Detroit's fur industry still here after 300 years

Sep 3, 2014

Dittrich Furs today
Dittrich Furs today
Credit User: Jamie / Flickr

When the French built Fort Pontchartrain on the banks of the Detroit River in 1701, there was a very big reason why: fur.

The trappers who brought their pelts to the fort gave Detroit its first industry.

In the 300-plus years since, Detroit's fur industry has seen good times and bad. And it is still standing in 2014.

Writer Josie Schneider tracked this history in her story for Hour Detroit magazine called Passion for Pelts. In her piece, Schneider stated that the fur industry literally formed the city of Detroit.

“Before Fort Pontchartrain was built, there was wilderness … The folks who have been using the Saint Lawrence Seaway for trade found this great spot where the river widened and built the fort there in part to house the fur trade,” Schneider said.

Today, three fur titans remain: Dittrich Furs, Ceresnie & Offen Furs, and Bricker-Tunis Furs. And some vintage furs in people’s closets or storage are coming back in the fashion spotlight.

“Young designers are repurposing them, taking those furs, cutting them up, and using them to make new garments,” Schneider said.

*Listen to our conversation with Josie Schneider above.