The pelts, although very light, are tough and durable, hence their good reputation for linings for ladies' walking or driving coats.
The French adventurers, bent on finding either a "North-west passage" or some land route to the Pacific (which they believed to be no farther west than the Mississippi), naturally went west by the water routes of Wisconsin; as a fine field for their bartering and trading with water-courses by which they could convey their pelts and skins back to Montreal, the region attracted the coureurs de bois and fur traders; and it seemed promising also to the zealous French Catholic missionaries.
During the 18th century a considerable trade in sheep, wool, wine and pelts developed, chiefly with Chihuahua and with the Indians of the plains.
The manufacture of fur into a felt is of comparatively modern origin, while the use of fur pelts as a covering for the body, for the couch, or for the tent is coeval with the earliest history of all northern tribes and nations.
Hunters and fishermen frequented its innumerable rivers, returning home laden with rich store of fish and pelts, while runaway serfs occasionally settled in small communities beneath the shelter of the fortresses built, from time to time, to guard the 'southern frontiers of Poland and Muscovy.