Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Crossing America: Trade goods

Some fellow named Kim is re-running his "Crossing America" feature where he asked his readership to suggest a three-gun battery to cross the Continental United States prior to 1776.

To get the obvious question out of the way, today I would choose an SKS loaded with alternating 123gr Hornady Interlocks and FMJ, a Glock 19 with 124gr Speer GoldDots and a Ruger 10/22 with a Magpul synthetic Hunter X-22 stock and 25 round magazines and whichever ammo it shoots best. There are thousands of defensible choices and my choices might change tomorrow. There are very few wrong answers.

My spin on the hypothetical exercise is what trading goods would you take?

Let's assume that this will be a regular pilgrimage on your part so you don't want to leave too many dead bodies in your wake. Also assume you are traveling with a small party of men in their twenties-and-thirties, scouting out places to settle.


  • Fishhooks and line
  • Fish nets
  • Steel needles and #69 Polyester thread
  • Cayenne pepper powder
  • Peach seeds
  • Watermelon, muskmelon and cucumber seeds
  • A good dog to stand stud. Maybe a beagle or German Shorthair (tough job, but somebody has to do it)
  • Pure caffeine powder
  • High-grade cannabis
  • Utility-knife blades
  • Strontium aluminate glow paint
  • Butane lighters
  • Aspirin tablets

What do you folks think?


  1. As mentioned before salt, lots of salt. Great trade material beyond the ocean. Indians trades for salt a lot. Snares and traps? Sugar.

    Not really sure why your packing seeds to trade mostly with Indians? Are they going to trade you info, food or shelter for something best described as Jack's Magic Beans?

    1. Peach seeds beat white people to Arizona.

      Seeds are a repeat trip insurance policy. You can buy them from tribes you sold them to and move them farther west based on glowing reports from eastern tribes.

    2. Most native-American agriculture used large seeds like corn, squash and beans. Melon is sweet and has large seeds. Its culture is very similar to squash which would make it a shoe-in for 'magic beans".

  2. Needles, fishhooks, medium weight fishing line, paracord (per watching too many seasons of Alone you can make a dang nice fishing net out of unraveling a length of paracord), wood handle leather awls wood handle removed (to save space, can whittle a new handle). Possibly arrowheads and Dacron B50 bow string? Might swap out fishing line for this. It's one of those things that has not equally great natural replacement, just a solid 2 steps ahead everything that came before.

    With this stuff 5 lbs of trade goods would go a long way in a compact package, and all of it is useful outside of trading.

  3. 1650? Antibiotics. Aspirin. Ibuprofen. Anything to treat tooth/ear/eye infections.
    You will not find a better friend than the one you can heal or ease.

    Small mirrors. Lipstick. (AKA face paint) Trade knives.

  4. Simple steel tomahawk heads. Round pol hole so limb is easier to replace a broken handle. Or removed so that head can be used ulu style.

    Plastic sheeting. To capture / hold water in dug out hole wherever needed. Or form waterproof area of refuge. To assist smoking meat as a smoke container.

    1. Plastic sheeting would be like Magic to native tribes. Those wigwams leaked a lot from my Mt Man rendezvous events.

      Teaching them how to extend their growing season with it would be a powerful alliance trade item.

      After all you are planning on doing this route again, yes?

  5. Spices - salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, etc.. Agree with needles and thread, add cloth and scissors. Magnifying glasses, jewelry and perfume.

  6. Some trade goods are obviously useful. Some less so if the intended customers don't known what they are and how they are useful.

  7. Needles were the first thing to come to mind. Size and weight considerations are still a factor even on horse back.

  8. Reminds me of a guy who traveled New England in the 1820's painting murals in people's houses.
    I don't know what the terms where.

  9. An old man in the neighborhood told me that in Great Depression the only thing that people did not skimp on was the woman's beauty parlor...Saturdays it was always busy I guess I'll be doing hair. Joe Heavy


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