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Hbc Point Blanket FAQs

General

  1. When was Hudson's Bay Company founded?
  2. What does Hudson's Bay Company do?
  3. Is Hbc the world's oldest company?
  4. What does your motto "Pro Pelle Cutem" mean?
  5. What role did Henry Hudson play in the founding of your company?
  6. Where is your Head Office?
  7. Does the Royal Charter still exist?
  8. How can I get a copy of your Annual Report?
  9. Do you still buy and sell fur?
  10. One of my ancestors used to work for Hbc. Can you give me any information about him/her?
  11. I own a set of 14 historical prints published by you. Are they valuable?
  12. I have a medal issued by your company. Is it worth anything?
  13. I have an item with Hudson's Bay Company (or HBC) name on it. Can you tell me anything about it?
  14. Hudson's Bay Company is just another name for the Bay department stores, right?
  15. I understand that there is an Hbc flag. What does it look like?
  16. I am looking for financial support from Hudson's Bay Company for a project of a historical nature. Who should I contact?
  17. I have a silver jewellery box with your company name and coat of arms. What can you tell me about it?
  18. I have an old liquor bottle marked Hbc. What can you tell me about it?
  19. When did Morgan's become the Bay?
  20. Is it true Zellers is part of HBC?
  21. When was Zellers founded?
  22. Where was the first Hbc retail/ department store? When did it open?
  23. There used to be an old Hbc post near where I live. Can you tell me anything about it?
  24. When did Simpsons become the Bay?
  25. Where can I find out more about your history?
  26. I am looking for old photographs of Hudson's Bay Company. Can you help me?
  27. I understand that you offer resources for teachers and students. What are these and how can I get them?
  28. What can you tell me about the Hbc coat of arms?
  29. How big was Hbc at its largest extent?
  30. Does Hbc make its own products?
  31. What is meant by the term "Made Beaver"?
  32. I have a coin with a number, the letters MB and your company's name. What is it and is it valuable?
  33. What is The Beaver magazine?
  34. I am really interested in Hudson's Bay Company. Do you have any HBC-themed merchandise for sale?
  35. Does Hbc have a presence in England any more?

When was Hudson's Bay Company founded?

May 2nd, 1670, with the granting of the Royal Charter by King Charles II to "The Governor and Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson Bay."

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Is Hbc the world's oldest company?

No. There are a few other candidates with claims to this title and it depends on your definition of company.

The (British) Royal Mint: According to the Guinness Book of Records. But this isn't really a company in the modern sense of shareholders, etc. Guinness gives no date for its establishment and its own website says nothing of the kind. It produces an Annual Report - at Parliament's behest - but does not seem to be a "company" of investors at all.

Sumitomo Corporation: Founded over 400 years ago by Masatomo Sumitomo (1585-1652), Sumitomo is publicly listed and includes such well-known names such as Mazda, Sumitomo Bank, Asahi Breweries, Mitsui OSK Shipping Lines, NEC computers and Dunlop tires. The history on its website indicates that it was family held for quite a while and it is unclear when it became jointly held. Its original business was copper-mining.

Stora Kopparberg: Copper has been mined in Falun, Sweden, for over 1,000 years, and two thirds of the world's copper ore was produced here during the 17th and 18th centuries. The town is home to the Falun Copper Mine and its awesome Big Pit (Stora Stöten), measuring 100 metres (328 feet) deep and 400 metres (1,310 feet) wide. The oldest document about the mine, dating from 1288, shows that it was then owned by a company, Stora Kopparberg, in which shares could be bought and sold. Nowadays known simply as "Stora," it is the world's oldest company of shareholders. In the 17th century it was the largest copper-producer in the world, but nowadays the company's interests lie mainly in the ownership of forests and the production of timber.

Based on this evidence Stora Kopparberg is probably the best choice for the world's oldest company. Hbc is Canada's largest department store retailer and oldest corporation. And we are the only one of the great joint-stock trading companies of the 16th and 17th centuries that is still in business.

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What does your motto "Pro Pelle Cutem" mean?

