- from Early Settlements
New France existed on a map long before anyone from France set foot in the Americas. In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian sailor working for France, explored the coast of North America. He sailed from what is now the Carolinas north to Nova Scotia. Five years later, his brother drew a map of the area and wrote the name New France on it.
In 1534, Jacques Cartier made the name a reality. Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River as far as what is now Montreal. He claimed the land in the name of King Francis I of France. Cartier also attempted to found a colony at what is now Quebec City, but the colony did not last. Cartier did succeed in establishing a fur-trading partnership with the Huron Indians. Fur trading was to become the main economic activity of New France. One hundred years after Cartier claimed the land for France, French missionaries arrived to try to convert the American Indians to Christianity. They often lived among the Indians, learning their languages and accepting their way of life. Many fur traders also lived among the Indians as well as building more permanent settlements.