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Class sets 10 or more print books: $8.00 each
Order code: 6058S
The stories in this book follow the trappers and traders who worked their way across the vast unknown land that was the United States, opening the frontiers for the settlers who followed them.
The first big business in the New World was fur trading. Trappers tramped all across the country, following the rivers into the great, unexplored wilderness, setting their traps and catching literally thousands of beavers. Once they had exhausted a local population of the animals, they’d move on, following another river until that, too, was stripped of all its beavers. Traders went out into the wilderness as well, taking goods to exchange for furs with both the trappers and the Native Americans who wanted to trade for items they could not get on their own, such as metal knives and hatchets, guns and ammunition, brightly-colored cloth, and ornaments and trinkets like glass beads, mirrors, and bells.
There are plenty of controversial points that can be raised in a discussion of the early American trappers and traders, not the least of which are the ways in which the white traders often took advantage of the Native Americans, trading cheap goods for expensive furs, as well as the decimation of local animal populations and the resulting imbalances in the river and forest ecosystems, many of which to this day have never fully recovered. But as much as we may cringe at some of these ideas, the trappers and traders did play an important role in mapping and settling the United States of America.
The traders opened posts all along the rivers and crossroads of the American frontier, which began in places as far east as Pittsburgh and Chicago and gradually worked its way across the country toward Oregon and California and down to New Mexico. Those trading posts often grew into settlements, some of which burgeoned into enormous cities, such as St. Louis, a hub of fur trading in the latter half of the eighteenth century and much of the nineteenth. Where the traders went, settlers followed, and it is hard to imagine how geographically differently our mark on the land might have been or how much longer it would have taken for the country to have been settled without their profound influence.
This book takes a look at the instrumental role the traders of early America played in mapping the wilderness and opening it up to settlement. It was dangerous work, but for men with a longing for adventure, the risks were worth it. Some of them kept at it and became famous; others decided that their calling was elsewhere, and that includes Abraham Lincoln, whose reputation as President of the United States typically overshadows his earlier career choices. Most people don’t know that Abe was a trader for a short time, but it was during a trading journey that he first saw the slave trade in action, and that experience in part shaped how he felt about what he wanted to do with his future. In ways such as this, these stories are far more significant than one might initially think, and so this book is an important part of understanding how America came to be what it is today.
This book is also available as a series of dyslexia-friendly books. (See below.)