What Is a Trading Post?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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A trading post is a physical location that serves commerce. The term itself is often used to define locations that were set up along trade routes where goods were traded and exchanged. As such, these businesses were often the sites of bartering, and were also very important in the development of currency. The trading post has been an important figure in the development of many of the major cities that exist today. This is especially true of port cities where boats, following trade routes, would dock and exchange goods that they had brought from other parts of the world.

The iconic trading post is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Nowadays one is hard pressed to find a business where he can trade a sack of cinnamon or a collection of fur pelts for foodstuffs and building materials. There are, however, some recreated or restored for the purpose of education and historical preservation. The items that could be found at a trading post would vary quite a bit depending on the location of the post and the needs of the people who visited it. A post in the Hudson Bay in the 1800s, for example, would do a great deal of trade with fur, whereas a post in the Netherlands in the 1600s might be focused on dealing in spices.


In addition to being a point of exchange for goods, these were also places where people could catch up on the latest news. This is because trading posts, especially large posts in key locations, were gathering places for people from many parts of the world. Trading posts far predated newspapers and were invaluable for the collection and dissemination of information and news.

The history of trading posts is also closely connected to the history of pioneers. In the American West, for example, trading posts were important for pioneers and homesteaders. Even though these kinds of businesses were erected after the development of currency, they were still places of barter and exchange of goods. These posts served some of the needs of people who were among the first European settlers in certain American territories. In many cases, these businesses were key to the survival of pioneers, homesteaders, and the families they brought with them and raised on their land.


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Post 2

Trading posts may be a thing of the past, but there is still at least one modern institution that serves the purpose of a place where news and information can be distributed -- the rural mercantile. Those notoriously laid back places are spots where farmers gather to pick up supplies, exchange ideas, gossip and share news. The mercantile, much like trading places of old, are about socializing as much as they are about commerce.

Post 1

Don't count out the iconic trading post just yet. Starting in about the early 2000s, there was some talk about a new system of bartering as being an integral economic component at some point in the future.

No, that hasn't happened yet but if bartering catches on as some seem to believe it will, a place such as a trading post would be the logical establishment to bring people together for the purpose of bartering.

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