Stroud broadcloths were shipped to North America by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and other merchants. Initially the cloth was exchanged for fur.
The Fur Trade
During the 1600s beavers were dying out in Europe. This was due to over-hunting and new fashions for items, such as hats, which used lots of beaver felt. At the same time beavers were discovered in North America.
In 1670 the Hudson's Bay Company was set up to trade for beaver pelts with the Cree and other Indigenous Peoples near James Bay. King Charles II gave the Company a charter granting all trading rights in an area around Hudson's Bay.
Large quantities of European goods were taken to North America to be offered in return for beaver pelts. These goods included guns, knives, woollen textiles and blankets.
The Importance of "Strouds"
By the 1700s Gloucestershire broadcloths, often known as "Strouds", were the largest and most valuable trade item. "Strouds" were even exchanged for land and people by the HBC and other traders and colonial officials.
The following incident took place in South Carolina:
in 1716 "Indian Peggy" appeared before the Commissioner of Trade with a "French man" purchased by her brother and given to her. The man had come dearly, costing her brother "a gun, a white Duffield match coat, two broadcloth match coats, a cutlass and some powder and paint". Peggy was willing to exchange her hostage for the gun, and "the value of the rest of the goods might be paid her in strouds".
1 Hill S H., 1997, Weaving New Worlds: Southeastern Cherokee Women and Their Basketry. University of North Carolina Press. From McDowell, Colonial Records of South Carolina. Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade, November 16 & 24 1716