Indian canoe filled with fur pelts and handmade basket for trade.

© Maria Dryfhout |

BBC Documentary Details Life of St. Louis Fur Trader

June 15, 2018 - 10:10 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - When the BBC decided to do a series on famous Brits & Irishmen who made their fortunes in America, their first stop was St. Louis to profile Robert Campbell. 

Andy Hahn is the executive director of the Campbell House Museum, the last remaining mansion of what was once the 5th Avenue of St. Louis, Lucas Place, and the former home of Robert Campbell.

His name may not be well remembered here, but he’s not forgotten in Great Britain.

“Europeans, especially the Brits and the Irish, are nuts for the American West, for cowboys and Indians, and fur traders and Native Americans,” Hahn says.

So last summer, the BBC arrived and spent two weeks filming, starting in St. Louis and following the fur trade west to the continental divide. It was the fur trade that made Campbell one of the richest men in St. Louis.

“Robert not only went west, but he worked his way up the food chain, so to speak, and eventually came to a position of leadership in various fur trade companies and eventually, with another St. Louis man named William Sublette, started his own fur trade company, and it was in that regard that he began to really build a fortune and make his mark on St. Louis,” he says.

For the past 75 years, the 30-plus room Campbell House Museum has allowed visitors to step back in time to see what life was like in the city's gilded age. One of the wealthiest men around, his home had many luxuries, like an elaborate music box which would have cost what we would pay for a new car.  

Hahn says Robert Campbell is the quintessential American success story: an immigrant who came to America with nothing, made his own way, made a name for himself and became so prosperous, his family back in Ireland relied on him and his fortune.

The BBC documentary "Robert Campbell: Mountain Man" has a sold-out premiere Monday night in midtown, but will air on KETC channel 9 on Monday, July 2nd.