Trade in the Old West

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Trade in the Old West

This page is a list, and much more, of endemic materials and other items used and traded by Native Americans, the Mountain Men, the Spanish, European emigrants and others who lived close to the land in the old west. As with some other pages in Old West Daily Reader, this one will slowly expand over time, hopefully with input from History Riders and Contributors.

Here are some questions that this section seeks to address…

What was in an early Indian traders pack?*

What did the white men bring? When?

What did items cost? What was the $ value of trade items.

What determined value on the frontier?

What Western resources had value in the East?

What were the most valuable trade items?
How did that change over time?

_________________________________

These items were early in the trade circuit from South and Central America…
Seeds from various plants which were developed by Native peoples.
certainly all of the squash varieties and, of course, maize.
Any of it that would grow in the North was grown somewhere, at least for a while…
Coco, which would never grow in the North
Various plants or parts thereof with medical uses.
Bird feathers – in particular, certain parrots (macaws, etc.).
No doubt, other more exotic items on occasion.

Some, were available from Spanish traders after the mid- 1500’s,
but most of these items, except horses and mules had to come from the east…

Animals – horses, mules and for some, oxen
Firearms and their accouterments:
powder, lead, flints, and later caps, cartridges (cases, primers, bullets & factory ammunition)
loading and cleaning accessories, spare parts (after some standardization).
Metal weapons & tools, knives, hawks, shovels, picks, etc.
medications
tobacco
whiskey
maps and information

The rest of the necessary resources were already here
…if you knew how to use them!

An item may appear in multiple lists…

Antler:

Deer
-awls and needles
-beads
-decoration and closures on clothing
-handles
-knapping tools
Elk (Wapiti)
-awls and needles
-beads
-decoration and closures on clothing
-digging tools
-handles
-knapping tools
-weapons
Moose:
-beads
-digging tools
-knapping tools
-plates and trays
-weapons

see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Animals Index Page – Mammals
DeerMule and White Tail, Moose, Elk (Wapiti)

Beads:

Prior to contact with European culture, Native Americans used a broad spectrum of endemic materials to make beads. European glass beads were introduced to Native Americans by the various exploring/trading parties beginning in the early 1700’s. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-06 brought the larger sizes (4 to 10 mm) of Crow and Pony beads (33 pounds) as trade items . Other explores did the same. European Glass seed beads (2 mm) came to the American plains sometime c. 1840’s.
see:
The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Beads in Old West Trade)

Beaver Pelts – A made beaver [pelt] (Dic) was the standard of value (trade & $) in the Fur Trade era (1740’s to early 1850’s).

Bone

Animal Bone:

Baculum (penis bones):
-carving:
-art works
-game pieces
-tools
see:
References – Dictionary Baculum
–them as has ’em…
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Animals Index Page – Mammals
badger, coyote, bear, fisher, fox, marten, mink, otter, raccoon, seal, skunk, wolf, wolverine, etc.
Photo Gallery Index – Weapons Photos Index – Edged WeaponsArkansas Toothpick, 2nd. photo)

scapula
-dishes/trays
-weapons
see:
References – DictionaryIndian Signboard

Long bones: (larger animals)
-game pieces
-implements
-handles
-digging blades
-tools
-weapons

skulls:
-ceremonial
-containers
-costume

teeth:
-adornment, jewelry
-tools
-weapons

Bird Bone

–adornment (jewelry)
–ceremonial (fans, headdresses, etc.)
–flutes
–whistles

see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Animals Index Page – Birds
Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, various hawks, magpies ravens, etc.

Dyes

see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants – Functional Plants

Hair & Parts

bird feet:

bones
see:
Bones – above

ears
-bears
-elk
-moose-
-mule deer
-and others

feathers
-eagle
-hawk
-owl
-parrot
-raven
-numerous others

hair:
-horse mane & tail
-porcupine guard hair (various colors)
-porcupine Quill (various colors, possibly dyed)
see:
Quill – below

hooves
-rattles

sinew
-bison
-deer
-elk
-numerous others

skins
-small animals – ermine, otter, rabbit, racoon, rodents, etc. and birds

tails:
-coyote
-fox
-ermine
-horse
-mule deer
-rabbit
-raccoon
-whitetail deer
-wolf
-and others
-turtle shells: box turtle, desert tortoise, painted turtle, snapping turtle, others

Hides

Beaver Pelts
-Stretched and dried, ready for transport
-Called a “made beaver
see:
References – DictionaryMade Beaver, Rendezvous

Buffalo Hides
-drum heads
-epismores
-robes
-working leather
-much more

for all others…
see:
References – DictionaryFur Bearers
then, for individual animals – (FB [fur bearer] appears after the name)…
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Animals Index Page – Mammals

