Alexander Henry the Elder was a well-known trader in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Even in an era when technology and globalization were unfamiliar terms to the human race, Alexander had investigated the prospects of commerce across multiple shores. Alexander supplied the British troops with weaponry and ammunition early in his career. Alexander spent most of his life traveling to several continents in order to build his fur trade empire; while some of these excursions were fruitful, others failed terribly. Establishing a British-Canadian fur trading partnership was one of his greatest achievements as a trader. Alexander wrote a book on his trip to Canada, which is considered one of the best adventure stories of all time. Alexander and a few others had even co-founded the ‘Beavers Club.’ Because of his excellent commercial talents, the Queen of France, Maria Antoinette, and the royals of England took notice of him.
Childhood and Adolescence
Alexander Henry was born in August 1739 to a well-educated business family in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Alexander began working as a merchant near New York after finishing his education at the age of twenty.
Initially, he supplied the British troops with weaponry and ammunition for use in the French and Indian wars. Despite the fact that the business made him a lot of money, it was also quite unsafe and dangerous.
Later Life & Career
In 1761, Alexander’s commercial career took an unexpected turn when he met John Baptiste Ludec, who urged him to extend his fur trading company in and around Michilimackinac, the area between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
The Ojibwe tribes, who were sympathizers of the French soldiers, assaulted Alexander, who was quite thrilled about this journey. However, he was able to create a positive impression on the Ojibwa tribes, which resulted in a business expansion.
In 1765, Alexander teamed up with Jean Baptiste Cadotte Jr to establish the fur trade in the Lake Superior region. Because there were no competitors, the firm thrived, allowing Alexander to sell his goods at inflated prices. During this time, Alexander also sent rifles and ammunition to famed American frontiersman Robert Rogers.
Alexander joined forces with the Duke of Gloucester, Sir William Johnson, in an attempt to harvest silver from mines near Lake Superior two years later. However, the partnership ended up losing money on this one, and the company was closed down in 1774.
Following that, Henry desired to test his luck in the realms of England and France. In 1776, he arrived on the English coastlines to make a proposal to the fur-trading behemoth ‘The Hudson Bay Company.’ He next traveled to France, where he was greeted by the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, but he received no rewards in terms of commerce.
Henry visited England regularly between 1778 and 1781, meeting scientists Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. Henry’s goal was to find a way to explore the Pacific Ocean and grow the fur trade, but his plans fell through.
Alexander Henry ultimately settled down in Montreal in 1781 after years of frequent travel. Because the American Revolution ended around the same time, it had a significant impact on Henry’s business, and he ended up losing money.
Henry’s attention had been drawn to the fur-trading behemoth Northwest Company. Alexander Henry The Younger and his nephew Alexander Henry The Elder bought a part in this firm in 1792.
When one of Alexander’s ships was seized by the French in 1801, he faced severe financial difficulty. He didn’t have much of an option but to work as a commission merchant. Alexander, on the other hand, was dissatisfied with his new position.
Alexander Henry later served in the military as a ‘Justice of Peace’ for 26 years, from 1794 to 1821.
Alexander Henry’s Achievements
Alexander Henry was invited to talk before the elite ‘Royal Society of London’ in 1776 about his trading adventure and his travel experiences to several countries.
‘Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories, between the years 1760 and 1776,’ wrote Alexander Henry on his most exciting business trip. The book was primarily intended as a guide for visitors to Canada.
Personal History and Legacy
Henry followed in the footsteps of many other fur traders and married an unknown Native American. This woman is said to have given birth to multiple children, one of them was a daughter named Martha Henry.
Julia Calcutt Kittson, who had previously been married to an Anglo-Irish army commander, was his next wife. Julia Kittson has two children from a previous marriage, Mary and George. Henry and Julia went on to have six children.
Julia, Henry’s daughter, died before she could marry. Alexander’s oldest son William Henry, born in 1785, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a fur trader. In Montreal, he also worked as a surveyor.
Robert Henry, Alexander’s younger son, worked for the North West Company, a fur trading company. Later, he was appointed director of the Commercial Bank of the Midland District in Cobourg.
Alexander Henry died in his Montreal residence on April 4, 1824. At the time of his death, he was 85 years old.
Estimated Net worth
Despite the fact that the Indians and the French were Alexander’s adversaries, they referred to him as “The Handsome Englishman” and “A middle-sized man, easy yet dignified.” He also spent a lot of time socializing, attending parties, and frequently inviting friends and fellow merchants to his home.