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New York farmers and the market revolution: economic behavior in the mid-Hudson Valley, 1780-1830.

For many years scholars of the early national period have engaged in a lively debate concerning the economic behavior and market strategies of farm families in the northern United States. Although the debate continues, there is general agreement that farmers increased their commercial production, participated more regularly in commodity trade, and purchased more manufactured goods than they had during the colonial and revolutionary periods.(1) Studies of New England and Pennsylvania reveal the extraordinary distances some farmers travelled to receive the most profitable returns for the sale of their produce and their enthusiastic response to the thriving market economy. Other studies emphasize the ways smaller farmers participated in rural outwork industries and gradually, but surely, became wage-laborers.(2)

However, the implications of the "market revolution" for farm families varied from region to region, and the response of these households to new economic demands varied depending upon a variety of factors: the household's relationship to the market, whether one owned or rented land, the types of production a family employed, as well as productive capacities and resources. Thus far, leading studies of farmers' market strategies have emphasized the activities of more successful, commercially-oriented farmers and been less attentive to the multitude of smaller farmers who traded locally and sold on regional markets.(3) The behavior and perspective of smaller farmers, whose decisions were as important to the nature and character of the rural economy as those of the larger producers, remain largely unexplored.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the "market revolution" impacted ordinary farm families in the agriculturally rich Hudson River Valley. It does so by exploring the ways families in the town of Kingston, a long-settled farming community which had enjoyed a dominant position in the New York agricultural market, alternated and balanced their economic strategies of household production, local trade with neighbors, and commercial sale in order to meet the competitive demands of the developing marketplace. Like their New England counterparts, larger farmers responded to the new opportunities by increasing agricultural production and becoming "commercial farmers." Most smaller producers did not, however, nor did they become participants in complex rural manufacturing networks that characterized the New England countryside.

Nevertheless, as Kingston became more enmeshed in the expanding market system, the local economy grew in complexity, and smaller farm families diversified their economic activities and increasingly specialized their production for market sale. However, even while this "market revolution" impacted both smaller and larger farmers, traditional practices of balancing home production with neighborhood trade and commercial sale continued. Indeed, through the 1820s, far more Kingston residents participated in, and depended on, community trade networks with neighbors and local shopkeepers than they did long-distance, commercial sale.

Several significant features of the Kingston economy played a role in shaping residents' relationship to the developing market system in the late eighteenth century. First, Kingston was primarily an agricultural producer. Although a small number of artisans, slaves, and shopkeepers satisfied local demands for goods, labor, and services, three quarters of the town's residents were members of households engaged in farming. Moreover, most of Kingston's farm families owned the land they worked, a pattern that contrasts sharply with that found elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region.(4) Consequently, Kingstonians enjoyed a high degree of control over the disposal of their surplus.

Second, Kingston was an important market town, as it had been almost from its founding in 1663. A thriving export trade of barrel staves, wood, and most especially, surplus wheat and flour that contemporaries "reckoned the best in all North America," fueled the town's economic development.(5) The export trade in turn stimulated the emergence of related service industries, creating a demand for day laborers and small manufacturers that contributed to the town's economic diversity. In addition, long distance exchanges enabled Kingston residents to acquire a variety of consumer goods, such as tea, sugar, and manufactured goods produced outside the valley.

Third, even as extralocal trade links grew in importance through the late eighteenth century, residents continued to rely on a system of local exchange to meet many of their needs. Household production supplemented the town's export economy and sustained an important community-oriented trading network that linked the various agricultural, service, and mercantile sectors in a web of interdependence. Until the early nineteenth century, farmers and artisans operating within complementary systems of small scale production and trade remained the most important source of locally purchased food, farm tools, manufactured goods, textiles, and household furnishings. Thus, despite access to down river markets, Kingston residents' economic identities and orientations continued to be shaped by their dealings within the community.

In late eighteenth century, the basic unit of production in Kingston was the farm household. The primary economic goals of these households were to meet annual subsistence needs, increase the comfort level of daily life, accumulate more land, and transmit these legacies to one's heirs. Farm families combined and alternated a variety of economic strategies in order to accomplish these tasks: engaging in household production, trading with neighbors and friends, market-oriented commercial export, and acquiring imported consumer goods. Many Kingston farmers would have recognized the complementary nature of these strategies, and would regularly combine some, or all, of these practices in order to achieve the long term security of the family farm and supply one's children with personal and real property.(6)

Eighteenth-century Hudson Valley households produced a variety of crops in order to attain these goals; wheat and vegetables were used at home and traded with neighbors, with oats and corn used for animal feed and grain sent to markets.(7) A farm in Ulster County averaged a little less than 180 acres in size of which 12 acres was devoted to grain production, and about the same amount for meadow and pasture.(8) Additional acreage was devoted to gardens and woodlots. Kingston area farm families produced some 149 bushels of wheat and about 116 bushels of rye. Most, perhaps even all, farm families supplied some portion of their own diet. Thirty-seven percent of the inventories brought to probate in the period between 1780 and 1820 recorded grain planted in the ground, as well as a variety of other agricultural products usually referred to collectively as the "garden." The proportion of families growing agricultural produce was certainly higher, since these inventories often underrepresented the amount of grain produced.(9)

The household not only grew crops, feed, and vegetables, but produced most of their own textiles and dairy products as well. One commentator of rural New York noted in 1767 that "the custom of making coarse cloths in private families prevails throughout the entire province, and almost in every house a sufficient quantity is manufactured for the use of the family."(10) The regular appearance of textile implements in the probate inventories supports this observation and points to a thriving home manufacturing system. During the last two decades of the eighteenth century, over three quarters of Kingston inventories contained a spinning wheel. This "household" production system made use of virtually all members of the farm household. While men tended crops and animals, women were responsible for dairying, the garden, and domestic duties. Even young children participated, often in textile production, where they were "set to work as soon as they are able to spin and card."(11)

Even with this well-developed home manufacturing system, families produced most of these goods for home use or for trade with neighbors and local shopkeepers. While New York's Governor Moore claimed that domestic production thrived in the rural valley, he noted that farm families had no "design of sending any of it to market." Richard Smith noted that all of the children he saw in the mid-Hudson Valley during his 1770 trip were "clad in homespun, both linen and woolen." Kingston's Benjamin Brink argued that the people of his hometown were "almost entirely clad in garments homespun and made" through the 1780s.(12) Although some farm families spun and wove commercially, most produced for themselves or for neighborhood trade.

Farm families in Kingston, as in rural communities throughout the northeast, engaged in household production in order to meet yearly family needs and to maintain some degree of self-sufficiency and independence from market control. However, most families could not produce everything that they required or wanted. Other means had to be employed in order to earn the cash necessary to purchase needed goods from shopkeepers, pay taxes, or accumulate more real and personal property. Kingston farmers employed both local trade with neighbors and long distance sale of surplus produce to New York City to achieve these goals.

The long distance and local exchange networks were not mutually exclusive (many farmers engaged in both types of trade), and each was critical to the economic well-being of local families and to the town. Although these two trading systems occasionally intersected, they generally served distinct functions in the Kingston economy, and for farm households in particular. The export trade provided farmers with access to larger markets, where their goods brought a higher price than could be obtained locally. Furthermore, exports enabled farmers to earn the credits and income needed to import consumer goods, household items, necessary staples that were unavailable locally, plus some "luxuries." In contrast, local trade was an important means of making up deficits with neighbors and shopkeepers, and often, of exchanging seasonal labor and obtaining locally produced goods.

In addition to serving distinct functions, long distance trade and local trade involved different sets of economic relations, and the rules governing the behavior of the participants in each of the systems varied accordingly. Long distance trade tended to be commercial trade, conducted through formal arrangements between farmers on the one hand, and shopkeepers or city merchants on the other. For Kingston farmers, selling their goods down river usually meant dealing with unknown customers eighty miles away. Therefore, they conducted their affairs in a business-like manner that emphasized a rational calculation of costs and profits, cash payments, interest charges, and the generally prompt settling of accounts. By contrast, local trade involved the bartering of goods and services among neighbors, friends or relatives, and relied on regular face-to-face contact among participants. Consequently, relations in the local system lacked the formal character found in the export trade, and displayed a greater emphasis on reciprocity among farmers, artisans, and storekeepers.(13)

Most Kingston farmers did not sell on long distance commercial markets, but traded their surplus goods and labor locally, with farm neighbors and small shopkeepers. Only 29 percent of Ben Snyder's 79 customers sent produce to New York City on the shopkeeper's sloop in the 1780s, and a mere 12 percent of Abraham Hasbrouck's 186 customers did the same in the 1790s.(14) Furthermore, farmers exchanged agricultural goods or labor services far more regularly than cash. Less than one-half of Ben Snyder's customers purchased their goods in cash, and less than one-third of William van Gaasbeck's 31 patrons did the same, although about half of the payments by William Pick's 54 customers were made in the form of cash.(15)

A variety of circumstances contributed to this relatively high level of non-cash exchanges, including the inability of some residents to obtain cash, a reluctance to use the medium and, finally, merchants' willingness to accept produce and goods that were more widely available to the local producer than was cash. All three explanations deserve consideration.

Although cash circulated in Kingston throughout the period under discussion, certain groups had more use for it and access to it than others. Poorer farmers had less contact with paper currency, and the process reinforced itself since they were consequently more likely to exchange their goods using non-cash means.

Further, in an economy where "cash" was either scarce and overvalued specie, or, as during the revolutionary crisis of the 1780s, available only in various and often unreliable forms, both farmers and storekeepers were well advised to take payment in some form of credit. To accept cash was to accept risk, and it made good economic sense for people to rely on more traditional ways of dealing with the local merchant, exchanging goods and services that were recorded in the merchant's ledger with an equivalent cash value.

Finally, many rural transactions simply did not demand cash since almost all of the products needed by farmers could be acquired without cash by simply trading goods or services with other farmers or shopkeepers. Exchanging goods and services over time allowed community members to prove their ability to meet obligations in ways that were necessary to other farmers. The credits built up through this system became a more important determinant of a farmer's ability to borrow than the use of cash.(16) Although cash was occasionally exchanged among farmers or between merchants and customers, shopkeeper's accounts reveal this to be the exception rather than the usual form of payment.

Most families settled their accounts through bartering goods with shopkeepers or other farm neighbors. Petrus Hendricks, a Kingston carpenter, traded one pig "4 wks old" and "1/4 mutton weight" (together valued at 7s) for one bushel of wheat with Daniel Osterhoudt. Jacobus Bush traded a skipple of buckwheat with William Pick in 1767 in exchange for a pint of rum. Both items were valued at 4s by Pick, who recorded the transaction in his storebook.(17) Pick and Osterhoudt, who entered dozens of exchanges of this nature, were not alone. Kingston weaver Frederick Westbrook accepted cash for his services, but settled 40 percent of his transactions during the 1780's by accepting a certain portion of the linen given to him in exchange for his weaving.(18)

Other Kingston residents who did not settle their accounts in goods employed some skill, such as spinning or weaving. Thirty-three percent of Daniel Osterhoudt's customers in the 1820's resolved some portion of their accounts with the Kingston farmer through spinning. About 20 percent of the customers of Jacobus Cole, a tailor from 1789 through 1831, earned credits from the shopkeeper through spinning. Kingston shoemaker James Paul paid for his [pounds]4 3s of purchases from a local shopkeeper in the 1790s by "shoe work." All of the exchanges between tailor Jacobus Cole and shoemaker Johanis Suyland revolved round their specific skills. More often, a skill was employed to obtain specific goods. Cole did some tailoring for Jacob Brinck in return for 13 pounds of sugar, and worked for Cornelius Cole in exchange for "1 bsh Indian corn" and "4 yards cloth."(19)

Farmers faced both benefits and drawbacks when dealing primarily with neighbors in local markets. One benefit was that there was less commercial risk involved in participation. Since the participants knew each other, they rarely exchanged cash, did not have to rely on long distance credit, and traded goods that were probably reliable. In addition, farmers garnered significant social benefits, since the guarantee of a needed source of heavy labor at harvest time or the spinning done by a neighbor's child often constituted the difference between success and failure in this society.

