The Old Trails Museum offered its Winter History Highlight to fifty attendees on February 13 at La Posada Hotel with the free presentation of Arizona’s Historic Trading Posts. Author Carolyn O’Bagy Davis explored the history of this unique type of commercial venture using stories and historic photographs. (At left: The interior of Wide Ruins Trading Post in southeastern Navajo lands. Photo courtesy of Mary Tate Engels)

Davis discussed how early traders traveled through Arizona Territory selling goods from their wagons. They soon built stores that evolved into trade and social centers where sheep, wool, and Native Arts were exchanged for staple foods and other necessities. Navajo posts are best known, but trading posts existed on every reservation in Arizona.

Traders, usually Anglos, often became the intermediaries between Native peoples and the outside world, providing not only hard goods but services including translation, correspondence, and transportation. Trading posts were the sites of marriages and murders, and they also became destinations for artists, authors, and tourists. Though trading posts have all but disappeared with the coming of roads and automobiles, this presentation will provide a glimpse into a vanishing time in the Southwest.

Davis, a fourth-generation descendant of Utah pioneers, is the author of fourteen books on quilting, archaeology, and the history of the Southwest. The presentation was drawn from her new Images of America title of the same name, which is currently on sale in the OTM Store. The Old Trails Museum was a stop on Davis’ research trail, and several images from the museum’s collection are featured in the book.

Davis also lectures extensively to history, archaeology, and quilting groups around the country, and she has curated several museum exhibits including Goldie Tracy Richmond: Quiltmaker and Indian Trader, Hattie Cosgrove’s Mimbres Archaeology in the American Southwest, Quilting from the Hopi Mesas, and Quilted All Day: The Quilts and Prairie Journals of Ida Chambers Melugin.

The 2016 Winter History Highlight, a partnership program between the Old Trails Museum and La Posada Hotel, was made possible in part by a grant from Arizona Humanities. For the latest updates on all of the Old Trails Museum’s exhibits and programs, subscribe to our “News” feed or “like” the museum on Facebook.