Boldly striped "point blankets" have become the emblem of the Hudson's Bay Company, the oldest still-operating business in North America. Here, a model points out retail outlets of Hudson's Bay Company shops while wearing a parka patterned in a "point blanket" style.

Photograph by J. Baylor Roberts, National Geographic
  • On May 2, 1670, King Charles II of England granted a royal charter to “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson's Bay.” The business, founded in what is today Canada, quickly became the Hudson’s Bay Company, and today is the oldest still-operating company in North America.
     
    The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded by French fur trappers—unlicensed “coureurs des bois” who worked with native Cree hunters to collect lucrative beaver, deer, and ermine pelts. Unable to secure financing from French or British-American sources, they were chartered by the British government.
     
    The Hudson’s Bay Company was originally given a charter for the entire Hudson Bay watershed, about 3.9 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles). A series of forts around its namesake bay did a brisk trade in furs, beads, and utensils such as knives and kettles. In 1780, the company introduced the boldly striped “point blankets” for which it became known. By this time, the company realized its future was not in furs, but in trade itself. It quickly redefined itself as a retail supplier for Canada’s urbanizing interior.
     
    Today, the Hudson’s Bay Company is a thriving retail enterprise owned by the same corporation that owns Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bay Noun

    body of water partially surrounded by land, usually with a wide mouth to a larger body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: bay
    brisk Adjective

    busy and quick.

    business Noun

    sale of goods and services, or a place where such sales take place.

    charter Noun

    document that outlines rules for how a state or other organization will be organized.

    corporation Noun

    business made up of a group of stockholders, or people who own interest in the business.

    coureur des bois Noun

    unlicensed, independent French-Canadian fur trapper of the 17th-18th century.

    enterprise Noun

    a project, usually one seeking a profit.

    fort Noun

    military outpost, area, or set of buildings.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    lucrative Adjective

    profitable or money-making.

    pelt Noun

    animal skin or fur.

    redefine Verb

    to identify or organize in a different manner.

    retail Adjective

    having to do with the sale of finished goods to consumers.

    royal Adjective

    having to do with a monarchy.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    urban Adjective

    having to do with city life.

    utensil Noun

    tool or instrument for preparing or eating food.

    watershed Noun

    entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.

    Encyclopedic Entry: watershed