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A trading post was a place or establishment where the trading of goods took place; the term is generally used, in modern parlance, in reference to such establishments in historic Northern America, although the practice long predates that continent's colonization by Europeans. The preferred travel route to a trading post or between trading posts, was known as a trade route.
Trading posts were also places for people to meet and exchange the news of the world or simply the news from their home country (many of the world's trading posts were located in places which were popular destinations for emigration) in a time when not even newspapers existed.
European colonialism traces its roots to ancient Carthage. Originally a trading settlement of Phoenician colonists, Carthage grew into a vast economic and political power throughout the Mediterranean, accumulating wealth and influence through its economic (trading) prowess. Almost every city of importance of the world once started its history as a trading post: Venice, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Naples, Rotterdam etc.
The annexation of trading posts along ancient trade routes took place in the 16th and 17th century by European powers like the Dutch and English. It began with the capture of Ceuta (a terminus of the trans-Saharan trade route) by the Portuguese in 1415. They went on to establish further enclaves as they explored the coasts of Africa, Arabia, India and South East Asia in search of the source of the lucrative spice trade. Trading posts were also very common in the early settlements of Canada and the United States for the trade of such things as fur. They were also used in many camps across the United States as places to buy snacks, items and souvenirs.
The Hudson's Bay Company set up trading posts around Hudson Bay during the fur trade. Goods were traded for beaver pelts amongst the Europeans and the Native Americans. In the United States in the early 19th century, trading posts used by Native Americans were licensed by the federal government and called "factories". Tribes were to concede substantial territory to the United States in order to access the "factories" as happened at Fort Clark in the Treaty of Fort Clark in which the Osage Nation conceded most of Missouri in order to access the trading post.
- In the context of Scouting, trading post usually refers to a camp store where snacks, craft materials and general merchandise are sold.
- A "trading post" can also be referred to as the place where securities listed on the New York Stock Exchange are traded (bought and sold).
- In recent years, many people have developed their own trading posts such as the Front Range Trading Post in Colorado Springs, CO. Trades include handmade and hand grown/raised items, baked goods and more. Cash is not accepted, only bartering is allowed.
- Trading Post Outreach program has been established since 1995, where founder Linette Crelly began to host "trading swaps" where parents of children could gather to "swap or exchange" clothing, infant items, and toys. This idea blossomed and by 2004 had grown to become a 4,000 sq. ft. community care center in Springville, New York.