Early American Trade with China

Trade Routes & Trading Strategies

Economics of the China Trade

Contrasting Views of Trade

Life on a Merchant Ship


Getting Rich in the China Trade

Trade with China was lucrative for only a short, but critical, time in U.S. history. The merchants who made the trip to China and took advantage of the dampening effect of the Napoleonic Wars on European trade found that just a few successful voyages to China were enough to make them millionaires. When, in 1998, American Heritage published its list of the 40 wealthiest Americans throughout history, three of them (two in the top ten) made their fortunes in the early China trade.

“Getting Rich in the China Trade” gives students a brief biography of these merchantmen and suggests sources they can use to find out how these men used their money to invest in the development of the United States. Students will discover that these individuals invested their money in business ventures, real estate, and infrastructure in the United States. Astor and Girard helped finance the War of 1812 and avert the financial collapse of the United States.


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