Year
1813

American fur traders turn over Astoria, Oregon, to the British

On this day in 1813, the Americans operating the Pacific Fur Company trading post in Astoria, Oregon, turn the post over to their rivals in the British North West Company, and for the next three decades Britons dominate the fur trade of the Pacific Northwest.

The town and fur trading post at Astoria were founded in 1811 at the behest of John Jacob Astor, a German-born American immigrant who had hoped to beat out his British rivals and develop the Pacific Northwest fur trade for America. Unfortunately for Astor, the outbreak of the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain threw the fate of his enterprise into doubt, raising the threat that at any moment a British warship might arrive and seize Astoria as a spoil of war. Astor’s partners in the Pacific Fur Company were mostly Canadian, and they saw little reason to risk losing their entire investment in a British takeover so they sold their interests to the British North West Company in early October 1813. Just as they had feared, within weeks of the sale a man-of-war arrived and took possession of Astoria for Great Britain. In December 1813, the stars and strips came down, the Union Jack went up, and Astoria became Fort George.

Although Great Britain gave the settlement of Astoria back to the United States after the War of 1812, the British maintained control of Fort George and the Pacific Northwest fur trade, primarily through the royally chartered Hudson Bay Company. For the next 20 years the Hudson Bay Company’s British representatives ruled as benevolent despots over the traders, settlers, and Indians of the Pacific Northwest. By the 1840s, the beaver population had dwindled, while American settlement in the area was on the rise. Unwilling to protect the Hudson Bay Company’s claim to the region, the British agreed to accept American control of the territory below the 49th parallel in 1846 and ceded to the U.S. the territory encompassing the future states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Rival governments in bleeding Kansas

In opposition to the fraudulently elected pro-slavery legislature of Kansas, the Kansas Free State forces set up a governor and legislature under their Topeka Constitution, a document that outlaws slavery in the territory. Trouble in territorial Kansas began with the signing of ...read more

Brutus commits suicide

Marcus Junius Brutus, a leading conspirator in the assassination of Julius Caesar, commits suicide after his defeat at the second battle of Philippi. Two years before, Brutus had joined Gaius Cassius Longinus in the plot against the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, believing he was ...read more

Beirut barracks blown up

A suicide bomber drives a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. That same morning, 58 French soldiers were killed in their barracks two miles away in a separate suicide terrorist attack. The U.S. Marines were ...read more

Hostage crisis in Moscow theater

On October 23, 2002, about 50 Chechen rebels storm a Moscow theater, taking up to 700 people hostage during a sold-out performance of a popular musical. The second act of the musical “Nord Ost” was just beginning at the Moscow Ball-Bearing Plant’s Palace of Culture when an armed ...read more

Carter homers to win World Series

On October 23, 1993, Toronto Blue Jay Joe Carter does what every kid dreams of—he wins the World Series for his team by whacking a ninth-inning home run over the SkyDome’s left-field wall. It was the first time the World Series had ended with a home run since Pittsburgh’s Bill ...read more

Gas leak kills 23 at plastics factory

On this day in 1989, 23 people die in a series of explosions sparked by an ethylene leak at a factory in Pasadena, Texas. The blasts, which took place at a Phillips Petroleum Company plant, were caused by inadequate safety procedures. A polyethylene reactor at the Phillips 66 ...read more

Battle of Westport, Missouri

On this day in 1864, Confederate General Sterling Price’s raid on Missouri nearly turns into disaster when his army is pinned between two Union forces at Westport, Missouri, near Kansas City. Although outnumbered, Price’s forcesmanaged to slip safely away after the Battle of ...read more

Hungarian protest turns violent

Thousands of Hungarians erupt in protest against the Soviet presence in their nation and are met with armed resistance. Organized demonstrations by Hungarian citizens had been ongoing since June 1956, when signs of political reform in Poland raised the possibility for such ...read more

An abortion-performing doctor is murdered

Doctor Barnett Slepian is shot to death inside his home in Amherst, New York, by an anti-abortion radical, marking the fifth straight year that a doctor who was willing to perform abortions in upstate New York and Canada had been the victim of a sniper attack. Slepian and his ...read more