On the Trail — Prices

John Bidwell and friends did some trading when they met with Fraeb’s company of hunters and trappers at the Green River rendezvous. In his journal Bidwell records some of the prices for goods:

I will not omit to state the prices of several kinds of mountain goods. Powder which is sold by the cupful (pint) is worth $1 per cup. Lead 1.50 per lb., good Mackanaw blankets 8 to 15 dollars; sugar $1 per cupful; pepper $1 also; cotton and calico shirts from 3 to 5$; rifles from 30 to 60. In return, you will receive dressed deerskins at $3, pants made of deerskins $10, beaver skins $10, moccasins $1; flour sold in the Mts. at 50 cents per cupful, tobacco at $2 per lb., butcher knives from 1 to 3$. A good gun is worth as much as a horse; a cap lock is preferred, caps worth $1 per box.

I don’t imagine much cash traded hands. Instead the men would have been bartering. Perhaps Bidwell’s group still had items like sugar and pepper, gunpowder and lead to sell, and the mountain men had deerskins, moccasins, and flour and tobacco for those who had run out of supplies. Prices were high, but where else could they go to trade? If you needed it, you paid for it.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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