The Market Place


If you lived in colonial times the market place took on many different forms. It wasn't like the Mall, Target, or Stater Brothers. It was more like the Swap Meet or Market Night, where merchants sold their goods from stalls or booths outside. You couldn't go into a store to buy a dress, a pair of shoes, or a hat. If you did want something you had to place your order, wait till it was made, then you pick it up.

If you were among the first colonists to settle in the new land and you needed a pair of shoes, a hat, or a bed, you probably traded with your neighbor. During those early years, if you needed something you traded your skills for the skills of another. For example; if you were a skilled furniture maker but had eaten up your garden, and our neighbor had more than he could eat but he needed a table, you traded your skill for his vegetables.

The colonists would have had a very difficult time surviving had it not been for Native People. With your table group, make a list of the many ways the Native Americans helped the colonist and what they might have traded with them.

Sometimes the market place came to you, the Yankee Peddler roamed the countryside with his wagon full of treasures, from pins and buttons to axes and pitchforks. The Yankee Peddlar was the first General Store. He followed Indian trails and used rafts to navigate rivers so that he could reach the deepest settlements to sell his wares. As small settlements began to spring up, he sold his whole inventory to one farmer who in turn sold it to the local settlers while the peddler would return to the sea port for more new goods to sell. Thus began the General Store.

As cities and towns like Boston and Williamsburg grew, merchants and tradesmen opened General Stores and other businesses. In Williamsburg for example, John Greenhow owned and operated a General Store for the residents of Williamsburg. All of his merchandise came from England.(See attached inventory list) Other merchants and tradesmen opened shops as well: The dressmaker using cloth from England, made dresses for customers. The cobbler made shoes with leather from England etc. Shops began to spring up on Main Streets or around Town Squares all over the colonies, each selling merchandise from England.


Recreate a Main Street or Town Square Decide what types of shops you would like to have on your street or square. They choose the crafts they would like to work on and make several examples to be displayed in your shops. You will need to make trade signs and write ads for your shops. See suggestions in the activities section.

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