Horn

bison (buffalo)
-containers
-costume
-powder horns

cattle
-containers
-lantern sides
-powder horns
-utensils

mountain Goat
-adornment
-small tools

pronghorn
-adornment
-ceremonial

bighorn sheep
-containers
-ceremonial

see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Animals Index Page – Mammals
Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Mountain Goat, Pronghorn

Minerals

charcoal
-medications

flint
for making tools and points

obsidian
for making tools and points
see:
The Originals Index – Landmarks and RegistersGlass Buttes
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Mining MineralsGlass

Quartz
for making tools and points

Salt Petre
see:
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Mining Mineralsbat guano

sulphur

Metals

Copper (native)
-adornment
-tools
-trade
-weapons
see:
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Mining Mineralscopper

Gold
-adornment
-trade
see:
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Mining Mineralsgold

Iron
-meteoric Iron
-plate and wire
-scrap, pieces parts…

Silver
-adornment
-trade
see:
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Mining Mineralssilver

Plants

see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants

Quill

see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Animals Index Page – MammalsPorcupine

Shell

abalone
red – the common one
green – likely not as common and therefore of more value

conch
east coast, gulf coast item, rare, more likely as pieces in western trade
musical instrument (intact shell)

cowrie shells
West coast trade item, likely not common moving east
no money cowries – an overseas trade item, if ever…
possibly via the fur trading vessels going into the western Pacific

DentaliumTusk Shell
Traded well for furs on the Pacific coast
see:
The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Beads in Old West Trade Dentalium

oyster shell

Quahog
beads

sand dollars
Mexico – Sea of Cortez

snail shells
land snails
fresh water
salt water

Reeds

variable by locale…
see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants

Stones

agate

alabaster
carvings, vessels

carnelian*

flint
arrow heads, cutting and scraping tools

moonstone*
beads:

jade
beads

peridot*
beads

pipestone
beads, pipes, carvings, ceremonial items, etc.

quartz
arrow heads, cutting and scraping tools
Most of the colored quartz’s appear, here and there:
amethyst – not too likely
adventurine*
citrine*
clear*
rose
smoky

Turquoise
beads, carvings, ceremonial items, etc.

*These all turn up as small polished pebbles on some Pacific beaches

Teeth and Claws

claws
badger
black bear
grizzly bear
badger
lion
wolf
wolverine

teeth
black bear
elk
grizzly bear
horse
lion
wolf

Skulls

Containers, plates, ceremonial purposes

bear
deer
elk
fox
human
mouse
wolf
numerous others…

Wood

Ash
bows

Aspen

Cottonwood

dogwood

fir

hickory
bows

Ironwood

maple

Oak

Osage Orange
bows

pine

Willow
animal food
medication
structures

Products

Containers

bladders
several species

gourds
see:
The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants – Functional Plantsgourds

horns
Bighorn Sheep
Bison
Mountain Goat
Pronghorn

skins
fox
otter
others…

skulls
many species…

shells
armadillo
mollusks
turtle

Pipes

(a handcrafted item)

bone
various species, various bones

horn
lined with clay

stone
-alabaster
pipestone

wood
numerous species

*Early Indian Traders Pack (1st guess) 07/14

seeds – the three sisters, herbs; anything new or different
medicants/roots, dried berries, mushrooms; items unavailable in the trade area
small tools: awls, needles, arrow straighteners
imported stone (flint, obsidian, quartz) for weapons and tools, maybe some as finished products.
beads, dyes, feathers, ocher, quills, shells, and other decorative items…

Goods and technology from outside the cultural area of the tradee.

What items were most important?

to an Indian?
-horses: After the mid-1500’s.
-firearms
-flint and Quartz (arrowheads, spear and lance points)
-medicinal plants
-metal (iron) (arrowheads, spear & lance points, knives)
-plants & seeds
-tobacco
-whiskey

to an emigrant?
-horse, mules, oxen
-farm implements
-firearms
-medicine
-provisions
-tobacco
wagons
-whiskey

to the Military?
-horses and mules
-medicine
-provisions
-tobacco
-wagons
-whiskey
see:
Quotes Index – Commentators QuotesSoldiers c.1829

to a Miner?
-horses and mules
-provisions
-tobacco
-tools
-wagons
-whiskey

1742 –Hudson’s Bay Company, for beaver pelts:
one pelt for one pound of shot or three flints
four pelts for one pound of powder
ten pelts for a pistol; twenty pelts for a trade gun

We know what the white men brought in the early days
to the Mountain Men & the Indians at a Rendezvous:

-(see: Wk. 27, 07/05/1837)

Who else?

for further information on these issues in Old West Daily Reader, see:
The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Commerce in the Old West)
The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Beads in Old West Trade)
The Originals Index – Resources and HazardsAnimals Index PagePlants – etc.
The Originals – Trails and Western Forts and Trading Posts
Photo Gallery Index – Weapons Photos IndexEdged Weapons – etc.
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos and Mining Minerals
References – Dictionary

OWDR-barbed-wire-divider2End: Trade in the Old West

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