Hudson's Bay Company, a Canadian retailing corporation. It is one of the oldest continuously operating commercial enterprises in the world, and its 325-year history is inseparable from that of the exploration of British North America and the growth of Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company operates about 500 stores across Canada. Headquarters are in Toronto, Ontario.
The company was organized by 18 English noblemen and merchants who were convinced by two French explorers, Pierre Esprit Radisson and Sieur des Groseilliers, that the Hudson Bay area had vast economic possibilities. The official name was (and still is) The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson's Bay. The company received a royal charter in 1670, granting it broad governmental powers and a monopoly of trade in the entire region drained by the waters flowing into Hudson Bay. This region was called Rupert's Land.
In addition to developing the fur trade the company was required to search for a northwest passage to Asia and to colonize the Hudson Bay area. The firm built trading-post forts, called factories , and established a profitable trade. It made little effort, however, to discover a northwest passage, and did not found a colony until 1812, when the Red River Settlement in what is now Manitoba was established.
The company's early outposts and fur depots were often raided by the French, who also claimed the Hudson Bay region. Warfare with the French did not end until the British conquest of Canada in 1763. The company built Cumberland House (1774), its first inland post, between the Saskatchewan and Churchill rivers, and then pushed westward to the Pacific slope. In 1821 it absorbed its powerful rival, the North West Company, and was granted a license for exclusive trade in areas outside Rupert's Land. Thereafter the company held an effective monopoly on the fur trade from Labrador to the Pacific Ocean and from the Yukon and the Arctic to the United States.
The license expired in 1859 and was not renewed by Parliament. In 1869 the company's governmental powers and monopoly in Rupert's Land were surrendered to the Dominion of Canada, in exchange for approximately $1,500,000 and a grant of 7,000,000 acres (2,833,000 hectares) in western Canada. The company later sold all this land but kept extensive mineral rights.
The Hudson's Bay Company expanded into retail trade to meet the needs of new settlers, opening its first department store in Winnipeg in 1881. In 1970, Queen Elizabeth II granted the company a new charter, and headquarters were moved from England to Canada.