The Latin motto on the Hbc coat of arms is Pro Pelle Cutem, which translates roughly as "a skin for a skin". There are several interpretations of this phrase, none of which can be proven irrefutably. One suggests that it is meant to indicate that the Hbc traders risked their own skins to procure furs. This interpretation derives from the Book of Job Chapter 2, verse 4: " And Satan answered the Lord and said: Skin for skin; yea all that a man hath, will he give for his life."

Historian E.E. Rich proposed a somewhat different interpretation: "The Company wanted the pelt so as to get the wool from it; it wanted the skin, cutem, for the sake of the fleece, pro pelle. Such an explanation of the motto does not exclude literary and Biblical derivations, nor the possibility that the risks of a fur-trading life were in mind." This is the more plausible interpretation. Beaver fur in the 17th century was used in its natural state, or "in the pelt". Its primary value was as a source of fibres for felt-making and to that end, the more valuable part of the fur was the short, close "wool" which lay under the long silky guard hairs.

The original coat of arms with the motto remain the corporate identity of the company, part of the corporate seal. In February 2009 Hbc launched a new corporate visual identity featuring an updated version of the coat of arms. The new version depicts the coat of arms flanked by the well-known Hbc stripes in green, red, yellow and indigo. The Latin motto has been replaced by the text "Since / Depuis 1670", a reference to the Company's founding date and, by extension, its longevity.

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What role did Henry Hudson play in the founding of your company?

None. Hudson sailed into what would become known as Hudson Bay in 1610. His crew mutinied and set him adrift with his son and a few loyal men in the following year. Prior to this last voyage, Hudson had already successfully explored Long Island Sound, and what is now the New York City area - where the Hudson River is also named for him. Hbc Heritage is interested in the history of our Company - that means from about 1655 onward, roughly the time that Radisson and des Groseilliers made their first trips inland into the fur country north of Lake Superior. Henry Hudson's life and explorations in North America pre-date this.

Where is your Head Office?

Hudson's Bay Company's Head Office is in Toronto:

Hudson's Bay Company
401 Bay Street, Ste. 500
Toronto, ON
M5H 2Y4
(416) 861-6112

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Hudson's Bay Company charter in display case, 2004

Hudson's Bay Company charter in display case, 2004

 

Does the Royal Charter still exist?

Yes. The Charter which resides here in our executive offices in Toronto, consists of 5 pages of vellum (sheepskin) parchment, hand-lettered and embellished with elaborate calligraphy. Its many clauses talk about the sorts of things one would find in modern articles of incorporation: number of directors; frequency of meetings; number of officers, their titles and duties; communication with shareholders, etc. There are also other clauses which set out responsibilities of the Company to the Crown, including the payment of a rent of "two elk and two black beaver" whenever the Sovereign or his Successors should enter into the area of the Company's tenure, as well as an obligation to expend every energy in discovering the North West Passage to the Far East. Although certain provisions of the Charter, such as the rent and our title to the initial land grant, have been superseded by subsequent amendments to the Charter, legally it remains the founding document of our existence as a corporate body.

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How can I get a copy of your Annual Report?

Hbc was purchased in early 2006 by American business man Jerry Zucker who subsequently took the company private and has delisted it from the TSE. As a result of the timing, there was no Annual Report issued for 2005.

However, you can find all the company's public documents, including previous annual and quarterly reports as well as the prospectus and offer to purchase, online at SEDAR. Visit www.sedar.com and search Hudson's Bay Company. SEDAR, the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval, was developed in Canada for Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) and lists all public document filings online.

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Do you still buy and sell fur?

No. In 1987 Hbc sold off its Northern Store Division, which was the home of the Fur Trade business. By so doing, Hbc ceased purchasing raw fur. The assets of the London Fur Sales division were sold in January 1987 to the Finnish Fur Sales Company Limited for approximately $37 million. The sale of the assets of the Canadian Fur Sales division were sold for approximately $45 million to a group including senior management of the division, the Canada Mink Breeders Association and the Canada Fox Breeders Association and was also completed as of the year end. In mid-1989 the U.S. fur sales operation, based in New York, was disposed of at a loss.

Today, the Bay does retail fur but does not handle consignment sales. All Bay stores can arrange for fur storage for our customers. But only Vancouver Downtown, Queen Street (Toronto Downtown) and Montreal Downtown can arrange for the remodeling/refurbishing of furs.

