Commerce of the Prairies by Josiah Gregg

Commerce of the Prairies

Book Title: Commerce of the Prairies

Publisher: Wagon Press

Release Date: 2017-08-29

Author: Josiah Gregg


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Josiah Gregg with Commerce of the Prairies

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'a classic in the literature of Western history'



Josiah A. Gregg, an experienced trader on the plains of western North America, details here the caravan networks and exchange of goods across the vast prairie lands in the 1830s and 1840s.

A detailed yet lively chronicle, Commerce of the Prairies takes the reader back to a bygone era. At a time before the automobile or interstate commerce ignited the dynamism of an industrialized United States, there were individual merchants, traders and citizens working toward making their own lives and societies more prosperous and comfortable.

To this end, settlers established trade routes and roads across what is now New Mexico, Texas, California and Nevada. One of the main trading partners was Mexico; it was often to Tijuana and other north Mexican towns that traders loaded their wagons and set off. One of the first cities to grow out of trading posts was Santa Fe, New Mexico - it is this locale that Josiah A. Gregg gained the most personal experience trafficking commodities.

The Great Western plains were vast and scarcely charted. Traders would encounter unusual creatures in the desert which they had never seen, such as lizards and rattlesnakes. Occasionally they would witness or even partake in the ancient ceremonies of the local Native American tribes, whose traditions were starkly different to those of the incipient European settlers. Several chapters of this book are devoted to the Indian tribes; Gregg notes the marked variations in culture and behavior between Native American groups, noting that each held a distinct identity and customs.

The trading roads crisscrossed around the Southwest United States; although their condition varied and dangers were many, they formed the genesis of a new, organized and mercantile society. It was this early trade, and the adventures so many merchants found themselves in, that laid the groundwork for cities to come, and by extension the modern United States and Mexico as we know them today.

'The little book has become a classic in the literature of Western history. Simple, direct, and unpretentious in style, the work judiciously mingles history, description, and narrative. As an historian Gregg is exceptionally accurate. He gave the first connected narrative in English, of the history of New Mexico from its first explorations in the sixteenth century to his own time. Gregg is pre-eminently the historian of the Santa Fé trade that employed many of the most daring spirits of the frontier and paved the way for the possession of these regions by the United States. As a contribution to the history and development of the far Southwest, Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies stands without a rival and is indispensable to a full knowledge of the American past.' - Reuben Gold Thwaites L.L.D

Josiah A. Gregg (19 July 1806 – 25 February 1850) was a merchant, explorer, naturalist, and author of Commerce of the Prairies, first published in 1844, about the American Southwest and Northern Mexico regions. He collected many previously undescribed plants on his merchant trips and during the Mexican-American War after which he went to California. He reportedly died of a fall from his mount due to starvation near Clear Lake, California, on 25 February 1850 after a cross-country expedition which fixed the location of Humboldt Bay.