Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 26:4 (Fall 2006). Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


When Skins Were Money: A History of the Fur Trade is James A. Hanson's grand synthesis of the trade in furs and skins that is the focus of the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska. Like the museum itself, When Skins Were Money has a worldwide scope and a long view as it seeks to describe the evolution and impacts of the fur trade. Its basic premise, that the fur trade has been important to world history but underappreciated and misunderstood, is advanced in a well-produced volume filled with wonderful things. Most pages have handsome illustrations that support the text with period pictures of the activities and individuals under discussion. Attractive sketch maps present relevant geographic background and context. The carefully researched text, though packed with specifics, is highly readable, telling the story of the fur trade in a lively style that is anything but pedantic.