American Indian Factory Records

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United States Gotoarrow.png American Indian Research Gotoarrow.png Factory Records

An official early policy of the federal government was to trade with the Native Americans. A system of factories (government-owned trading posts) was established and maintained, with the hope that such a system would create harmony with the tribes and make them more dependent upon government supplied goods, and thereby more subject to its control.


Factories existed from 1795 to 1822 in the South and the newly opened Old Northwest Territory. The government trader, or factor, was to provide quality goods at a fair price, usually only slightly above cost, to the Indians. Goods included tools, clothing, tobacco, utensils, and sometimes weapons and ammunition. These were traded for animal skins and fur.

The factory system was abolished by the federal government in 1822, following the War of 1812 and the financial Panic of 1819.

Factories or Trading Posts

List of factories and their years of operation in the order of their establishment. [1]

Colerain, 1795-97 (Creek)
Tellico, 1795-1807 (Cherokee)
Fort Wilkinson, 1797-1806 (Creek)
Chickasaw Bluffs Factory, 1802-18
Detroit Factory, 1802-5
Fort St. Stephens, 1802-15 (Choctaw)
Fort Wayne, 1802-12
Arkansas Factory, 1805-10
Belle Fontaine Facoty, 1805-9
Chicago Factory, 1805-22
Natchitoches-Sulphur Fork Factory, 1805-23
Ocmulgee Old Fields, 1806-9 (Creek)
Sandusky Factory, 1806-12
Hiwassee, 1807-10 (Cherokee)
Fort Madison Factory, 1808-15
Mackinac (Michilimackinac) Factory, 1808-12
Osage Factory, 1808-22 (Fort Clark)
Fort Hawkins, 1809-16 (Creek)
Green Bay Factory, 1815-23
Prairie de Chien Factory, 1815-22
Fort Confederation, 1816-22  (Choctaw)
Fort Mitchell, 1816-20  (Creek)
Fort Edwards Factory, 1818-23
Sulphur Fork, 1818-22
Spadra Bluffs, 1818-22
Spadre Bluffs, (Illinois Bayou) Factory, 1818-24
Fort Armstrong, 1821-22
Marais des Cygnes, 1821-1822


The factor at each trading house was supposed to keep rather extensive financial records for the time, including day books, ledgers, journals, letter books, cashbooks, and invoice books. Not all were diligent in keeping such records and few recorded the names of individual Indians in the records they did keep. Most of the records of the factories were general or reports of their activity. While these records likely will not provide detailed information about individual Indians, they do contain history of the traders, the trading posts, and the tribes with which they dealt. Most of the records which have survived from the factories are in the National Archives in the Records of the Office of Indian Trade, 1795-1830.


  1. Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Compiled by Edward E. Hill. National Archives and Records Service General Services Administration. Washington, D.C. C. 1981. page 20.