America is a country that has a lot of interesting history – but there's one time period that is particularly fascinating to everyone around the world, so much that it even has its own movie genre. That's right, we're talking about the Western Frontier.
Of course, the real wild west wasn't nearly as wild as the movies and John Wayne depicted. So, where was all the action really happening? At the trading posts!
Join one of our upcoming Route 66 tours and immerse yourself in the cool history that lies in these historic cultural hubs.
History of the trading post
Most of the earliest trading posts weren't established by Americans, but rather British, French and Dutch settlers. They were built along major roads like Route 66 so it was easy for traders to get to. Keep in mind the word 'easy' is a relative under exaggeration of the real journey that it took foreign traders to get to the posts. Some had to embark on epic adventures weeks or even months long over rough terrain, through all kinds of weather.
A trading post used to be one of the liveliest spots in the frontier!
The Europeans would then do business with the local Native Americans and nearby fur trappers. In fact, fur was one of the most sought after goods as it could be brought back to Europe for a pretty penny, though other big ticket items included tobacco, alcohol and weapons.
As you can imagine, a trading post used to be one of the liveliest spots in the frontier! That's where all of the locals would gather with their latest offerings, as well as where the out-of-towners would come to do their business. Of course, anyone who wasn't from the area was instantly a subject of interest for the townspeople. New people meant new information about other parts of the country, and even the world.
Historic trading posts of the Wild West
There are tonnes of trading posts with interesting history, so here are some fun facts about the more famous spots. First up, the Cameron Trading Post.
This spot was opened by brothers Hubert and C.D. Richardson who at first, largely did business with the Navajo and Hopi Native American locals. But soon, the post became a centre for tourists as it was conveniently located on the way to the Grand Canyon. It was open for nearly a decade.
Next up we have Fort Union Trading Post. This was founded by John Jacob Astor and it became one of the most famous fur trading post in the West. This trading post had exciting goods – everything from buffalo hides and beaver pelts, to grizzly bear and bison meat. It was also visited by many of the time's famous artists and scientists who came to observe the Upper Missouri landscape.
If you want to visit some of these trading posts in person, or what to learn more about America's unique frontier history, sign up for one of our tours here at Route 66.