Further, in the local setting, attempts to get the best "market" price for one's produce, however essential when dealing in long distance networks, were neither wise nor acceptable. This type of behavior might produce short-term profit, but it did so at the expense of both the neighbors on whom an individual would depend for future exchanges and the family's long-term reputation as a trustworthy trading partner. Practices praised as good business when selling produce to New York City, such as withholding grain from the market if the price was too low, brought accusations of forestalling and hoarding when they came into play in dealings among Kingston neighbors.(20)

Local exchange was conducted within a social setting where personal relations, family and individual reputation and the inability to meet all needs through commercial markets militated against "antisocial" economic behavior. In many ways, the social, community, and cultural obligations exhibited within, and demanded from, the local trading networks were more powerful than the commercial responsibilities resulting from long distance exchange.(21)

Although local trade allowed farm households to make up deficits and acquire local goods and labor, it rarely offered commercial profit. Although some farmers earned cash by selling produce to neighbors, most who earned cash did so by selling surplus grain downriver to New York City. Some Kingston residents dealt with merchants from New York City who combed the countryside buying and contracting grain, while larger, commercial farmers, bypassed these middlemen by hiring their own sloops and dealing directly with city merchants. Most farmers could not afford these methods, however, and instead sold their goods through local storekeepers who also acted as retailers for the local population.(22)

One such storekeeper, indeed, Ulster County's most prominent shopkeeper, was Kingston's Abraham Hasbrouck, Jr., who opened his store in 1797 at Kingston Landing. The Hasbrouck store served the towns of Kingston, Marbletown, and Hurley, which had a combined population of about 8,500 people in 1799.(23) Hasbrouck either consigned his customer's products to New York City merchants or marketed under his own account produce he stockpiled from exchanges with customers.

The Hasbrouck accounts offer a view of farmers' relations to the market often missing in historical studies, studies which have tended to privilege the activities of larger, commercial producers. Many studies of farmers' economic behavior have been based on farm account books, which tend to be, in the words of Gloria Main, the records of "busy, successful, men."(24) An examination of the account books of shopkeepers like Hasbrouck, who dealt extensively with both large and smaller farmers, allows for an exploration of farmers' behavior as both producers and consumers, and provides insight into the factors that guided their choices when producing, trading and selling. Two years of Hasbrouck's extensive account books have been selected for detailed analysis: 1799 and 1820.(25) Systematic analysis of these accounts, and linkage to census and tax returns, reveal the type of goods produced, the volume of production, and the family composition and socio-economic status of Hasbrouck customers.

In 1799, Hasbrouck recorded 600 business transactions with 186 customers. By 1820 his business had increased significantly, involving 601 customers who conducted over 3,800 transactions. Hasbrouck recorded all exchanges in his daybooks that listed the goods purchased by his customers and the credits farmers earned through the sale of farm products.

As with smaller shopkeepers' accounts involved in local trade, cash rarely exchanged hands between Hasbrouck and his customers. Cash appeared in 18.2 percent of 1,799 accounts, and this changed very little during the next twenty-one years: in 1820 only one in five (20.4 percent) customers used cash at Hasbrouck's store. Many farmers found it more convenient to settle accounts with goods, such as wheat and flour. Indeed, agricultural goods represented the most common source of credits recorded in Hasbrouck's ledgers in 1799, appearing in about 25 percent of accounts. Barrel staves, constructed by families during slack time on the farm, appeared in some 21 percent of customer's accounts. Textiles, clothing, and other home-manufactured products made up a very small percentage of the trade of Kingston's residents, turning up in less then 5 percent of customer's accounts.
Table 1

Proportions of Hasbrouck Accounts with Credits in Various
Categories, 1799 and 1820

 1799 1820
Type of Credits (%) (%)

Agricultural goods 24.1 26.1
Barrel staves/oak wood 21.5 53.4
Textiles, clothing 5.3 2.6
Service 1.0 1.4
Cash payments 18.2 20.4
Total Cases 186 601

Source: Abraham Hasbrouck Account Books, New York Historical

Hasbrouck's customers used two options when trading goods at his store: exchanging through Hasbrouck's local accounts or consigning goods for long distance trade. In 1799, 12 percent of Hasbrouck's 186 customers sent their produce to New York City via his sloops, but by 1820, this proportion had increased to 27 percent (165 of 601 customers). Throughout this period farm goods comprised the majority of exports on Hasbrouck's sloops. Barrel staves and shingles comprised about one-third of all exports, while the products of home manufacture constituted about 1 percent.

Although long distance, commercial sale was open to anyone, farm families who actively engaged in this trade were a minority in Kingston, and they were different from local traders in a variety of significant ways. In 1799, local customers averaged about E 10 in agricultural credits, about half the [pounds]19 earned by those who used Hasbrouck's sloop. Local traders averaged [pounds]4 5s of barrel staves, much less than the [pounds]12 9s earned by Hasbrouck's sloop customers.

In 1799, those who dealt on Hasbrouck's sloop produced and exchanged many more goods than did those who traded exclusively in local markets. A mere 12 percent of Hasbrouck's customers exchanged 75 percent of the agricultural products that passed through his store that year. In addition, they traded about 70 percent of the barrel staves.

