Furs to furriers in Dunedin, New Zealand, to 1940
Tosh, Evan J.
This thesis chronicles the development of the fur trade in Dunedin from the 1870s to 1940. The fur trade in Dunedin started in response to the large numbers of rabbit skins and meat that were able to be marketed following the explosion in introduced rabbit numbers in the 1870s. Most rabbit traders diversified into buying and selling other products of the land, but a few became more involved in the fur trade, by concentrating on the rabbit trade or by diversifying into fur dressing and/ or manufacturing and retailing fur garments. Dunedin became the major source of skins for export, and also was home to the main fur processing factory, and largest fur garment manufacturing operation in the country. Government measures to foster local industries and employment through the use of protective tariffs are examined. The demand for fur garments and the protection of these tariffs aided the development of fur garment manufacturers from 1920 onwards. The controversy over whether the commercial use of rabbits hindered the policy of rabbit destruction is examined. Whilst the Government tried to encourage rabbit destruction it did not hinder the trade in rabbit meat or skins. This contrasts with the official attitude to opossums, as population increases were encouraged in order to build up a fur trades. But by the late 1920s it was realised that the opossum was actually damaging forests and had become a pest. Similar good ideas, such as introduction of the natural enemies of rabbits in the 1890s, such as ferrets and weasels, were also identified as environmentally disastrous in this period. During the depression fur prices dropped, and this affected trappers and skin dealers, but allowed manufacturers to produce a cheaper range of fur products to satisfy the continuing demand for fur. Fur prices increased after the depression, fur garments remained popular, and the fur trade continued to thrive. The fur manufacturers future was jeopardised in 1938 by crisis in New Zealand's foreign exchange situation. Quantitative import restrictions were introduced, and these initially included a ban on the import of raw and processed furs (as well as garments). The fur trade successfully lobbied, and were able to get some restrictions lifted on raw skins. However this coincided with the advent of New Zealand's involvement in the Second World War and the thesis ends with the fur trade waiting to see how it will be affected by the introduction of war time trade restrictions.
Advisor: Laing, Raechel
Degree Name: Master of Consumer and Applied Science
Degree Discipline: Clothing and Textile Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis