Abstract

Canada experienced a surge of fur farming during the first half of the twentieth century to meet the demands of fashion. The practice was promoted as a relatively easy way in which rural people could earn great income. In the province of New Brunswick, where cash-earning opportunities were limited, many turned to raising foxes. The fox is typically a wild animal and cares for itself when left in its natural habitat. In captivity, however, it required more attention. Farmers treated a wild animal like livestock and faced a range of challenges they needed to overcome if profiting from the animal’s fur had any chance of success. Farmers encountered difficulties in breeding, disease and parasites, and feeding. To help overcome these obstacles, farmers turned to modern scientific methods aided by the establishment of an experimental farm on Prince Edward Island. The farm produced and published a great deal of knowledge on the subject of raising foxes. But even if farmers could raise their animals from pup to pelt, great profits were not guaranteed because they also faced a volatile commodity market.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.

NOTES

1. “Fur Farms 1928-1929,” Container 51052, #155, RS110 Fish and Wildlife Branch Records, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton (PANB).
2. H. R. Emmerson to Assistant Chief Game Warden, Apr. 27, 1932, May 14, 1932, Container 51055, #256, RS110 Fish and Wildlife Branch Records, PANB.
3. J. A. Allen and G. Ennis Smith, Fox Ranching in Canada (Ottawa: Dominion of Canada, Department of Agriculture, 1929), 6.
4. Canadian Wildlife Federation, “Red Fox,” http://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/fauna/mammals/red-fox.html (accessed Nov. 24, 2017).
5. Although the terms “farm” and “ranch” were sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the raising of foxes in captivity, this article uses “fox farming” to refer to those who owned and cared for their own foxes and “fox ranching” when discussing those who housed and cared for the foxes owned by others.
6. For examples see Edward D. Ives, George Magoon and the Down East Game War: History, Folklore, and the Law (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993); Donald G. Wetherell, Wildlife, Land, and People: A Century of Change in Prairie Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 158-82.
7. For examples see Michael Committo, “‘Our Society Lacks Consistently Defined Attitudes Toward the Black Bear’: The History of Black Bear Hunting and Management in Ontario, 1912-1987” (PhD diss., McMaster University, 2015), 78-120; Richard Mackie, “Cougars, Colonists, and the Rural Settlement of Vancouver Island,” in Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia, ed. R. W. Sandwell (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1999), 120-41; Wetherell, Wildlife, Land, and People.
8. See for example E. P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act (London: Allen Lane, 1975).
9. Michael D. Wise, Producing Predators: Wolves, Work, and Conquest in the Northern Rockies (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), 38-39.
10. See Nerissa Russell, “The Wild Side of Animal Domestication,” Animals & Society 10, no. 3 (2002): 285-302.
11. Juliet Clutton-Brock, Animals as Domesticates: A World View Through History (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012), 3.
12. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “tame, v. 1,” https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/197388?rskey=Y1Ptlo&result=2#eid (accessed June 7, 2018).
13. See, for example, Susan Nance, Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
14. Dolly Jørgensen, “Musk Ox in a Box and Other Tales of Containers as Domesticating Mediators in Animal Relocation,” Animal Housing and Human-Animal Relations: Politics, Practices and Infrastructures, ed. Kristian Bjørkdahl and Tone Druglitrø (New York: Routledge, 2016), 101.
15. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “livestock, n.,” https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/109349?redirectedFrom=livestock#eid (accessed June 7, 2018).
16. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “wild, adj. and n.,” https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/228988?rskey=HkjxN0&result=1#eid (accessed June 7, 2018).
17. On the economic aspects, see, for example, Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999); Arthur J. Ray, The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015). On the social aspects, see Arthur J. Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Traders, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660-1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998); George Colpitts, Game in the Garden: A Human History of Wildlife in Western Canada to 1940 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2002), 14-37; Julian Gwyn, “The Mi’kmaq, Poor Settler, and the Nova Scotia Fur Trade, 1783-1853,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 14, no. 1 (2003): 65-91; Jean Barman, French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2014); Stacy Jo Nation-Knapper, “N-lkwkw-min: Remembering the Fur Trade in the Columbia River Plateau” (PhD diss., York University, 2015).
18. Perhaps the largest study is George Colpitts, “Conservation, Science, and Canada’s Fur Farming Industry, 1913-1945,” Histoire social/Social History 59 (1997): 77-108. Others have mentioned the industry with less detail. For example, see Tina Loo, States of Nature: Conserving Canada’s Wildlife in the Twentieth Century (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006), 22; Wetherell, Wildlife, Land, and People, 341-45.
