In 1853 the fabled Santa Fe trade drew a young Bostonian, John Kingsbury, to the dusty capital of America's newly-acquired New Mexico Territory. Junior partner of the prominent mercantile firm of Webb & Kingsbury, he remained in Santa Fe until 1861 and the outbreak of the Civil War. During his eight-year tenure, Kingsbury sent regular reports to his business partner in Connecticut, James Josiah Webb. The volume and value of the goods shipped over the Santa Fe Trail reached new heights during the 1850s, and yet, until now, those years have yielded scant information about the commerce of the prairies. Kingsbury's letters shed new light on this neglected period, revealing much about the operations of rival firms and the business climate of the southwestern frontier in general. As he placed orders and charted cash flows, Kingsbury sent Webb colorful gossip about New Mexico politics and politicians. From his occasional digressions, intimate details about social and cultural life in Santa Fe emerge, as does the personality of the letter-writer himself. Trading in Santa Fe makes Kingsbury's richly detailed letters to Webb available in print for the first time. The editors' introduction to the volume, chapter introductions, and extensive notes provide valuable background.
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