Old Michigan (and other) Trading Posts: 1875-1952
The online dictionary describes a trading post as “a store or small settlement established for trading, typically in a remote place.”
If you've seen any western movies, you can picture that image in your head...especially if you saw Clint Eastwood's “The Outlaw Josey Wales” where he comes across a trading post exactly as described above. A trading post was so-named because of the trappers that would stop at these lonely outposts, trading their pelts for goods like food, boots, guns & ammo, dried meats, and clothing. Call it a market or a store, but the term 'trading post' is where its soul lies.....and it was usually no more than a grubby, slipshod, one-room shack out in the wilderness.
Michigan was no stranger to trading posts. For a few hundred years, you'd find them all up and down the endless rivers and streams throughout the mitten and the Upper Peninsula. There were posts miles apart from each other along the shores of all the Great Lakes. Many Native American trading posts were found inland near lakes and out-of-the-way places. The French-Canadians who traveled Michigan's waterways by canoes were second only to the Native Americans to get the Michigan ball rolling by frequenting – and operating – trading posts hundreds of years ago. Up and down the lakes, through the Straits of Mackinac, down to lakes Erie & Ontario...trading posts were all through our state.
In the 1700s and 1800s, trading posts were used not just for trading and buying, but for swapping items with others and getting the latest news. It's believed that trading posts began in Europe in the 1600s, even though there is some evidence of similar establishments going back hundreds of years in different countries.
Nowadays, the term 'trading post' is still in use...usually for scout camps as a place to buy their goodies and necessities...the term is also used for a few small convenience stores who like to use the title “The Trading Post” as their shop name.
In the gallery below are some photos showing a handful of Michigan (and a few out-of-state) trading posts from the first half of the 1900s..
Michigan (and a few other) Trading Posts: 1900-1950s
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