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George Simpson

George Simpson
Courtesy of the Hudson's Bay Company Archive

Influential Hudson's Bay Company businessmen noticed a keen entrepreneurial prowess in Scottish-born George Simpson at an early age. At the time, in 1807, Simpson was working as a sugar broker's clerk in a London office. Thirteen years later, however, he was appointed the acting governor of Rupert's Land — the Hudson Bay Company's huge swath of North American territory — and promptly set sail to the New World.

When the HBC merged with the North West Company across what would later became the Dominion of Canada in 1867, a name derived from the Huron-Iriquois word meaning "settlement," Simpson was placed in charge of three departments -- Northern, Columbia and Montreal.

With his new authority, Simpson aimed to economize the combined company by making extensive cutbacks in various areas of operations. He reduced the size of the Saskatchewan District workforce from 171 to 53. For transportation efficiency, he replaced canoes with boats and ordered pack horses to be used in overland transit. Simpson also controlled and reduced the supply of provisions delivered to each post.

Within a few years, the Saskatchewan became the company's most productive district east of the mountains.

Simpson was also director of the North Shore (Montreal) and Champlain Railroad companies. In addition, he published a ghostwritten account of his personal travels around the world from 1841-42, which included a trek from Siberia to St. Petersburg. The work was published in 1847 and called "Narrative of an Overland Journey round the World."

Simpson was knighted in 1841, recognized for his arctic discoveries, expertise in fur trading and contributions to the Hudson's Bay Company. Though often thought of as a "cut-throat" businessman, he is still noted for his contributions to the company and the development of trading across the region.

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