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June 24, 2024

Models Displaying Latest Fashions for Hudson’s Bay Company in Edmonton, Alberta, ca. 1950s

The Hudson’s Bay Company is a Canadian retail business group. A fur trading business for much of its existence, it became the largest and oldest corporation in Canada, and now owns and operates retail stores across the country. The company’s namesake business division is Hudson’s Bay, commonly referred to as The Bay (La Baie in French).

After incorporation by English royal charter in 1670, the company was granted a right of “sole trade and commerce” over an expansive area of land known as Rupert’s Land, comprising much of the Hudson Bay drainage basin. This right effectively gave the company a commercial monopoly over that area. The HBC functioned as the de facto government in Rupert’s Land for nearly 200 years until the HBC relinquished control of the land to Canada in 1869 as part of the Deed of Surrender, authorized by the Rupert’s Land Act 1868. At its peak, the company controlled the fur trade throughout much of the English- and later British-controlled North America.

By the mid-19th century, the company evolved into a mercantile business selling a wide variety of products from furs to fine homeware in a small number of sales shops (as opposed to trading posts) across Canada. These shops were the first step towards the department stores the company owns today.


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