Beaver Plew

Legal Tender

photo of beaver plew

Dean Hellinger photo, courtesy of the
Great Falls Lewis & Clark Encampment

A beaver pelt, or "plew" (Canadian French, pelu, from the French adjective poilu, hairy), mounted as early trappers would have stretched it for drying. Pictured above is a "coat beaver" plew, with the hair still on. A dried plew with hair removed was called a "parchment beaver." At the beginnings of the Western fur trade in the late 1700s until its decline in the early 1840s, dollars were useless in this part of the realm, while beaver "parchments" had a comprehensible value in trade. Twenty parchments for a gun was a real deal; a price of fifty dollars for the same gun was just talk. Pelts other than beaver could be valued in terms of "made beaver." A marten might be valued at two made beaver; a white weasel (ermine) pelt might be worth eight or more made beaver.