MP-1976.26.49 | The season's collection of white fox, Revillon Frères, Port Harrison, QC, about 1920

The season's collection of white fox, Revillon Frères, Port Harrison, QC, about 1920
Samuel Herbert Coward
About 1920, 20th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Gelatin silver process
10 x 8 cm
Gift of Mrs. Dorothy Martin
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Industry (942) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

This photograph shows the number of fox skins that the trading post operated by Revillion Frères in Port Harrison (now known as Inukjuak) purchased in one season (probably 1920). Prior to the arrival of the traders, foxes were not especially important to the Inuit, although they used them occasionally for food and to make the trim for clothing. However, Europeans placed a high value on fox fur, especially from white foxes, so the Inuit adapted their hunting practices to fill the demand from Revillion and the Hudson's Bay Company (the two companies that operated trading posts in Nunavik).

A successful fox trapper could acquire a rifle and bullets, and thus improve his chances of providing food for his family. The trading posts also carried flour, sugar, tea and tobacco, and the Inuit quickly developed a taste for these "luxuries."

The fox harvest was not a dependable source of income, however. In winter the foxes fed primarily on lemmings, and because the lemming population crashes every three or four years, the fox population fluctuated.

  • What

    This is a photograph of the fox skins purchased by the Revillion Frères trading post in Inukjuak (Port Harrison) during a single season.

  • Where

    Port Harrison, Quebec. The community is now known as Inukjuak.

  • When

    This photograph was probably taken in 1920.

  • Who

    The photographer was Samuel Herbert Coward. There is no record of the names of the individuals in the photo.