When frontier Franklinton was founded in 1797 at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, commerce and trade were scant.
An early history recounted some of the difficulties.
"Many of the early settlers went personally to Chillicothe to buy their flour or salt. Few of them indulged in the luxury of "storegoods"; their clothing was mostly homemade. Implements of husbandry were bought, by those able to buy them, of the traders in Franklinton. ... The risks of transportation were considerable, but prices were high and profits large.
"The exchange of trinkets and cheap, showy stuffs for the peltries and wild fruits brought in by the Indians formed an important and lucrative traffic."
All this changed in 1812. That year, the Ohio General Assembly decided it needed a home more centrally located in the state.
After a lengthy search, the legislature decided to create a new capital city across the river from Franklinton. The new town was called Columbus.
"The War of 1812 imparted a great stimulus to trade in Franklinton. ... Money was plenty while the war lasted, and labor in great demand. The limited supplies of local produce found ready sale at good prices, to the purveyors of the Northwestern Army. The founding of the capital, coming at the same time, added no little to the general thrift of all the settlements at and near the Forks of the Scioto.
"The erection of the public buildings created an additional demand for labor, skilled and unskilled, and produced an expenditure of money very large for the place and period. Portions of the wild forest which had hitherto been almost worthless, suddenly took on extraordinary prices.
"Speculation was rife, and the profits of merchandising and army contracts, made fortunes for those who had the opportunity.
"Thus, matters went on until the war closed (in 1816), when there came a reaction.
"The National Treasury was heavily weighted with war debt, the currency of the states was in an execrable condition, and the evils of speculation and inflation were quickly followed by those of depreciation, stagnation and collapse. Business became languid, labor idle and distressed, and money, worthy of the name, almost impossible to get. Wages were paid exclusively in trade, and all business degenerated into mere barter."
At this time, it was still legal for any business, organization or even individual to print their own money and circulate it as needed.
This "local money" typically was trusted only for a short distance from its creator. Thus, a dollar printed in Columbus might be "discounted" by the time it reached Newark, Delaware or Circleville to a value of 20 cents or less.
"The reactionary business depression which began soon after the War of 1812, dragged wearily on for ten or twelve years ... As soon as the Borough of Columbus began to take form by the erection of cabins and the opening of taverns, it attracted much of the trade of Franklinton. Many of the most important establishments transferred their business from the west side to the east side of the river."
In these hard times, local merchants survived by selling all sorts of things in general stores. An 1818 advertisement by Samuel Barr and Co. of Columbus provides an example of the offerings:
"All kinds of cloths and drygoods, notions, paper hangings, boots and shoes, books and shawls, saddles, bridles and portmanteaus, Bibles, looms, shoe and scrubbing brushes, groceries, hymnbooks, queen's-, glass-, hard-, and tinware, wines, whetstones, Glauber's salts, stationery, all kinds of spices, drugs, medicines and dyestuffs, bells, shrub, frying pans, tobacco and cigars, crosscut saws, cradles, bed cord, powder and lead, oilcloth, copper tea kettles, Jamaica spirits, salmon, French brandy, coffee, tea, shoe pegs, sugar, pocketbooks, umbrellas, Morocco and calfskin, Scott's Commentaries, steelyards, and whisky."
By 1821, the advertising had become more personal -- and more direct:
" 'Edward Smith, Gent.' Announces himself as 'Senior Shaver of the Metropolis of the State of Ohio' and in half a column, or so, of magniloquent grand phrase warns the public against 'those itinerant impiricks' of his 'profession' who 'periodically annoy the regular practitioners in this borough.' Gentleman Smith 'fondly trusts' that the 'distinguished statesmen and literati' whom he counts as his patrons will continue to reward 'his unwearied exertions for the public good.' "
The hard times came an end with the arrival of new forms of transportation in the early 1830s:
"The business of the Borough was at first concentrated in the vicinity of Rich and Friend (Main) Streets, mostly on High, but by the year 1822, Front had become an important street both for business and for residences. All of this changed with the opening of the National Road and the (Ohio and Erie) Canal, the latter attracting a large amount of business to the river where large warehouses were built."
The population doubled and in 1834, the borough of Columbus became the city of Columbus.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.