As a fledgling republic, the United States implemented a series of trading outposts to engage indigenous peoples and to expand American interests west of the Appalachian Mountains. Under the authority of the executive branch, this Indian factory system was designed to strengthen economic ties between Indian nations and the United States, while eliminating competition from unscrupulous fur traders. In this detailed history of the Indian factory system, David Andrew Nichols demonstrates how Native Americans and U.S. government authorities sought to exert their power in the trading posts by using them as sites for commerce, political maneuvering, and diplomatic action.
Using the factory system as a lens through which to study the material, political, and economic lives of Indian peoples, Nichols also sheds new light on the complexities of trade and diplomacy between whites and Native Americans. Though the system ultimately disintegrated following the War of 1812 and the Panic of 1819, Nichols shows that these factories nonetheless served as important centers of economic and political authority for an expanding inland empire.