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America's Frontier Fur Rush24:06
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Centuries before PETA campaigned for animal rights, the fur trade built America. We hear the remarkable history of how fur shaped a nation.

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

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

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

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

Guests:

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

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

This program aired on July 19, 2010.

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