Astorian Adventure: The Journal of Alfred Seton, 1811-1815

Astorian Adventure: The Journal of Alfred Seton, 1811-1815

Astorian Adventure: The Journal of Alfred Seton, 1811-1815

Astorian Adventure: The Journal of Alfred Seton, 1811-1815

Synopsis

The young clerk recounts life and manners in the areas where he lived and worked: the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Russian Alaska, and Spanish dominions in California and Mexico.

Excerpt

The fur trade and John Jacob Astor are linked in the minds of most students of American history through his American Fur Company, whose trappers roamed the West in the 1820s and 1830s. This is in spite of Washington Irving's masterly rendering of the history of an earlier venture of Astor's, the Pacific Fur Company, in Astoria, or, Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains (1836), which led to the founding of a post on the Columbia River in 1811. Not only was the Pacific Fur Company a bold effort in continental and international trade, it also aimed to strengthen the United States' claim to a share of the Pacific coast of North America and to head off a move by the Montreal-based North West Company into the Columbia basin. Although the Pacific Fur Company was not a commercial success, it cannot be said to have failed in its other goals, as the post at Astoria did bolster the American hand in subsequent negotiations and the geographical knowledge of the Oregon country brought back by the Astorians encouraged eventual American settlement. Astor, the Pacific Fur Company, Irving and his history, are all linked in the journal presented in these pages, as its author, Alfred Seton, a young New Yorker, enjoyed (or at least thought he did) a privileged relationship with Mr. Astor when he signed on as a clerk with the company, and Seton's journal later served as a source for Astoria. This journal, and Duncan McDougall's Astoria journal (at the Rosenbach Library, Philadelphia), are apparently the only ones written at the time which survive today. Neither has been published. Since the Seton journal is largely unknown to scholars, it is appropriate to give the reader an idea of its author and of the enterprise in which he enlisted.

Alfred Seton was eighteen years old in 1811 when he signed on for what was expected to be a five-year tour of duty as a clerk with the Pacific Fur Company on the Columbia River. in the normal . . .

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