Closer analysis of the customers who traded goods at the Hasbrouck store reveals certain exchange patterns. According to the 1798 Kingston Tax Assessment, the mean assessment of Hasbrouck's customers was [pounds]194 13s. Although slightly higher than the town average of [pounds]188 16s, these numbers indicate that Hasbrouck's customers were representative of the general Kingston population.(26) However, the mean assessment of those Hasbrouck customers who regularly exchanged agricultural goods was [pounds]161 8s, while farmers who earned stave credits were assessed at [pounds]169 8s. Not surprisingly, Hasbrouck customers who used cash at his store were assessed significantly higher, an average of [pounds]297 1s.
Table 2

Average Credits for Sloop and Local Customers, 1799

Product Sloop Local

Agric. [pounds]19 19s (13) [pounds]10 15s (30)
Textile 0 0 0 0
Staves [pounds]12 9s (15) [pounds] 4 5s (29)
Service 0 0 0 0
Total Cases 23 163

Source: Hasbrouck Accounts.

Further analysis supports these findings. Hasbrouck customers in the bottom quarter on the tax list had primarily agricultural and stave credits. Farmers in the middle quartiles also earned primarily agricultural and stave credits, although they were of substantially higher value. Neither the poor nor the middling group tended to use much cash; indeed, only two of thirty-two farmers in the lowest quartile earned any cash credits. Those in the top quartile were less likely to exchange agricultural goods, but those who did so traded goods worth four times the value of those exchanged by the bottom quartile. Quite simply, the wealthier customers of Hasbrouck generally settled accounts in cash, and the poorer, in goods.(See Table 3)

What were the differences between a "commercial" farmer who consigned goods on Hasbrouck's sloop and a farmer who traded locally? Some difference [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 3 OMITTED] involved the amount of capital resources and land one possessed. Take the case of Nicholas Hardenbergh, a commercial farmer who traded regularly with Hasbrouck. Hardenbergh owned 272 acres (almost 100 more than the average Kingston farmer), twelve cows, seventeen sheep, two spinning wheels, a loom, as well as a substantial amount of dairying equipment. With the help of his wife, four children and two slaves, Hardenbergh produced food and textiles for home use, and grain, flour, and barrel staves for trade and sale. Hardenbergh regularly did business at Hasbrouck's store, trading both locally and consigning on his sloop. Assessed [pounds]292 (which placed him in the top 25 percent of Kingstonians in 1799) somewhat above the [pounds]222 average for a sloop customer, Hardenbergh routinely paid Hasbrouck in cash for purchases. In 1799 he sold almost three times the amount of produce and staves of smaller local traders.

Wilhelm DuBois and Peter Burhans also traded with Hasbrouck, but in significantly smaller amounts than their more affluent neighbor, Hardenbergh. DuBois or Burhans were assessed roughly the [pounds]171 average of Hasbrouck's local traders, and owned 152 acres and 139 acres respectively. DuBois owned a slave, who, along with DuBois' wife and three children, labored in the fields, tended four cows and seven sheep, and worked a spinning wheel. Burhans, his wife and four children (no slaves), owned five cows, a spinning wheel, but no sheep. Both farmers traded goods at the Hasbrouck store, but all their transactions were local; neither consigned on Hasbrouck's sloop. Burhans never paid cash in any of the seven years he traded with Hasbrouck (1798-1804), nor did he trade barrel staves, although DuBois did.(27)

Although it is not possible to determine the personal and real property of each of Hasbrouck's customers (local tax records do not record acreage or personal property, simply an assessed value), the available evidence clarifies patterns of who sold commercially and who did not. Families that sold commercially on Hasbrouck's sloop produced and traded substantially more grain and flour than local traders, tended to possess larger than average amounts of property, were assessed on average [pounds]222 (about [pounds]35 higher than the average Kingstonian) and owned five slaves. Although these commercial farmers also engaged in local trade with Hasbrouck and smaller farmers, they oriented large portions of their production and sale toward the city market. Further, unlike most local traders, they used cash at his store.

On the other hand, farmers who traded only locally with Hasbrouck possessed smaller farms, had an average assessment of [pounds]171, fulfilled their own needs first and traded surplus with neighbors or shopkeepers, and rarely used cash in these exchanges. Although most local traders did not own slaves, those who did averaged three per family.

Through the early nineteenth century, with little competition from western farmers, Kingston farmers like Hardenbergh and DuBois produced and traded agricultural goods much as they had throughout the eighteenth century. The basic differentials persisted with smaller farmers alternating and combining home production with neighborhood trade, and larger producers doing the same but also selling commercially. However, the completion of various transportation systems in the early nineteenth century challenged the mid-valley's once dominant position in grain production, and by extension, challenged farm families' traditional production and trade practices.

By 1820, 278 turnpike companies had built over 4,000 miles of road in New York and pulled fertile farmland from the rural interior into direct market competition with former privileged producing regions like the Hudson Valley. Within the decade, both the Erie Canal and, even more significant for mid-Hudson farmers, the Delaware and Hudson Canal, had opened up the rich, grain-producing western hinterland to the New York City market, in direct competition with valley farm families.(28)

No group was impacted more significantly by these changes than the farming population. Kingston had been gradually experiencing the effects of intensifying western competition for almost two decades, a competition which was re-orienting the production and trade of many farmers. By the 1820s, after generations of neglectful farming methods and general soil exhaustion, wheat yields in the mid-valley had decreased from a high of 15 to 20 bushels per acre in the eighteenth century, to about 10 bushels. In contrast, yields in western New York counties now competing with the valley climbed to some 20 bushels an acre.(29)

Farmers attempted to offset these losses in productivity and remain competitive with western producers by putting all available land under cultivation, some of it inferior land that had been previously depleted through pasturing or other agricultural production. Although Kingston farmers cultivated roughly the same amount of land throughout the period, almost 12 acres, farmers in Kingston's immediate hinterland increased the land under cultivation from 9 acres in the 1780s to 13 acres by the 1820s.(30) However, this was probably the maximum amount of land farmers could hope to cultivate, and with production per acre roughly half that of western producers, many valley farmers could no longer compete effectively in the grain trade.

