales Canada (this company is now known as North American Fur Auctions). In 1991, the Bay agreed to stop selling fur in response to complaints from people opposed to killing animals for this purpose. However, in 1997, the Bay reopened its fur salons to meet the demand of consumers desiring to buy fur. Animal rights groups such as Freedom for Animals have been campaigning to get the Bay to once again stop selling fur.
In 1994, the HBC donated the Company records to the Province of Manitoba. The appraised value of the records was nearly $60 million. A foundation, funded through the tax savings resulting from the donation, was established to support the operations of the HBCA as a division of the Archives of Manitoba, along with other activities and programs. There are more than two kilometres of documents as well as hundreds of microfilm reels now stored in a special climate-controlled vault in the Manitoba Archives Building.
In December 2003, Maple Leaf Heritage Investments, a Nova Scotia-based company that was created to acquire shares of Hudson's Bay Company, announced that it was considering making an offer to acquire all or some of the common shares of Hudson's Bay Company. Maple Leaf Heritage Investments is a subsidiary of B-Bay Inc., whose CEO and chairman is American businesswoman, Anita Zucker, widow of Jerry Zucker, the head of The InterTech Group Inc., a conglomerate that is the second-largest private firm in the state of South Carolina. Zucker had previously been the head of the Polymer Group that acquired another Canadian institution, the Dominion Textile Company.
On January 26, 2006, HBC's board unanimously agreed to a bid of $15.25 CAD/share from Jerry Zucker, whose original bid was $14.75 CAD/share, ended a prolonged fight between HBC and Zucker, a South Carolina billionaire financier and longtime HBC minority shareholder. In a March 9, 2006 press release, HBC announced that Jerry Zucker would replace George Heller as the new Governor and CEO, to become the first US citizen to lead the company. Zucker's wife, Anita Zucker, was immediately named HBC Governor and HBC Deputy-Governor Rob Johnston named CEO, after the death of her husband from brain cancer (April 14, 2008, CBC Newsworld).
In 2007, the Hudson's Bay Company Archives became part of the United Nations Memory of the World project, under UNESCO. The records covered HBC history from the founding of the company in 1670. The records contained business transactions, medical records, personal journals of officials, inventories, company reports, etc.
On March 2, 2005, the company was announced as the new clothing outfitter for the Canadian Olympic team. The $100 million deal means that The Bay will provide clothing for the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 games. The previous Canadian Olympic wear supplier Roots Canada Ltd. ended its involvement with Canada's Olympic teams in 2004. The company is under criticism for the way that the uniforms look and where they are made. Roots made sure that the clothes were made in Canada using Canadian material, where HBC is producing the clothes in Canada and China.
Today's modern HBC has diversified into joint ventures and other types of business products. HBC has credit card, mortgage, and personal insurance branches. These other products and services are joint partnerships with other corporations, similar to what President's Choice Financial brands are to Loblaw Companies Limited. HBC also has other HBC Rewards corporate partners such as: Imperial Oil/Esso, M&M Meat Shops, Chapters/Indigo Books, Kelsey's/Montana's Restaurants, Thrifty Car Rental, Cineplex Entertainment Theatres, etc. HBC Rewards points can be redeemed in house or into corporate partners' gift cards and certificates. Points can also be converted to Air Miles.
HBC is involved in community and charity activities. The HBC Rewards Community Program help fund raise for community causes. HBC Foundation is a charity agency involved in social issues and service. HBC formerly sponsored the annual HBC Run for Canada, a series of public-participation runs and walks held across the country on Canada Day to raise funds for Canadian athletes. The company, however, discontinued this event as of 2009. 
Under the charter forming the Hudson's Bay Company, the company was required to give two elk skins and two black beaver pelts to the English King, then Charles II, or his heirs, whenever they visit an area that was formerly Rupert's Land. The ceremony was first conducted with the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) in 1927, then with King George VI in 1939, and last with his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 and 1970. On the last such visit, the pelts were given in the form of two live beavers, which the Queen donated to the Winnipeg Zoo in Assiniboine Park. However, when the Company permanently moved its headquarters to Canada, the Charter was amended to remove the rent obligation. Each of the four "rent ceremonies" took place in or around Winnipeg.