19. This examination of fur farming in Canada, while not directly engaging with the ethics of the practice, recognizes the problematic nature of raising and killing animals for fur. For a discussion on these matters in a contemporary and wider context, see Andrew Linzey and Mark Glover, “Fur Farming,” in The Global Guide to Animal Protection, ed. Andrew Linzey (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013), 166-67; A. J. Nimon and Donald M. Broom, “The Welfare of Farmed Foxes Vulpes vulpes and Alopex lagopus in Relation to Housing and Management: A Review,” Animal Welfare 10, no. 3 (Aug. 2001): 223-48.
20. For a discussion of the exodus from the Maritimes, see Alan A. Brookes, “Out-Migration from the Maritime Provinces, 1860-1900: Some Preliminary Considerations,” Acadiensis 5, no. 2 (Spring 1976): 26-55; Margaret Conrad, “Chronicles of the Exodus: Myths and Realities of Maritime Canadians in the United States, 1870-1930,” in The Northeastern Borderland: Four Centuries of Interaction, ed. Stephen J. Hornsby, Victor A. Konrad, and James J. Herlan (Fredericton: Canadian-American Center, University of Maine, and Acadiensis Press, 1989), 97-119.
21. William M. Parenteau, “Forest and Society in New Brunswick: The Political Economy of the Forest Industries, 1918-1939” (PhD diss., University of New Brunswick, 1994), 182-200.
22. Anthony Winson, “The Uneven Development of Canadian Agriculture: Farming in the Maritimes and Ontario,” Canadian Journal of Sociology 10, no. 4 (Autumn 1985): 424.
23. E. R. Forbes, “Cutting the Pie into Smaller Pieces: Matching Grants and Relief in the Maritime Provinces during the 1930s,” Acadiensis 17, no. 1 (Autumn 1987): 34-55.
24. “Pioneers of the Silver Fox Industry,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS5C, PANB.
25. J. Walter Jones, Fur-Farming in Canada (Ottawa: The Mortimer Company, 1914), 3-4, 10. All financial figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.
26. All conversion figures determined using Historical Currency Converter, which compares the historical price of gold. In 1914, $10,000 Canadian could purchase the same amount of gold as $729,313 Canadian in 2015. http://www.historicalstatistics.org/Currencyconverter.html (accessed June 18, 2018).
27. George Taylor, A History of Salisbury, 1774-1984 (Moncton: Barnes-Hopkins, 1988), 65.
28. J. R. Taylor Account Book, Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS1I1, PANB.
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid.
31. F. J. Steeves, 70 Facts About Silver Black Fox Farming (Moncton: Self-published, nd), MC639, MS55, PANB.
32. Allen and Smith, Fox Ranching in Canada, 3.
33. For a more complete discussion on the market for farmed furs in Canada, see Colpitts, “Conservation, Science, and Canada’s Fur Farming Industry.”
34. “Fur Stats 1926,” Item #154, Container 52052, RS110 Fish and Wildlife Branch Records, PANB.
35. Note that the earlier census was conducted by the federal government, while this later survey was carried out by game wardens who traveled though their regions and took a count. It is likely that there were more fur farms in New Brunswick than the earlier census demonstrates. Item #155, Container 52052, RS110 Fish and Wildlife Branch Records, PANB.
36. “Fur Farm Census 1928-1929,” Item #155, Container 52052, RS110 Fish and Wildlife Branch Records, PANB.
37. “E. M. Taylor’s membership in the Canadian Society of Technical Agriculturalists,” MC482, MS2A, PANB.
38. See various “Account Sales,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, PANB. In 1935, $1 Canadian is equivalent to roughly $24 USD in 2015; in 1945, $1 Canadian is roughly $27 USD in 2015; in 1955, $1 Canadian is equivalent to roughly $18 USD in 2015; in 1965, $1 Canadian is equivalent to roughly $11 USD in 2015.
39. Autobiography of Harold Roy Nicholson, 95, MC1228, MS2, PANB.
40. Ibid., 51.
41. Handbook of Scientific and Technical Societies and Institutions of the United States and Canada (National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, Oct. 1937).
42. “Canadian National Silver Fox Breeder’s Association Constitution as Amended June 17th, 1947,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS5R, PANB.
43. The terms “sire” and “dam” were specifically used on the Canadian National Live Stock Records forms for documenting the pedigree of foxes. See “Canadian National Livestock Records, 1928-1930,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS1I6, PANB. Oxford English Dictionary defines “sire” as “a male parent of a quadruped; esp. a stallion. Correlative to dam.” Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “sire, n.,” http://www.oed.com.prxy4.ursus.maine.edu/view/Entry/180366?rskey=XRhu62&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed May 17, 2018). A female fox is often called a vixen but referring to one as “dam” demonstrates a closer relationship between human and fox.
44. Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of New Brunswick for the Year Ended October 31st, 1925, pp. 37-43, RS823, PANB.
45. “Agreement Re Marking Foxes 1929-30,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS1I8, PANB.
46. “Canadian National Record for Foxes (Female) 1931,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS1I5E, PANB; “Canadian National Record for Foxes Male 1931,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, Ms1I5d, PANB.
47. Report on Agriculture for the Province of New Brunswick for the Year 1912, pp. 95-100. For a discussion on the rise of experimental farms and agricultural modernization in Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, see David Bent, “The Long Road to Modernization: Transforming Agriculture in Nova Scotia, 1867-1960” (PhD diss., University of New Brunswick, 2016).
48. For examples, see Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture for the Province of New Brunswick for the Year Ended October 31st, 1939, pp. 34-35, RS823, PANB.
49. G. Ennis Smith, “Linebreeding,” Dominion Experimental Fox Ranch, Summerside PEI, Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS5J, PANB.
50. Steeves, 70 Facts about Silver Black Fox Farming.
51. Report on Agriculture for the Province of New Brunswick for the Year 1912, pp. 22-23, RS823, PANB.
52. “Pearl Platinum Foxes,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS5I, PANB.
53. “History of Fox Ranching,” Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS5A, PANB.
54. This was the case for several of Eldon Taylor’s female foxes in the 1930s. See “Canadian National Record for Foxes (Female) 1931.”
55. Lloyd G. Steeves fox breeding register, MC842, MS1, PANB. These examples are found in 1944 breeding charts presumed to have been kept by Steeves. They are located inside a folder inside the larger ledger.
56. “Fur Farm Census 1928-1929,” Item #155, Container 52052, RS110 Fish and Wildlife Branch Records, PANB. This cause of death appears several times in the census records. This data is only a small sample of what is believed to be a much larger number. There are seventy-three responses from 1928 and eighty-one from 1929. A survey of fur farms conducted in 1928 by the chief game warden found seven hundred sixteen fox farms in 1928 (#155, folder 4, RS110, PANB).
57. Ibid.
58. For a more thorough discussion of the fluctuations within the fur and far farming industry, see Colpitts, “Conservation, Science, and Canada’s Fur Farming Industry, 1913-1945.”
59. Geraw estimated that he had a total of eighty foxes on his farm at the start of 1929 and believed they were valued at a total of $9,600 ($120 per fox on average). “Fur Farm Census 1928-1929.”
60. “Fur Farm Census 1928-1929.”.
61. G. Ennis Smith, Experimental Fox Ranch, Summerside P.E.I.: Progress Report of the Superintendent for the Years 1931, 1932, 1933, and 1934 (Ottawa: Dominion of Canada, Department of Agriculture, 1935), 40; Eldon Taylor fonds, MC482, MS5T3, PANB.
62. “Fur Farm Census 1928-1929.”
63. A minim is a very small measurement of liquid, roughly equivalent to a drop.
64. Allen and Smith, Fox Ranching in Canada, 18-20.
65. Ibid., 20-22.
66. Ibid., 21.
67. G. Ennis Smith, Experimental Fox Ranch Summerside, P.E.I., Report of the Superintendent for the Years 1926 and 1927 (Ottawa: Minister of Agriculture, 1928), 17-21.
68. Allen and Smith, Fox Ranching in Canada, 25.
69. Ibid., 26.
70. Ibid., 26-27.
71. Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of New Brunswick for the Year Ended October 31st, 1942, p. 47.
72. “Fur Production Costs,” Canadian Silver Fox and Fur 4, no. 12 (Dec. 1938): 22.
73. Fox Ranching Records, Fraser Family fonds, MC236, MS1/8, PANB. During this period $1 Canadian is equivalent to roughly $35 USD.
74. Smith, Experimental Fox Ranch Summerside, P.E.I., Report of the Superintendent for the Years 1926 and 1927, pp. 3, 21, 24.
75. Ibid., 38.
76. G. Ennis Smith, Experimental Fox Ranch Summerside, P.E.I., Report of the Superintendent for the Years 1928, 1929 and 1930 (Ottawa: Minister of Agriculture, 1931), 33.
77. Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of New Brunswick for the Year Ended October 31st, 1941, p. 49, RS823, PANB.
78. Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of New Brunswick for the Year Ended October 31st, 1943, p. 36, RS823, PANB.
79. Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of New Brunswick for the Year Ended October 31st, 1942, p. 48, RS823, PANB.
80. Colpitts, “Conservation, Science, and Canada’s Fur Farming Industry, 1913-1945,” 106.