Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in the British Empire and the economic center of the thirteen colonies. During the 1760s, the value of imports from Britain to Philadelphia was nearly £400,000 in all but two years, while exports to England remained generally between £25,000 and £40,000 per year. In Britain crop failures from 1766 to 1772 expanded the market for Pennsylvania flour and wheat. In addition, about £11,000 Pennsylvania ($1,265,000) of iron was shipped to England. Less than £4,000 sterling worth of fur and deerskin was legally exported to Britain, but as much as £15,000 sterling was illegally sent to Europe. The major exports were flour and wheat worth about £300,000 sterling ($60,000,000) sent to the West Indies and southern Europe. 1 In accordance with the imperial policy to limit the development of industry in the colonies to ensure dependence on the mother country, only raw materials were sent to Britain.
In return for the exports Pennsylvania merchants received Madeira wine and salt from Portugal worth about £30,000 sterling. The remainder were paid for with bills of exchange the Portuguese received for wine sold in Britain. The trade with Portugal was favorable to Pennsylvania, and the trade with the West Indies was nearly balanced. The West Indies sent molasses, which was distilled into rum in Philadelphia. Merchants in the West Indies also paid for some of the imports of provisions and lumber with English bills of exchange received for sugar shipped to Britain. The bills were used by Pennsylvania merchants to pay for part of their imports from Britain. 2 James and Drinker, one of the most prominent merchant houses in Philadelphia dealing in the West Indies trade, used the credits obtained from that trade to import from Britain in 1760. 3
The British acquisition of Canada in 1759 opened a new market for the Philadelphia merchants for the sale of rum and British manufactured goods to the French, who in turn traded with the Indians. In 1766 Baynton and Wharton