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One of my ancestors used to work for Hbc. Can you give me any information about him/her?

This is not the kind of information that Hudson's Bay Company holds. You need to get in touch with the Hudson's Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg. They have extensive records about people who worked during the fur trade era. It will assist the Archives staff if you have any information about the possible name of your ancestor, approximate dates when he/she flourished, and where he/she might have been living.

You can reach HBCA at:

Telephone: 204-945-4949
Fax: 204-946-3236
E-mail: Hbca@gov.mb.ca
URL: http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/

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I own a set of 14 historical prints published by you. Are they valuable?

This set of 14 prints was produced to commemorate Hudson's Bay Company's 300th anniversary in 1970. Thousands of them were produced and sold on the open market. Hbc Heritage Services is not in a position to advise on the value of any item. We do not offer appraisals and indeed rely on experts to provide them to us when required. A service such as eBay.ca is a good place to check current market trends in collectibles.

Two other portfolios have been produced by Hbc over the years. One, a set of 5 colour reproductions of famous ships by Melbourne Smith, was published in 1970. The other, a set of 8 colour reproductions of Hbc's famous historical calendar series of paintings, was published in the fall of 2003.

I have a medal issued by your company. Is it worth anything?

There are three major types of Hbc medals. The first was issued to commemorate the Company's 250th anniversary in 1920. This occasion was marked by major celebrations both in England and in Canada. Governor Sir Robert Molesworth Kindersley visited Canada with his wife and family. At various events across the country selected individuals received a specially commissioned anniversary medal. A total of 1560 medals were distributed. Made of bronze they depict the Hbc coat of arms on one side with the legend "IN COMMEMORATION OF THE 250TH ANNIVERSARY". The reverse depicts the Hbc flag surrounded by a wreath of maple leaves.

The Tercentenary Anniversary Medal was issued to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Company's founding on May 2nd, 1670. The medal depicts the Nonsuch, which made the first crossing to Hudson's Bay in 1668. If you look closely at the date underneath the representation of the ship you will see that the second number is a hybrid - a "6" and a "9" conjoined. This 1670/1970 device was used throughout the anniversary year. The reverse of the medal depicts the Hbc coat of arms. These medals are quite common. They were given to all shareholders as well as to all employees working for the Company in 1970 - literally thousands of people.

The third type of medal we commonly see are long service medals. These were routinely given to staff to mark special anniversaries. They are relatively rare.

Hbc Heritage Services is not in a position to advise on the value of any item. We do not offer appraisals and indeed rely on experts to provide them to us when required. A service such as eBay.ca is a good place to check current market trends in collectibles.

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I have an item with Hudson's Bay Company (or HBC) name on it. Can you tell me anything about it?

Over the years Hbc has sold all manner of objects under its own name, e.g. sewing machines, golf clubs, china, tea, coffee, liquor, medicine, furniture, and toys as well as apparel. Items such as these were never manufactured by us but were made by third parties to our specifications and sold as private brands. That's something that continues to this day.

Unfortunately we do not have records about these objects. In fact, unless we possess advertising about a particular item, we know little if anything about them. As a result we'd like to hear about your item and its history. Contact us for details.

Hbc Heritage Services is not in a position to advise on the value of any item. We do not offer appraisals and indeed rely on experts to provide them to us when required. A service such as eBay.ca is a good place to check current market trends in collectibles. If you have questions about the value of an item in your possession, we suggest that you contact a professional appraiser, e.g. the American Society of Appraisers.

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Hudson's Bay Company is just another name for the Bay department stores, right?

No. Up until the 1960s our department stores were known as Hudson's Bay Company stores. In 1965 their name was officially changed to The Bay. Today Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) is the corporate name of Canada's largest diversified general merchandise retailer with over 600 retail locations and nearly 60,000 associates located in every province in Canada.

Hbc is the parent company of the Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters, and Fields which are collectively known as the retail banners. Each retail banner is targeted to a specific market and customer and functions as a separate entity.

With locations from coast to coast in suburban and urban markets, along with a dominant position in the downtown cores of Canada's major cities, The Bay is a full-line department store focused on high fashion merchandise in apparel, accessories and soft home categories.

