May 2

This Day in History

General Interest

May 2, 1670:

Hudson's Bay Company chartered

King Charles II of England grants a permanent charter to the Hudson's Bay Company, made up of the group of French explorers who opened the lucrative North American fur trade to London merchants. The charter conferred on them not only a trading monopoly but also effective control over the vast region surrounding North America's Hudson Bay.

Although contested by other English traders and the French in the region, the Hudson's Bay Company was highly successful in exploiting what would become eastern Canada. During the 18th century, the company gained an advantage over the French in the area but was also strongly criticized in Britain for its repeated failures to find a northwest passage out of Hudson Bay. After France's loss of Canada at the end of the French and Indian Wars, new competition developed with the establishment of the North West Company by Montreal merchants and Scottish traders. As both companies attempted to dominate fur potentials in central and western Canada, violence sometimes erupted, and in 1821 the two companies were amalgamated under the name of the Hudson's Bay Company. The united company ruled a vast territory extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and under the governorship of Sir George Simpson from 1821 to 1856, reached the peak of its fortunes.

After Canada was granted dominion status in 1867, the company lost its monopoly on the fur trade, but it had diversified its business ventures and remained Canada's largest corporation through the 1920s.

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