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In the late eighteenth century, the vast, pristine land that lay west of the Mississippi River remained largely unknown to the outside world. The area beckoned to daring frontiersmen who produced the first major industry of the American West--the colorful but challenging, often dangerous fur trade. At the lead was an enterprising French Creole family that founded the city of St. Louis in 1763 and pushed forth to garner furs for world markets.Stan Hoig provides an intimate look into the lives of four generations of the Chouteau family as they voyaged up the Western rivers to conduct trade, at times taking wives among the native tribes. They provided valuable aid to the Lewis and Clark expedition and assisted government officials in developing Indian treaties. National leaders, tribal heads, and men of frontier fame sought their counsel. In establishing their network of trading posts and opening trade routes throughout the Central Plains and Rocky Mountains, the Chouteaus contributed enormously to the nation's westward movement.