Zellers is Hudson's Bay Company's mass merchandise banner. Offering customers clear value and price competitiveness on national and private brand merchandise is Zellers' top priority.

Home Outfitters is Hudson's Bay Company's kitchen, bed and bath specialty superstore chain. As Canada's fastest growing home specialty store, Home Outfitters offers unbeatable selection and service and the latest, most innovative products for the home.

Fields is Hudson's Bay Company's extreme discount retail format focused on value-priced, everyday consumables, family clothing, home fashion and general merchandise. Fields has operated in Western Canada since 1950 and has recently expanded into Ontario.

Hudson's Bay Company is itself owned by Hudson's Bay Trading Company (HBTC), a leading North American retailer with key banners spanning Canada and the United States. The Hudson's Bay Trading Company's Canadian retail entity, Hudson's Bay Company, operates The Bay, a major department store, Zellers, a mass merchandise format, Home Outfitters, a kitchen, bed and bath specialty store, and value-priced Fields stores. In the U.S., Hudson's Bay Trading Company includes Lord & Taylor, an upscale specialty retailer with 46 stores in nine states.

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I understand that there is an Hbc flag. What does it look like?

 

Hbc flag

Hbc flag

 

The historic Hbc flag is essentially the Red Ensign of the British Royal Navy with some modification. The Red Ensign features a red field with the Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner. To the lower right hand of the central field are the letters HB C in white; the "H"" and B" are joined together as a single device. Prince Rupert, first Governor of Hbc, was also Vice Admiral of England. By a special warrant dated July 21, 1682, Rupert granted the Company permission to use the modified Ensign at its forts and on its ships entering Hudson Strait. No other private concern was ever granted such a privilege.

What is known as the Governor's Standard, comprised of the Company's Coat of Arms on a field of white, has been in use at least since 1779.

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I am looking for financial support from Hudson's Bay Company for a project of a historical nature. Who should I contact?

Hudson's Bay Company supports historical initiatives through a foundation established in 1994. The Hudson's Bay Company History Foundation provides ongoing support to the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, as well as to Canada's National History Society, publishers of The Beaver magazine.

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I have a silver jewellery box with your company name and coat of arms. What can you tell me about it?

What you have is a commemorative item produced to celebrate the 325th anniversary of Hbc in 1995. Although the shape is that of a traditional caddy for loose tea, the size, material - electroplated nickel silver (EPNS) - and velvet lining would indicate that the object was intended to be used for jewellery. Over 50 thousand were made, and they were distributed to every employee. We believe that others were given externally as corporate gifts.

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I have an old liquor bottle marked Hbc. What can you tell me about it?

In fact Hbc used to have a full line of spirits - scotch, rye, brandy, rum, and gin. Of these the best known was probably the scotch, which was marketed under the name "Best Procurable". At one point Hbc owned about 25% of the famous Glenlivet distillery in Scotland. Liquor was one of the major pillars of the wholesale division, a part of our business which included tea and coffee, cigarettes and tobacco, and confectionery. Hbc sold these items not only in their stores and fur trade posts, but also to other 3rd party retailers who carried the stock in outlets and small town general stores across the country. Hudson's Bay Co., Inc. was our U.S. wholesale subsidiary selling to the American market.

The recession of the 1980s caused Hbc to re-examine all its business which was very diversified at that point. It was decided that non-core businesses would be disposed of. The liquor business was one of these. In 1987 Hudson's Bay Distillers was sold to Seagram's. As a result Hbc spirits became unavailable in Canada. However, Hudson's Bay Company Blended Scotch Whiskey continues to be sold in the U.S. thanks to special licensing arrangements with Sidney Frank Importing.

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When did Morgan's become the Bay?

Hudson's Bay Company bought Morgan's, a Montreal-based retailer, in 1960. All ten stores in the Morgan's chain became Hudson's Bay Company stores except those in the immediate Montreal area. Hbc launched The Bay brand in 1964, renaming all stores except those in the Montreal area. These were finally renamed and re-branded as Bay stores in 1972.

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Is it true Zellers is part of HBC?

