The Merchant’s Role
The market revolution depended on merchants. In their ledgers, they recorded complex dealings about goods from near home and across the oceans. Farmers and artisans paid on credit or bartered with their labor or produce; few paid in hard currency.
William Ramsay's Store
Merchant and shopkeeper Ramsay worked at this desk in Alexandria, Virginia, in the mid-1700s. The desk’s interior was a business center, where the merchant tracked and recorded financial transactions. Ramsay’s account ledgers fit the niches in the upper portion of the bookcase.
Ribbons and Things
Ramsay sold a variety of goods to many clients, including slaves, farmers, and artisans. Less expensive items, such as English-made ribbons, or more costly objects, like a man’s buckle or an East Indian-made handkerchief, were often purchased on credit. Ramsay received his payment, sometimes months later, in crops, goods, services, and occasionally in currency.
Farmers in the Market Economy
Most Americans were farmers who labored with simple tools. Though largely feeding themselves, they also engaged in the market economy, selling everything from grain to butter, and purchasing everything from nails to ribbons. Ramsay used these weights and measures to determine accurate quantities of a farmer’s produce.