The new economic competition showed in the types and amounts of goods farmers produced as well as the way they sold and traded these goods. Shopkeepers' accounts reveal that Kingston was still primarily an agricultural area, with farm produce comprising most of customers' trade. However, in response to the new market opportunities, the proportion of Hasbrouck's customers who produced for commercial sale had doubled since the late eighteenth century, and the differences between these farmers and those who traded primarily on local markets were becoming more pronounced.

Farm families that sent their produce to New York City via Hasbrouck in 1820 now sold seven times more agricultural goods and five times the number of wooden staves than their smaller farm neighbors who traded locally. In addition, customers that utilized Hasbrouck's sloop used three times as much cash as their local market neighbors. Further, these long distance traders - now 27 percent of Hasbrouck's customers - produced about 90 percent of the agricultural exports and spent 70 percent of the [pounds]1,627 worth of cash used for purchases at the store. These farmers were commercial producers and, by 1820, dominated Hasbrouck's trade.

The developing commercial market, added to the new western competition, was influencing the size of farmers' production, as some households responded to new competitive demands by producing and trading more grain and flour. Even smaller producers who could not increase their agricultural production were affected by this developing "market revolution," however. As many farmers found it difficult to compete with western farmers in the grain trade, they diversified their production in order to meet market demands and maintain their standard of living.
Table 4

Average Credits for Sloop and Local Customers, 1820

Product Sloop Local

Agric. [pounds]21 4s (137) [pounds]3 5s (88)
Textile 9 5s (13) 9 7s (13)
Staves 15 16s (90) 2 15s (230)
Service 1 10s (2) 3 17s (8)
Cash 22 9s (51) 7 2s (68)
Total Cases 165 436

Source: Hasbrouck Account Books.

Some in the Kingston area increased their textile production for market sale. Ulster County families increased the amount of home produced cloth, as production rose from 5.78 yards of wool per capita in 1810, to 6.08 yards in 1820, to 8.6 yards in 1825.(31) This increase primarily reveals an intensification of production within some households, not a growth m the number of families involved in this form of manufacturing, since the proportion of homes with textile-producing equipment actually declined in Kingston from the 1780s through the 1790s. In the 1780s, 92 percent of Kingston inventories contained spinning wheels and 64 percent looms, but by the last decade of the eighteenth century, 76 percent of families owned a spinning wheel, and about 40 percent looms. Through the 1820s, these proportions remained virtually the same, although the amount of home-produced cloth continued to increase. (See Table 5) Other Kingston families became involved in the commercial textile industry by increasing sheep-raising and wool production, while others still increased their production of dairy and livestock.(32)

Nevertheless, textile manufacturing, wool production, and commercial dairying (although undoubtedly important to the economic success and survival of participating households) remained a relatively small part of the Kingston-area economy. Although shopkeepers exported more textiles in the 1820s than they had earlier, the increases were modest. Most domestic manufactures were still consumed at home, or traded locally among neighbors. However, for those families that did increase production, they were re-orienting household labor, time, and energy from traditional agricultural pursuits toward domestic manufacturing.

If most Hasbrouck customers did not respond to market changes by producing more agricultural goods or textiles, how did they settle accounts with their shopkeeper, obtain extra cash, or purchase consumer goods? As late as 1820 only one in five Hasbrouck customers used cash at his store, scarcely more than the proportion of customers who used cash twenty years earlier. Other Kingston shopkeeper accounts reflect the still limited state of a cash economy in the mid-valley through the 1820s.(33) Further, the same proportion of customers sold or traded agricultural goods in 1799 and 1820, and even if some Hasbrouck customers increased their production and commercial sale, most did not. How were ordinary farm families affected by the demands and opportunities of the growing market economy?
Table 5

Proportion of Probates with Textile Producing Equipment, Ulster
County, 1776-1820

 1776-1790 1791-1805 1806-1820

Kingston 12.0 11.3 15.5
neighboring towns(*) 15.2 17.0 14.3
Kingston 64.3 43.5% 34.6%
neighboring towns 46.2 38.8% 46.9%
Spinning wheels
Kingston 92.9 77.0% 76.9%
neighboring towns 74.4 67.2% 76.6%
Kingston 14 23 26
neighboring towns 39 67 64

* Neighboring towns include the ten other towns in Ulster County.

Source: Probate Inventories of Ulster County, 1776-1820, Ulster
County Clerk's Office.

Consider the case of John Van Keuren, a farmer who traded with Hasbrouck from 1811 through 1827. Van Keuren traded small amounts of grain, flour, and eggs in exchange for consumer goods, averaging [pounds]2 18s in credits per year. On occasion, though not every year, he sold Hasbrouck some barrel staves. From 1816 through 1827 he brought an increasing number of staves to the shopkeeper each year. Although he never stopped selling farm produce, barrel staves comprised a growing portion of his credits.(34) Van Keuren was not alone. In the late eighteenth century only 20 percent of Hasbrouck's customers traded staves, while 25 percent traded farm goods. During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, while the percentage of customers exchanging farm goods remained the same, the proportion of families producing and trading staves increased dramatically. By 1820 over 50 percent of customers traded or sold barrel staves. Further, not only were more customers trading staves, but staves were forming a larger portion of customers' accounts. Staves accounted for only 25 percent of the value of farmers' accounts in 1799, while agricultural produce was 60 percent. By 1820, as agricultural produce declined to 45 percent of the value of farmers' accounts, staves had climbed to over 30 percent.

Increasing the production of wooden staves was an attempt by households in this long-settled farming community to respond to the challenges of the sharpened market competition of the early nineteenth century. Families in tenuous economic positions throughout rural New England and the mid-Atlantic were faced with similar circumstances. In those regions, families took part in the outwork production of a variety of products, including shoes, textiles, and palmleaf hats.(35) With less land to offer children and an inability to satisfy basic needs through agricultural production, farm families devoted increased energy into non-agricultural pursuits, part-time trades and outwork production, or, in the case of Kingston-area farmers, the production of barrel staves.