Yes. Hudson's Bay Company bought Zellers in 1978. Walter Zeller himself was born and raised near Kitchener and launched Zellers in 1931 after purchasing a small chain of 12 stores, all of which were located in SW Ontario. Ontario remained the core market for a very long time.

When was Zellers founded?

Zellers was incorporated in 1931 when Walter P. Zeller bought the 12 Canadian stores of the American chain Schulte United.

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Where was the first Hbc retail/ department store? When did it open?

There is no simple answer to this question, since it really depends upon the definition of retail that is understood. Hbc's earliest retail operations were in the west, and evolved naturally in places where fur trade posts already existed. Retail can be defined as the exchange of goods for money, as opposed to trade, which was based on a barter system of furs or other commodities in exchange for goods. As settlements attracted people - whether agriculturalists, professionals or tradesmen - the need for a cash economy grew. And it is likely that most posts handled such transactions from time to time. But it was the discovery of gold that hastened retail's arrival. According to this definition, the retail trade can be said to have begun at Fort Langley, BC, Hbc's first post on the BC coast.

The Fraser River Gold Rush began in 1857. At the time Langley was the only settlement of any size in the area and naturally became an important staging area supplying miners' needs. Foodstuffs and gear and prospecting licences, the latter at $5 per head, were sold to the miners for cash - thus beginning the trend away from a barter-based economy. James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Columbia Department, reported in 1858:

A considerable cash business is now carried on at Fort Langley, the sales are averaging about $1500 a day. The articles sold are principally Flour, Bacon and Beans, and mining tools which we import form San Francisco, together with blankets and woollen clothing ...

As a result the saleshop at the Fort was relocated to a larger building and expanded to occupy the entire floor. The term "saleshop" would be used to describe Hbc's retail operations until the second decade of the 20th century. With the coming of the railroad many of Hbc's western posts became the nuclei of towns and cities. Retail operations expanded, moving out of the posts and into free-standing purpose-built premises. As towns evolved and retail districts grew over time, the location of these saleshops moved often, following the customer base.

In 1910, in response to a report by Sir Richard Burbidge, Managing Director of Harrods Department Store in London, Hbc embarked on a major project of expansion and renovation of its retail operations. By 1926 six large "flagship" department stores were operating across the west.

View a chart highlighting the history of Hbc's early retail operations.

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There used to be an old Hbc post near where I live. Can you tell me anything about it?

We do not hold information such as this here in our Head Office. Instead, you should contact the Hbc Archives in Winnipeg, part of the Provincial Archives of Manitoba. HBCA has extensive files on hundreds of posts which the Company used to operate and for which they have records.

You can reach HBCA at:

Telephone: 204-945-4949
Fax: 204-946-3236
E-mail: Hbca@gov.mb.ca
URL: http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/

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When did Simpsons become the Bay?

Simpsons was acquired by Hbc in 1978, but the stores in the chain continued to operate under the Simpsons banner for over a decade. In 1989 the Montreal area stores were folded into the Bay, with Toronto following suit in 1991.

Where can I find out more about your history?

Check out our online resources.

I am looking for old photographs of Hudson's Bay Company. Can you help me?

The Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBCA) has an extensive collection of images. If you are looking for a specific one I suggest you attach it to your enquiry. Alternatively you can ask them to research what they have in their collection and you can choose an image from a selection. There will be charges for images HBCA provides, and, depending on the use the images will be put to, there may be permission charges as well. Ask for the Images Archivist.

You can reach HBCA at:

Telephone: 204-945-4949
Fax: 204-946-3236
E-mail: Hbca@gov.mb.ca
URL: http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/

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I understand that you offer resources for teachers and students. What are these and how can I get them?

We have a number of resources designed specifically for teachers and students.

What can you tell me about the Hbc coat of arms?

The first seal depicting the corporate Coat of Arms was made in 1671. View a full history as well as images of the Coat of Arms.

How big was Hbc at its largest extent?

At its peak, say in about 1840, Hbc's territory covered one twelfth of the Earth's surface - nearly 7,770,000 square kilometres (3,000,000 square miles).

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Does Hbc make its own products?

No, we do not manufacture anything ourselves, we are strictly retailers. That being said we have for centuries retailed exclusive products manufactured to our own specifications - particularly our world-famous Hbc point blankets. Over the years our house or "private" brands have included china, tobacco, liquor, tea and coffee, etc. Today they are primarily apparel and housewares.

