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Colonies in America: Commerce, Business, and the Economy

Craftsmen & Tradesmen

Benjamin Franklin, printer, Philadelphia, 1914. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In this section we provide some introductory sources for those doing industry research or looking at specific types of business in colonial times—it is not an effort to cover all types of businesses. One area not included is medicine or apothecaries because many of the titles on the subject are about the medicine and medical treatments. In this situation, a title focusing on a specific place like Williamsburg, might be more informative and may have additional information on apothecaries. There is not going to be a title for every location and trade so looking at those that do exist for other locations can inform more broadly. For example, there are two books related to Williamsburg—one included a list of the apothecaries in Williamsburg, and another that looked at the professional practice of medicine and included a brief biographical sketches of several local practitioners—can still be of interest for those looking at the business end of apothecaries and doctors.

A number of the items in this section are not strictly “business” as we would think of them today. These items were chosen because they covered aspects that would be helpful for those who wanted a better understanding of how industry or business operated. They may also include the type of information a modern researcher would need if they were doing industry research including statistics, analysis, trade oriented information when appropriate, etc.

While we have included new titles, older titles have been included in order to fill gaps, as well as offer insight that that can be helpful. There are three things to note specifically:

  • Given the time period of this guide, it may be necessary in some cases to look at books that cover Handicrafts and Artisans.
  • Older newspapers may provide an interesting perspective and additional avenue depending on the research topic. Advertisements in newspapers can lead to individuals as well as other pieces of information that may be relevant.
  • Genealogical sources may also be helpful and provide information on individuals which is important in a time period where an individual and their livelihood may have not been separated as they are today.

The items below are from the Library’s collections other sections of this guide can include sources that may be of interest for the focus of this section and have not been included below. However, there are collections with materials related to these topics scattered throughout the country in historical society collections, state libraries, and other archival collections. The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Additional Reading

Selected Bibliography: Printers

Search the Library's Catalog

This is a brief listing of some of the subjects for the topics covered in this section but does not include subject headings for all the industries and types of businesses. Additional works in the Library of Congress on business, commerce, trade, and the economy in what becomes the United States may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the topics you wish to search from the following list to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search that will allow you to browse related subject headings. But for additional subject headings broader in nature, see the “Search the Library's Catalog” section of this guide.