It is, however, a persistent urban legend that the company would lose its charter if it did not give the monarch the rent any time they visit Western Canada, and so, it is alleged, there are furs and blankets stored at a Bay store in each city, with the manager prepared to rush to the airport and present them to the monarch should their plane touch down, even to refuel.
From 1670 to 1970. the HBC Governors were British and based in London, England. After 1970, HBC was a Canadian headquartered company with a Canadian as Governor. Since 2006, the HBC has been led by an American and is now American owned.
The Hudson's Bay Company is a parent company to many different retail and online stores, including:
From 2004 until 2008, HBC also owned and operated a small chain of off-price stores called Designer Depot. Similar to the Winners and Home Sense retail format, Designer Depot did not meet sales expectations, and its nine stores were sold.
In 2008, after Zucker's death, the company was sold to NRDC Equity Partners, the private equity firm of Purchase, New York-based National Realty & Development Corporation. In the United States, NRDC Equity Partners previously acquired Lord & Taylor, the oldest department store chain in the U.S., as well as the upscale jewelry and home furnishings retailer Fortunoff, which closed in spring 2009. The Canadian and U.S. holdings are parts of a newly-formed limited partnership, Hudson's Bay Trading Company, as of the fall of 2008.
|1551–1917||Muscovy Company||taken over by Soviet Union|
|1602–1800||Dutch East India Company||went bankrupt|
|1621–1791||Dutch West India Company||bought by Dutch government|
|1672-1752||Royal African Company||replaced by African Company of Merchants|
|1600–1858||Honourable East India Company||dissolved|
|1711–1850s||The South Sea Company||abolished|
|1808–1842||American Fur Company||folded|
|1779–1821||North West Company||merged with HBC|
|1799-1867||Russian American Company||folded with sale of Russian America to the U.S.|
HBC was the official outfitter of clothing for members of the the Canadian Olympic team in 1936, 1960, 1964, 1968, 2006, 2008 and 2010. The contract will end following the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY, or " the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay," a corporation formed for the purpose of importing into Great Britain the furs and skins which it obtains, chiefly by barter, from the Indians of British North America. The trading stations of the Company are dotted over the immense region (excluding Canada proper and Alaska), which is bounded E. and W. by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and N. and S. by the Arctic Ocean and the United States. From these various stations the furs are despatched in part to posts in Hudson Bay and the coast of Labrador for transportation to England by the Company's ships, and in part by steamboat or other conveyances to points on the railways from whence they can be conveyed to Montreal, St John, N.B., or other Atlantic port, for shipment to London by Canadian Pacific Railway Company's mail ships, or other line of steamers, to be sold at auction.
In the year 1670 Charles II. granted a charter to Prince Rupert and seventeen other noblemen and gentlemen, incorporating them as the " Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay," and securing to them " the sole trade and commerce of all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, lakes, creeks and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be, that lie within the entrance of the straits commonly called Hudson's Straits, together with all the lands and territories upon the countries, coasts and confines of the seas, bays, &c., aforesaid, that are not already actually possessed by or granted to any of our subjects, or possessed by the subjects of any other Christian prince or state." Besides the complete lordship and entire legislative, judicial and executive power within these vague limits (which the Company finally agreed to accept as meaning all lands watered by streams flowing into Hudson Bay), the corporation received also the right to " the whole and entire trade and traffic to and from all havens, bays, creeks, rivers, lakes and seas into which they shall find entrance or passage by water or land out of the territories, limits or places aforesaid." The first settlements in the country thus granted, which was to be known as Rupert's Land, were made on James Bay and at Churchill and Hayes rivers; but it was long before there was any advance into the interior, for in 1749, when an unsuccessful attempt was made in parliament to deprive the Company of its charter on the plea of " non-user," it had only some four or five forts on the coast, with about 120 regular employes. Although the commercial success of the enterprise was from the first immense, great losses, amounting before 1700 to £217,514, were inflicted on the Company by the French, who sent several military expeditions against the forts. After the cession of Canada to Great Britain in 1763, numbers of fur-traders spread over that country, and into the north-western parts of the continent, and began even to encroach on the Hudson's Bay Company's territories. These individual speculators finally combined into the North-West Fur Company of Montreal.
