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William Henry Ashley, The Rendezvous, The Mountain Men, The Fur Trade--single mounted figure leading mule with whisky barrels

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Item Number: WSP-41

William Henry Ashley, The Rendezvous, The Mountain Men, The Fur Trade


William Henry Ashley (c. 1778 – March 26th 1838) was an American miner, land speculator, manufacturer, territorial militia general, politician, frontiersman, fur trader, entrepreneur, hunter, and slave owner.  He was best known for being the co-owner with Andrew Henry of the highly successful Rocky Mountain Fur Company, otherwise known as “Ashley’s Hundred”, for the famous mountain men working for the firm from 1822 to 1834.


A mountain man was an explorer who lived in the wilderness. They were instrumental in opening up the various Emigrant Trails (widened into wagon roads) allowing Americans in the east to settle the new territories of the far west by organized wagon trains traveling over roads explored and in many cases, physically improved by the mountain men and the big fur companies originally to serve the mule train based inland fur trade.

Mountain men were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through to the 1880s (with a peak population in the early 1840s). Approximately 3,000 mountain men ranged the mountains between 1820 and 1840, the peak beaver-harvesting period. While there were many free trappers, most mountain men were employed by major fur companies. The life of a company man was almost militarized. The men had mess groups, hunted and trapped in brigades and always reported to the head of the trapping party.

This man was called a "boosway", a bastardization of the French term bourgeois. He was the leader of the brigade and the head trader.

The Rendezvous was an annual gathering, at various locations held by a fur trading company at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies.

Held every summer, the trappers came together for the Rendezvous (pronounced “Rondy-Voo”) It was a celebration like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.

The large fur companies put together teamster driven mule trains which packed in whiskey and supplies into a pre-announced location each spring/summer and set up a trading fair- the Rendezvous.

Not only was the Rendezvous a place where the trappers could sell and trade their furs for all sorts of commodities, such as clothing, saddles, bridles, tobacco, and whiskey, but it was a place to meet traders who might wish to engage their services for the coming year.

These Rendezvous were known to be lively, joyous places, where all were welcome, fur trappers, Indians, native trapper wives, and children, travellers, and even tourists who would venture from as far as Europe to observe the festivities.

By the mid-1830s, the annual event would attract up to 500 men.

They were described as events “full of myrth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolics, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent!”

These events include many of the activities that were necessary for survival, centering on shooting, guns and shotguns; throwing knives and tomahawks; primitive archery; as well as cooking, dancing, singing, the telling of tall tales and of past rendezvous.

The Mountain Men represents the “Beaver Pelts” of the original WSP title, and is the smallest part of the series, as it mainly concentrates on the individual men and personalities that worked alone or in pairs in the mountain wilderness.

Released in JANUARY 2024.