Business and Economy

Draft of the Constitution of the Kentucky Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Manufactures, 1817

Trade linked people across the vast spaces of the First American West as well as across deep cultural divides. Commerce drew Indigenous peoples from across the continent into relationship with European powers, and trade relationships became the foundation for both diplomatic and interpersonal relationships—all shaped by the pressures and powers of colonialism.

As Anglo-American settlement in the region increased, local systems of barter and exchange interacted with exports of raw materials to international markets and connections to far-off coastal or European banking houses. Money was scarce and fluid, with British, American, Spanish, and French currency all in circulation in the post-Independence United States.

Desire to access import and export markets drove Kentucky efforts to secure statehood independent from Virginia, while some schemers sought French and Spanish control of the Ohio Valley to secure access to the lucrative port of New Orleans.