The fierce competition which at once sprang up between the companies was marked by features which sufficiently demonstrate the advantages of a monopoly in commercial dealings with savages, even although it is the manifest interest of the monopolists to retard the advance of civilization towards their hunting grounds. The Indians were demoralized, body and soul, by the abundance of ardent spirits with which the rival traders sought to attract them to themselves; the supply of furs threatened soon to be exhausted by the indiscriminate slaughter, even during the breeding season, of both male and female animals; the worst passions of both whites and Indians were inflamed to their fiercest (see RED River Settlement). At last, in 1821, the companies, mutually exhausted, amalgamated, obtaining a licence to hold for 21 years the monopoly of trade in the vast regions lying to the west and northwest of the older company's grant. In 1838 the Hudson's Bay Company acquired the sole rights for itself, and obtained a new licence, also for 21 years. On the expiry of this it was not renewed, and since 1859 the district has been open to all.
The licences to trade did not of course affect the original possessions of the Company. Under the terms of the Deed of Surrender, dated November 19th, 1869, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered " to the Queen's Most Gracious Majesty, all the rights of Government, and other rights, privileges, liberties, franchises, powers and authorities, granted or purported to be granted to the said Government and Company by the said recited Letters Patent of His Late Majesty King Charles II.; and also all similar rights which may have been exercised or assumed by the said Governor and Company in any parts of British North America, not forming part of Rupert's Land or of Canada, or of British Columbia, and all the lands and territories within Rupert's Land (except and subject as in the said terms and conditions mentioned) granted or purported to be granted to the said Governor and Company by the said Letters Patent," subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Deed of Surrender, including the payment to the Company by the Canadian Government of a sum of £300,000 sterling on the transfer of Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada, the retention by the Company of its posts and stations, with a right of selection of a block of land adjoining each post in conformity with a schedule annexed to the Deed of Surrender; and the right to claim in any township or district within the Fertile Belt in which land is set out for settlement, grants of land not exceeding one-twentieth part of the land so set out. The boundaries of the Fertile Belt were in terms of the Deed of Surrender to be as follows: - " On the south by the United States' boundary; on the west by the Rocky Mountains; on the north by the northern branch of the Saskatchewan; on the east by Lake Winnipeg, the Lake of the Woods, and the waters connecting them," and " the Company was to be at liberty to carry on its trade without hindrance, in its corporate capacity; and no exceptional tax was to be placed on the Company's lend, trade or servants, nor any import duty on goods introduced by them previous to the surrender." An Order in Council was passed confirming the terms of the Deed of Surrender at the Court of Windsor, the 23rd of June 1870.
In 1872, in terms of the Dominion Lands Act of that year, it was mutually agreed in regard to the one-twentieth of the lands in the Fertile Belt reserved to the Company under the terms of the Deed of Surrender that they should be taken as follows: " Whereas by article five of the terms and conditions in the Deed of Surrender from the Hudson's Bay Company to the Crown, the said Company is entitled to one-twentieth of the lands surveyed into Townships in a certain portion of the territory surrendered, described and designated as the Fertile Belt.
" And whereas by the terms of the said deed, the right to claim the said one-twentieth is extended over the period of fifty years, and it is provided that the lands comprising the same shall be determined by lot, and whereas the said Company and the Government of the Dominion have mutually agreed that with a view to an equitable distribution throughout the territory described, of the said one-twentieth of the lands, and in order further to simplify the setting apart thereof, certain sections or parts of sections, alike in numbers and position in each township throughout the said Territory, shall, as the townships are surveyed, be set apart and designated to meet and cover such one-twentieth: " And whereas it is found by computation that the said onetwentieth will be exactly met, by allotting in every fifth township two whole sections of 640 acres each, and in all other townships one section and three quarters of a section each, therefore " In every fifth Township in the said Territory; that is to say: in those townships numbered 5, Io, 15, 20, 25, 3 0, 35, 40, 45, 50 and so on in regular succession northerly from the International boundary, the whole of sections Nos. 8 and 26, and in each and every of the other townships the whole of section No. 8, and the south half and north-west quarter of section 26 (except in the cases hereinafter provided for) shall be known and designated as the lands of the said Company." See G. Bryce, Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company (London, 1900); and A. C. Laut, Conquest of the great Northwest; being the story of the adventurers of England known as Hudson's Bay Co. (New York, 1909).
<< Hudson River