As I have mentioned before, in the early 19th century, store customers often paid for goods with produce or home-made items. They literally "traded" for what they bought. Sometimes such transactions involved transferring credit to third parties to pay for services rendered, and it was up to the storekeeper to keep track of many complicated debit and credit transactions. I remember seeing such an account book at a store at Old Sturbridge Village and being amazed at the complexity of the entries.
Here is what I found on the subject of "trading" on an Old Sturbridge Village document online:
Trading was an important aspect of the American scene, from which rural communities were by no means insulated. Indeed, as one of Knight's own books states, "commerce is as important a profession for a young man as the ministry, medicine or the law." At least twice a year, Asa Knight travelled the more than one hundred miles to Boston to exchange the agricultural and handmade goods from his Dummerston customers for imported and manufactured items." - Caroline Stoat, "An Introduction to the Asa Knight Store at Old Sturbridge Village"
And here's what I wrote about this in A Buss from Lafayette:
"Now, then, Miss Clara Hargraves. What can I do for you today?" he said in a cheerful tone.
I gave him the order and explained that we would be paying with strawberry jam in the near future. Mr. Towne nodded and wrote down all the items in his huge ledger book. Its pages were covered with complicated patterns of words and numbers in red and black ink.
- A Buss from Lafayette, Copyright 2016 by Dorothea Jensen