The History of Trading Posts


After the Louisiana Purchase, fur trading flourished rapidly. Trading posts quickly emerged to support it – often no more than simple shacks – often serving multiple functions, such as warehousing manufactured goods from Europe for exchange for furs or local products.

Today’s visitors may wander through one of John Hubbell’s 30 posts across the Southwest. Cracked wooden floors squeak underfoot as old aromas fill the air.


Trading posts (also referred to as trading stations or houses) are establishments where goods and services can be exchanged. Historically, these were located at vital geographic hubs that enabled people from different regions to trade local products for those produced at other locales – making acquiring essential items easier without long journeys. British and French colonists established the first trading posts during the 17th and 18th centuries in North America’s fur trade era; their importance only grew further as fur trading expanded further into North American society.

Though the term trading post can refer to many establishments, its most frequent application refers to an outpost that served as a hub of activity on American frontiers. Although often small in size and style (even as simple as just being a simple shack!), these outposts played an invaluable role for trappers and settlers, providing news in an age before newspapers existed.

At outposts, traders often comprised a professional class known as the bourgeois. At the top of this hierarchy were chief factors and principal traders; these men managed the affairs of an outpost and shared in its profits. Below these officers were clerks, bookkeepers and interpreters; below these again there would often be skilled servants such as blacksmiths, coopers, or carpenters on staff.

Trading posts were typically defined by their palisade enclosure, made up of vertical timbers that stood twelve to 18 feet high and enclosed a trench. Topped with square bastions or blockhouses for protection and featuring loopholes to fire cannons or shoulder arms.

Posts were usually located near rivers, lakes, streams, or the coast to allow for easy navigation and transportation and facilitate contact between Native Americans visiting to trade goods with them at these trading posts.

While the history of trading posts is well known, recent archaeological and ethnohistoric research has shed new light on this significant historical epoch. These discoveries have helped redefine their nature and function during this era, although most posts had short lifespans due to resources allocated toward sustainment rather than sustainability issues.


Trading posts served more than just trade; they also served as stores, post offices, and general gathering places – often as centers of cultural exchange between Navajos and Anglo-Americans.

Trading companies hired voyageurs to establish, outfit, and supply their outposts. A post could range from a log cabin with a counter to bustling walled communities containing multiple trading companies operating simultaneously for commercial ties with Native communities in the area.

Not only was a trading post used for trade but also used as a launchpad from which expeditions to secure fur were launched. Many posts were near important geographical features like river mouths to maximize trade potential and use their trading advantage.

Trade posts provide a steady source of revenue for players with domains attached, not just the owner. More buildings on a trade post mean more significant gains. Each building produces resources that can be sold off at its respective counter.


Trading posts serve as an intermediary between non-native people and Indigenous communities. Indigenous people can exchange handcrafted items for items like metal tools, enamelware, manufactured wool products, food, and more. With capitalism’s development on reservations and Western expansion coming together to alter both parties’ social relationships significantly – trading posts played an essential part in these changes.

No Man’s Sky trading posts are an important Planetary Point of Interest that appear across planets. Offering tradeable resources that can be easily accessed using your starship’s Economy Scanner or Signal Booster, trading posts can be found by visiting alien settlements or completing Delivery missions.

Singing Horse Trading Post has been in business since 1995 and was one of the first trading posts to specialize in Indigenous art and culture. They sell handmade authentic Native products like porcupine quill baskets, birch bark goods, Pendleton blankets, dream catchers, and jewelry, featuring an artist-in-residence program and traveling exhibits of contemporary Native artwork.

While appearing to offer shoppers what they need, the Singing Horse Trading Post is exploitative and detrimental to Indigenous communities. This establishment takes advantage of talented Indigenous artisans by purchasing their work at rock-bottom prices and then reselling it at higher profits; such practices rob Indigenous people of their income while forcing them to create or reproduce items with spiritual, familial, and cultural significance for profit.


William Leonard established a trading post here around 1874 or 1875 – most likely as a two-room jacal structure. Once John Lorenzo Hubbell acquired the property in 1878, he continued developing it further with improvements such as building what we know today as the Hubbell Residence, barn lots, and corrals, possibly adding a shade ramada and multiple wells into his complex.

Hubbell Trading Post’s landscape retains its historical layout and character-defining characteristics with only minor modern intrusions. As do barn lots and corrals, the overall spatial organization and cluster arrangement of building complexes and residential compounds remain intact. Large residential yards remain mostly unchanged, although overrun with invasive plant species which require restoration work. In contrast, specialty garden areas have remained the same, although vegetable gardens have begun deteriorating while flower gardens have been lost to weeds.

Although trading posts might seem inconsequential, their importance was significant for Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies to commercially engage a region otherwise inaccessible or unknown to outside markets. They provided essential services for trappers and traders by offering necessities at one convenient place as they brought back products of their labors.

Trading posts were typically situated near significant routes traversing the country, as furs were an invaluable commodity, and they needed somewhere to be transported to market. A large storehouse would usually be found close to each trading post in order to hold all merchandise collected along its path and as a base for voyageurs responsible for building, supplying, and maintaining it – these roles often being performed by men from local Native communities helping establish stronger ties between business activities and society.