What is meant by the term "Made Beaver"?

Beaver pelts were such a valuable commodity that the Hbc preferred to trade for what was known as "made-beaver". This unit represented the estimated value of a prime beaver pelt - flesh removed, stretched, properly tanned and ready for trade - on the London market, and it served as a standard accounting unit. Learn more about the Standard of Trade.

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I have a coin with a number, the letters MB and your company's name. What is it and is it valuable?

What you have is a fur trade token which was used by Hbc as a means of indicating credit against future purchases held by an individual trapper. The denomination of a token - e.g. 5 MB - means it was equivalent in value to five "made beaver". One prime beaver skin, flesh removed, stretched, properly tanned and ready for trade, was called a "made beaver". During the later fur trade the Hudson's Bay Company began to issue copper tokens in denominations of Made Beaver. A trapper would present all his furs at once and if he did not purchase their full equivalent in trade goods, he would be issued tokens as change. Tokens came in varying denominations and were in use as late as 1955 in the Eastern Arctic.

Hbc Heritage Services is not in a position to advise on the value of any item. We do not offer appraisals and indeed rely on experts to provide them to us when required. A service such as eBay.ca is a good place to check current market trends in collectibles.

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What is The Beaver magazine?

The Beaver was for many years the in-house newsletter of Hbc. It was established in 1920 as a unique way of celebrating the Company's 250th anniversary. For years it was much like any other internal newsletter, featuring a lot of material on sales events, marriages, births, etc., store happenings and news. But it always had articles about Hbc history.

By the 1950s it had expanded to embrace Canadian History as a whole with a particular focus on the North. After 90 years in print, it is still published today by Canada's National History Society (CNHS). With the April-May 2010 issue, the magazine was rechristened Canada's History.

Hudson's Bay Company no longer has a direct relationship with the magazine, but our charitable foundation, the Hudson's Bay Company History Foundation, does provide part of the magazine's operating funds. Many libraries subscribe to this serial and you should have little trouble locating back issues.

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I am really interested in Hudson's Bay Company. Do you have any HBC-themed merchandise for sale?

Hbc offers a number of products inspired by our heritage. Learn more about the Hudson's Bay Company Collection.

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Does Hbc have a presence in England any more?

Since 1970 Hudson's Bay Company has not had an official presence in England. There are also no Hbc stores outside of Canada. That year marked the 300th anniversary of the granting of the Hbc Charter by King Charles II to "the Company of Adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay". In that same year the head office of Hudson's Bay was transferred to Canada to Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1974 the Corporate Office relocated to Toronto, while the Registered Office maintained in Winnipeg until 1990. In 1990 the registered office was also relocated to its current location in Toronto.

Hbc's offices in London were housed in what was sometimes referred to as Hudson Bay House. Offices with this name are first mentioned in the Company minutes of 1682. Over the next several hundred years these offices occupied various premises including nos. 3 and 4 Fenchurch St. and no. 1 Lime Street. In 1925, to mark the 255th anniversary of the Company, Hbc opened Beaver House in Great Trinity Lane on Garlick Hill. Beaver House combined administrative offices along with the fur auction rooms. This remained the official headquarters of the Hbc until the relocation to Canada in 1970. Beaver House was torn down and the site redeveloped in the mid 1980s by Hudson's Bay Company's real estate subsidiary, Markborough Properties.

Now known as The Royal Bank of Canada Centre, the new complex was completed in 1987 and consists of two office buildings interconnected by a two-storey bridging structure. Number 71 Queen Victoria Street has seven floors, while Number 77 consists of five. The total floor space amounts to 17,502 square metres. A special feature is the atrium, which incorporates planted areas and lets light into the inward-facing office space. It also features the original facade of Beaver House, which formerly occupied the site.

All of these places are very near to one another in the eastern part of what is referred to as "The City". A good London map will show Skinners' Lane - where the fur trade was based - in the same general area as Fenchurch, Bishopsgate, Lime Street, Garlick Hill and Upper Thames Street - where the warehouses were located since the street backed right onto the river in those days.

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