Manufacturing barrel staves, which valley farmers had done since the mid-seventeenth century, fit the seasonal nature of farm life perfectly. During the winter months, farm families rived barrel staves from the oak wood they cut on their property, allowing them to do their work in the fields and use slack times for the construction of a marketable product. Stave production required very little investment of capital, since the materials were the oak wood that was being cut down anyway, and further, the tools needed for production were modest and unsophisticated. Barrel stave construction needed no factory, and throughout its heyday in the valley remained centered in the household. Kingston farmers produced and traded red oak staves, weaker, cruder staves used primarily for grain and flour barrels, not the white oak staves used for "wet" barrels or kegs.(36)

Constructing and trading barrel staves, although a manufactured item, was significantly different from braiding palm-leaf hats, weaving cloth, or binding shoes. These latter forms of home industry often entailed working for rural manufacturers who owned the materials, controlled the production, and paid the wages. Even if there was more freedom for "outworkers" than factory employees, one was essentially working for someone else. Although many families succeeded in integrating production into the household economy, scholars of these industries have observed that merchant controlled outwork was one of the first crucial steps toward capitalist productive relations in the countryside.(37)

Manufacturing staves was another matter, more akin to agricultural by-industries like cheese and butter production.(38) Like these other home industries, stave manufacturing enabled producers to maintain a significant degree of freedom and control in their production. The wood traded grew on the farmer's land, the work was done according to the farm families' schedule, and the profit earned from sale or trade was primarily theirs. Stave producers not only maintained control over this production, but whether by choice or by circumstance, they were able to avoid dependence on employers and laboring for wages. Further, farm families traded staves with shopkeepers like Hasbrouck much as they had flour or grain, earning cash or credits in shopkeepers' accounts, so no new methods of marketing had to be employed.

Nevertheless, even as stave manufacturing allowed farm families to maintain the integrity of the household productive system, it also increased farm households' relationship to the market. These staves were not simply the surplus farm produce of earlier years, used to balance accounts, but also a commodity, sometimes produced for bartering with neighbors, often for market sale. Even if the methods families employed to produce staves did not change, the size of the trade reveals families were spending more than just their "slack" time constructing these items. As scholars have noted for other forms of home industry, stave production was re-orienting the internal workings of the household productive system. As farm families devoted more attention and time to stave production, or other non-agricultural pursuits, they were devoting more of the households' productive energies toward market involvement.(39)

Further, the increasing reliance on stave manufacturing and other non-agricultural industries reveals changes not only within households, but in the character of the Kingston-area economy and its relationship to the developing national market. A maturing market system now linked formerly separate regions of the northern countryside into an inter-connected and increasingly complex commercial network. Recognizing that agriculturally rich western New York "must eventually effect more for the growth and support of this village [Kingston] than our own county," Kingston's commercial classes promoted the construction of turnpikes and canals which would bring some of the produce of this region through Kingston where it would be milled, packaged, and reshipped down the Hudson to the city.(40) Kingston staves were not manufactured to package valley grain, but for western produce. Although agriculture continued to play an important role in the local economy, the "market revolution" ushered in a new stage in the town's development as a servicing and shipping community closely connected to, and interdependent with, other economic regions.

Regardless of the great market demand for barrels to package western grain, there was no long-term supply of wood on the local farms to meet this demand. Much like other extractive industries, small-scale stave production essentially expired when the forests on valley farms were exhausted. Indeed, production had run its course in Kingston by 1840. By that year, staves were a minor part of production on the farms, and a small part of trade at shopkeepers' stores. At this point mid-valley families once again altered their production to meet the demands of the market, with some turning to dairy, poultry, and livestock production oriented toward the city market down river.(41) Others left farming altogether, finding employment in recently opened bluestone quarries, on the bustling D & H Canal, or the new cement industry.(42) The ongoing "market revolution" continued to reshape the economic orientation and productive strategies of valley households.

Between the years 1790 and 1820, mid-Hudson Valley farmers altered their agricultural practices in order to meet the needs and demands of the growing national market. Although the "market revolution" encouraged commercially oriented agricultural production and increased reliance on capitalist-controlled forms of outwork in New England and other mid-Atlantic regions, evidence from the mid-Hudson Valley reveals a somewhat more complex pattern. Some farmers increased agricultural production, but this group remained a distinct minority of the Kingston population. Quite simply, many families could not compete as commercial agricultural producers and were economically unable to produce at this level. For the most part, it was the "busy, successful, farmers" who figure so prominently in the accounts of Winifred Rothenberg and others who became large market producers. Analysis of the economic activities of the many farmers who were neither so busy nor so successful yields a more varied portrait of rural economic behavior, one that highlights the need to exercise caution when making generalizations based upon the experience of families at the vanguard of commercial production.

Even if most farm families did not become large agricultural producers, the market revolution impacted their lives significantly. No longer able to competitively produce and trade agricultural goods, farm families diversified their production, turning to various forms of rural manufacturing in order to maintain their standard of living. This production brought even these smaller households closer to the market than they had been in the eighteenth century, as they now responded to new demands and opportunities that had not existed earlier. However, unlike their New England neighbors who increasingly became wage-laborers in capitalist "outwork" networks, valley farm families remained relatively independent of this form of productive relations, at least through the 1830s. Like families that specialized in butter-making and dairying, stave-manufacturing allowed farm households to maintain a significant degree of control in their production.

However, even as the market revolution restructured economic life, certain patterns of trade and production persisted in the mid-Hudson Valley. Many families continued to organize their production around the home, maintaining control over what was produced and the methods employed. Most families still traded locally through the 1820s, and did not ship large amounts of produce or staves to New York City, although much of their produce ended there eventually. Indeed, a vibrant local trading system, centered around household production and barter with neighbors and storekeepers, continued to exist along with the more commercially-driven New York City trade.

