Trade Economics at Bent’s Old Fort

During the 1830s and 1840s, people from many different cultures traveled the Santa Fe Trail and met at Bent’s Old Fort. Known as the “Castle of the Plains,” Bent’s Old Fort was a private international trading fort located on the Arkansas River which quickly became a hub of commerce and trade.

Hunters and fur trappers were essential to the outpost, bringing food and pelts to keep the rich fur trade thriving. American Indian interpreters maintained communication with surrounding tribes, while frontier cooks, blacksmiths, soldiers and domestics allowed the fort to operate as a city unto itself. (Photo: The Colorado Directory)

Trade goods at Bent’s Old Fort came from all over world and the prices for these goods would often fluctuate dramatically. During the 1830s, coffee and soap could each be bought at Bent’s Old Fort for approximately $1 per pound. To have your shirt laundered, visitors would have to pay $0.25 per clothing item. While things like corn and flour came from Missouri, goods such as wool, cotton, brandy and wine came all the way from France. Guns, a popular trade item, often originated from Delaware and tobacco came from the mid-Atlantic states.

At Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site today, historians recreate the sights and sounds of what life was like during the fur trade era with guided tours and demonstrations. Additionally, Tesoro Cultural Center offers guided Living History Tours at The Fort Restaurant for groups, schools and more, which are available by appointment only and feature interpreters, short films and hands-on activities to provide insight into the life and cultures of early Colorado. For more information, please call 303-839-1671 or email info@tesoroculturalcenter.org.

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