St. Louis. May 6, 1852. pp. plus integral address leaf. Quarto, on a folded folio sheet. Docketed on verso. Old fold lines. Very minor soiling. Near fine. Item #WRCAM42007
Manuscript letter written in French, from Joseph Sire, Pierre Chouteau's agent in St. Louis, enclosing returns (not present) from his agents in the field, and commenting on the low volume of furs being brought in by competitors as well as by Honore Picotte, Chouteau's agent in Fort Pierre. Sire started out in the fur trade as a river boat captain on the Missouri River. He had been with the Chouteau firm - a massive fur trading outfit, originally based in St. Louis - since the 1830s and was married to Pierre Chouteau's cousin. In the letter he mentions that he and John B. Sarpy, another partner and family member by marriage, would be willing to withdraw from the company; they were both getting older at this time, and both would die within the next six years, Sire in 1854. A partial translation reads: "It would seem that our opponents must be doing a very weak trade...I cannot comprehend how, if Picotte has made only 900 packs in the district of Fort Pierre he will collect a total of 4000 packs, and our opponents only 1500....I don't count on more than 75 to 80,000 [buffalo] robes against 93,000 last year....I would very much like to count on the [balance sheet] of CM&S [Chouteau, Merle & Sanford) provided that it be correct. Sarpy and I count on quickly receiving a definitive answer concerning our interest in New York....We consent to withdraw, but we would very much want to know exactly what the time of our discontinuation is...." Though Chouteau spoke and wrote English, his first language was French and he preferred to do all of his correspondence in French. Chouteau, Merle & Sanford, mentioned in Sire's letter, was another of Chouteau's many companies, in partnership with John F.A. Sanford, his son-in-law. Sanford's sister, Irene Sanford Emerson, was the wife of Dr. John Emerson, owner of the slave, Dred Scott; upon Emerson's death, Sanford became the defendant in that landmark case. John E. Sunder, THE FUR TRADE ON THE UPPER MISSOURI, 1840- 1865 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1965).