Nevertheless, Kingston-area farm families were changing the types of goods produced, increasing the amount of land they farmed, and re-directing their time, energy, and resources to producing goods that were oriented toward the market. Although farm families responded variably to the new market demands, and many still maintained traditional methods of production and trade, most were altering their production in response to the needs and demands of the "market revolution."

Department of History Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-1387


1. Leading statements in the debate are Christopher Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780-1860 (Ithaca, 1990); Winifred Rothenberg, From Market Places to a Market Economy: The Transformation of Rural Massachusetts: 1750-1850 (Chicago, 1992); Allan Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism (Charlottesville, 1992); James Henretta, Origins of American Capitalism (Boston, 1991); Paul G. E. Clemens and Lucy Simler, "Rural Labor and the Farm Household in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1750-1820," in Stephen Innes, ed., Work and Labor in Early America (Chapel Hill, 1988), pp.106-143. For a fine overview, see Michael Merrill, "Putting Capitalism in its Place," William and Mary Quarterly 3d Ser., lii (1995): 315-326.

2. For farmers' marketing strategies, see Rothenberg, From Market Places to a Market Economy, pp.80-95; Clemens and Simler, "Rural Labor and the Farm Household," p. 111; Mary Schweitzer, Custom and Contract:Household, Government and the Economy in Colonial Pennsylvania (New York, 1987), pp. 21,64-65. On the rise of "outwork," see Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism, pp. 187-189; Thomas Dublin, Transforming Women's Work: New England Lives in the Industrial Revolution (Ithaca, 1994), pp. 71-75.

3. Rothenberg, From Market Places to a Market Economy; Clemens and Simler, "Rural Labor and the Farm Household in Chester County," pp. 106-143.

4. This large proportion of freehold farmers contrasts sharply with Pennsylvania, where some 25-30 percent of householders were tenants. See Clemens and Simler, "Rural Labor and the Farm Household," pp. 112; Simler, "Tenancy in Colonial Pennsylvania: The Case of Chester County," William and Mary Quarterly (1986): 542-544, 550-51,569. It also contrasts sharply with many areas of New York. See Sung Bok Kim, Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York (Chapel Hill, 1978), pp. 39-40, 235-37.

5. Adolph Benson, ed., Peter Kalm's Travels in North America: The English Version of 1770 (New York, 1987), pp. 335, 647.

6. Thoughtful discussions of rural life and economic strategies of farm households include Clemens and Simler, "Rural Labor and the Farm Household in Chester County," pp. 106-143; David Weiman, "Families, Farms, and Rural Society in Pre-Industrial America," in George Grantham and Carol Leonard, eds., Agrarian Organization in the Century of Industrialization (Greenwich, Conn., 1989); James Henretta, "Families and Farms: Mentalite in Pre-Industrial America," William and Mary Quarterly 35 (1978): 3-30; Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism, pp.13-59.

7. Two hundred and thirty-three probate inventories survive for Ulster County (63 from Kingston; 170 from other Ulster towns) from the period 1776 through 1820 and serve as the basis for the analysis of agricultural and household production. Ulster County Probate Inventories and Accounts, Ulster County Surrogate Court, Kingston, New York, Boxes 9-49.

8. George Schumacher, The Northern Farmer and his Markets in the Late Colonial Period (New York, 1975) p.37; Percy Wells Bidwell and John Falconer, History of Agriculture in the Northern United States (New York, 1941), p. 115; David Ellis, Landlord and Farmers in the Hudson Mohawk Region: 1790-1850 (Ithaca, 1967), p. 104. Landholding records for forty-one Ulster residents reveal an average holding of 179 acres. The estate size for this group was determined by linking these probate decedents with Ulster County Deed Books, Volume 6 (FF) 1737-1770 and 7 (GG) 1765-1780, Ulster County Surrogate Court Office, and the "Records of the Corporation of the Town of Kingston," volume 3 (1767-1798), Ulster County Clerk's Office.

9. 48/90 inventories averaged 149.3 bushels of wheat, and 29/90 inventories averaged 116.6 bushels of rye for the period 1791-1805. Nineteen recorded acreage of grain, averaging 11.3 acres. Ulster County Probate Inventories, 1791-1805. Schumacher estimated that northeastern farmers cultivated 7 to 8 acres, providing a yield of 87 bushels, Northern Farmer, pp.ii, 37-41.

10. Gov. Moore to Board of Trade, 1767, quoted in Victor Clark, History of Manufacturers in the United States, 2 Volumes (New York, 1929), 1:16-17.

11. The material on textile equipment is found in Table 5. The quotation is from Governor Moore s report on the rural New York economy, 1767, in Clark, History of Manufacturers, 1:16

12. On New York textile production, see Moore to Board of Trade, 1767, in Clark, History of Manufacturers, 1:16; William Smith, Journal from New York to Albany, reprinted in Nelson Greene, ed., History of the Valley of the Hudson (Chicago, 1931), 2 vol., 1:491-92; Benjamin Brink, Early History of Saugerties: 1660-1825 (Kingston, 1902), pp. 226-27.

13. For thorough discussions of local trade and the meaning it held for its participants see Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism, pp. 30-33; Weiman, "Families, Farms, and Rural Society in Pre-Industrial America," pp. 258-260; Kulikoff, The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism, pp. 19-23.

14. Benjamin Snyder Account Book, 1768-1795, and Account Books of Abraham Hasbrouck, Volume 2, 1799, New York Historical Society.

15. Snyder Account Book; Jarman and William Pick Account Book, 1765-1798, Ulster County Collection, NYHS; William Van Gaasbeck Account Book, 1790-1808, Kingston Senate House, Kingston, New York.

16. Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism, pp. 67-71; Daniel Vickers, Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts (Chapel Hill, 1994), p. 64.

