Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
MARKETS AND TRADE, DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN, 1815-1860

Introduction. The general conditions that determine the character and extent of a country's trade were outlined in the chapter dealing with colonial trade and commerce. The most important changes among these conditions in the period 1815-1860 were those that occurred in the field of transportation and communication, particularly the introduction of the railroad, which have already been described. As was to be expected, these led to an enormous expansion of trade and commerce both domestic and foreign, though the growth of the former was much more marked than the growth of the latter, resulting in a decrease in the relative importance of foreign trade. The larger volume of trade created a demand for a rapid expansion of marketing facilities. This growth made it economically advantageous to introduce far more division of labor and specialization in the marketing organization than had existed theretofore. The resulting greater economies in the marketing process in turn stimulated the growth of trade. These two tendencies--the growth in the volume of trade and the introduction of more specialized marketing methods--were the outstanding features in this branch of economic activity during this period.

It should be noted, however, that changes were taking place with such rapidity that even in a given section of the country a decade or two might witness almost revolutionary alterations in the prevailing marketing organization. Furthermore, there were marked variations in the conditions that determined trade in different sections of the country so that there existed at the same time all the gradations in marketing methods from that of the isolated frontier with its relatively self-sufficing household economy to that of the large commercial seaports connected by railroads and steamships with most of the world. These marked variations and rapid changes must be kept in mind in reading the account that follows. Finally, since data bearing on the history of domestic trade and the evolution of marketing methods are very scant and have as yet received little detailed study, at best only rather rough and none-too-certain generalizations concerning this phase of our economic history are possible.

Trade on the Frontier. Along the westward-moving frontier of settlement two fairly distinct methods of carrying on trade may be said to have existed. In the regions where the first settlers were primarily engaged in

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