Trade Cloth

Trade Cloth - Huron Trader

Trade Cloth
Facts and information about the History of Clothing of Native American Indians and the introduction of Trade Cloth. Trade Cloth was first introduced to Native Americans during the late 1700's. Trading posts were established across the country and European textiles were traded for furs and animal skins.

The introduction of trade cloth was an important factor in the decline of the lifestyle and culture of Native Americans. Making clothes from buffalo hides or deerskin was a long and difficult process. Trade Cloth became a highly desirable commodity as it was much easier to cut and sew. This article contains facts and information about the introduction of Trade Cloth.

Trade Cloth Fact Sheet

  • Trade Cloth was first introduced to Native Americans during the late 1700's however, some Native Americans in the Southwest had grown cotton from very ancient times. Before the arrival of the first Europeans, Southwestern tribes such as the Hopi had developed different methods of weaving and wove the cotton into cloth.
  • Trade Cloth Fact 1: Trade Cloth consisted of many different types of machine-made textiles that were produced in vast quantities. 
  • Trade Cloth Fact 2: Wool, linen and calicos were traded by European traders for furs and deerskins from Native American Indians
  • Trade Cloth Fact 3: These textiles were eagerly sought by the different tribes because they were much easier to cut, sew and keep clean than the animal hides they replaced
  • Trade Cloth Fact 4: Clothing and garments made from these types of textiles were considered by many tribes as status symbols
  • Trade Cloth Fact 5: In the late 1700s trade cloth was used by the United States government as payment for land transactions and settlements of peace treaties
  • Trade Cloth Fact 6: Broadcloth was a product that was originally made as trade wool and used as a trading item with Native American Indians.
  • Trade Cloth Fact 7: The British were experts in making Broadcloth which had significantly raised the profits made in the wool trade. Broadcloth involved many stages of manufacture by different skilled workers including woolsorters, washers, combers, spinners, spoolers and weavers. But labor was cheap and exports boomed during the early days of the colonization of America
  • Trade Cloth Fact 8: The cloths were dyed after weaving. The edge or border of the Broadcloth was usually left white producing stripes of un-dyed sections. These stripes economised on the amount of dye required and were cut away or hidden in the seams of most European clothing. However, the stripes became a desirable feature to the Native American Indians who used the stripes as a design feature in their clothing.
  • Trade Cloth Fact 9: The British Broadcloth was used to make the scarlet military uniform of the 'Redcoats'. The British Broadcloth was introduced for trade in America by both the East India Company and the Hudsonís Bay Company
  • Trade Cloth Fact 10: The Hudsonís Bay Company established trading posts across North America. Native Americans traded their furs and deerskins for items such as beads, trinkets, whiskey and horses but textiles in the form of Trade Cloth were the largest and single most important class of goods traded to Native American Indians
  • Trade Cloth Fact 11: New styles were developed such as the turban headwear design. Turbans were a practical piece of headwear made from a long strip of cloth. Symbolic plumes were added which stamped the culture and identity of Native Indians to the Turbans
  • Trade Cloth Fact 12: Dark blue Broadcloth was highly valued by many tribes, red in smaller quantities was also popular in trade. The early Breechclouts worn by Native Americans were made from dark blue or red broadcloth
  • Trade Cloth Fact 13: As time passed broadcloth became easily and readily available. Many Native Indian tribes were greatly influenced by the European style of dress and the easy availability of trade cloth.
  • Trade Cloth Fact 14: The Southeastern Native Americans, notably the Five Civilised Tribes, including the Cherokee, Creek and Seminoles adopted western style clothing.
  • Trade Cloth Fact 15: Traditional clothing made from deerskin was placed by shirts, dresses, pants, shawls and skirts
  • Trade Cloth Fact 16: Buffalo Hides, once worn by all of the tribes of the Great Plains were replaced with blankets made of broadcloth
  • Trade Cloth Fact 17: The introduction and availability of broadcloth as a trading item was a major factor in the decline of Native American culture, their clothing styles and their way of life
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Updated 2018-01-01

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