Pierre Chouteau Jr. (Cadet)

January 19, 1789 - September 6, 1865

Chouteau, Pierre Jr. (Cadet), fur trader (Jan. 19, 1789-Sept. 6, 1865). Born at St. Louis he was a brother of Auguste Pierre Chouteau and entered the fur trade at 15, becoming a trader to the Osage Indians. In 1810 he went up the Mississippi to operate lead mines near the site of Dubuque, Iowa, where he remained until the start of the War of 1812, when he returned to St. Louis. In 1813 he married his first cousin, his companion for nearly half a century. Chouteau's mercantile business soon began outfitting traders among far flung Indian tribes, but the Chouteau-DeMun debacle temporarily disillusioned Pierre with the mountain fur business, although his activity in it gradually mounted. He came into competition with various major fur trading firms, most notably Astor's American Fur Company, until he worked out an arrangement with it. In 1834 he took over its western business, prospering in the cut-throat and vicious competition that characterized fur operations of that day. Hiram Chittenden believed everything he touched turned to profit. His real prosperity dated about 1827 with the rise over its rivals of the AFC and Chouteau's arrangement to purchase furs and supply goods to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. His company pioneered in the use of steamboats on the Missouri. Chouteau, periodically plagued by illness, traveled east occasionally on business or for amusement. One of his influential friends was Thomas Hart Benton, the Missouri senator whose affiliation with Chouteau was suspiciously close. Chouteau reorganized his company in 1839, finally terminating the mountain business, turning to buffalo robes for its main source of income. He attempted to stop the liquor traffic on the upper Missouri (for his own trade benefit), but after a few years of apparent success, the use of alcohol was resumed full scale. Hard times came to the firm after the Mexican War, and it was sold in 1865. Chouteau had branched out in other directions, however, principally mining, milling and railroads. He went blind in 1859, his wife died in 1862, and he died at St. Louis, "rich but not universally beloved. . . one of the great manipulators in the history of United States commerce."