17. Accounts of Jacobus Bush in Pick Account Book; Petrus Hendricks in Daniel Osterhoudt Book of Accounts, 1791-1820, Kingston Senate House; Account Book of John Masten (shoemaker), 1781-1828, NYHS.

18. Daybook of Frederick Westbrook (weaver), 1779-1782, Kingston Senate House.

19. Daniel Osterhoudt Book of Accounts, 1791-1820, Senate House, James Paul's accounts can be found in the William Van Gaasbeck Account Book, 1790-1808; Jacobus Cole Book of Accounts, 1789-1831, Senate House.

20. Kingston Rising Sun, February 24, 1797, cited in Merrill, "Cash is Good to Eat," pp. 59, 71.

21. See Vickers, Farmers and Fishermen, pp. 63-64, 245-46; Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism, pp. 31-33; Henretta, "Families and Farms," pp. 15-16, 32; Martin Bruegel, Uncertainty, Pluriactivity, and Neighborhood Exchange in the Rural Hudson Valley in the Late Eighteenth Century," New York History (1996): 268-73.

22. Cathy Matson, "'Damned Scoundrels' and 'Libertisme of Trade': Freedom and Regulation in Colonial New York's Fur and Grain Trades," William and Mary Quarterly 50 (1994): 391-392, 408-409.

23. Nathaniel B. Sylvester, The History of Ulster County, New York (Philadelphia, 1880), pp. 86, 306-309. The town of Kingston contained 4,545 residents, Marbletown some 2,981, and Hurley, 934. United States Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, New York, (Washington, 1908).

24. Gloria Main's phrase, which was not a criticism of these sources, is contained in her "Gender, Work, and Wages in Colonial New England," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 51 (1994): 45.

25. Volumes 2 (1799), 17 and 18 (1820), Hasbrouck Account Books, New York Historical Society, New York City. I have chosen these two ledgers because they allow linkage to the Federal Census of 1800 and 1820, as well as available tax records.

26. One hundred and twenty-seven of Hasbrouck's customers appeared on the 1798 tax assessment, which assessed 638 families. 1798 Assessments, NYHS.

27. Wilhelm DuBois was assessed [pounds]190, and Peter Burhans [pounds]162. The background material for these farmers is based on the Probate Inventories and Accounts of Peter Burhans (1806), Wilhelm DuBois (1810), and Nicholas Hardenbergh (1810), Ulster County Clerk's Office; Ulster County Deed Book, volumes 7 (GG) 1765-1780 and 8 (HH) 17801790, Ulster County Surrogate Court Office; "Records of the Corporation of the Town of Kingston," volume 3 (1767-1798) and volume 4 (1798-1816), UCCO; 1798 Tax Assessments, NYHS.

28. L. Ray Gunn, Decline of Authority: Public Economic Policy and Political Development in New York State (Ithaca, N.Y., 1988), pp.36-37; Stuart Blumin, The Urban Thresh. old: Growth and Change in a Nineteenth Century American Community (Chicago, 1976), chapter 3.

29. Andrea Zimmerman, "Nineteenth Century Wheat Production in Four New York State Regions," Hudson Valley Regional Review (Sept., 1988): 59-60; Ellis, Landlord and Farmers, pp. 186-87; Schumacher, Northern Farmer and His Markets, p. 34.

30. Kingston farmers moved from 11.1 acres (6/14 inventories) in the period 1776-1790 to 11.6 acres from 1791-1820 (11/49). Farmers throughout Ulster County increased their acreage from 9.1 (13/39) to 13.3 (56/134) during the same period. Probate Inventories and Accounts, UCCO.

31. Michael Merrill, "The Transformation of Ulster County, 1750-1850" (unpublished paper, 1985); Rolla Milton Tryon, Household Manufactures in the United States, 1640-1860 (New York, 1917), pp. 170-72, 288-89; James Henretta, "The War for Independence and American Economic Development," in The Economy of Early America: The Revolutionary Period, 1763-1790, ed. Ronald Hoffman, John J. McCusker, Russell Menard and Peter Albert (Charlottesville, 1988), pp. 73-4.

32. Ulysses P. Hedrick, A History of Agriculture in the State of New York (New York, 1933), pp. 196-197, details the growth of commercial sheep-raising in the valley, while David Ellis, History of New York State (Ithaca, 1967), pp. 168, 272 explores dairy and livestock production.

33. Thirty-six percent of William Pick's customers used cash in the 1820s, but 54 percent of William Van Gaasbeck's customers did the same. Account Book of William Pick; Van Gaasbeck Account Book.

34. Hasbrouck Accounts, 1811-1827, NYHS.

35. Mary Blewett, Men, Women and Work: Class, Gender, and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780-1910 (Urbana, 1988), pp. 3-19; Dublin, Transforming Women's Work, chapter 2.

36. Hedrick, History of Agriculture in New York, p. 138; Edwin Tunis, The Colonial Craftsmen and the Beginnings of American Industry (New York, 1965), pp. 22-23.

37. Clark, Roots of Rural Capitalism, pp. 185-189; Dublin, "Rural Putting-Out Work in Early Nineteenth Century New England: Women and the Transition to Capitalism in the Countryside," New England Quarterly 63 (1991): 571-73.

38. Joan M. Jensen, Loosening the Bonds: Mid-Atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850 (New Haven, 1986); Nancy Grey Osterud, Bonds of Community: The Lives of Farm Women in Nineteenth Century New York (Ithaca, 1991).

39. Jensen, Loosening the Bonds, pp.93-94.

40. Ulster Plebian, November 22, 1817; Ulster Palladium, March 9, 1821.

41. In 1839 only 7 percent of Hasbrouck's 159 customers traded wooden staves, 13 percent sold eggs, 7 percent traded dairy products, and just 10 percent traded flour. Hasbrouck Account Books, vols.31, 32, NYHS.

42. Nathaniel B. Sylvester, History of Ulster County, New York (Philadelphia, 1880), pp. 200-206; Blumin, Urban Threshold, pp. 50-55.
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