The L. & H. Huning Mercantile Company: A Case Study of Mercantile Conquest in the Rio Abajo Region of New Mexico, 1848-1880

by Ricardo S Gonzales

Institution: University of New Mexico
Year: 2017
Keywords: Merchant Capitalism; Far Southwest; History of New Mexico; Nineteenth-Century American West; Economic History; Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations; History; Military History; Social History
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2154992
Full text PDF: http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hist_etds/164


This masters thesis is a case study of the L. & H. Huning Mercantile Company, a mercantile partnership in New Mexico during the territorial period. Louis and Henry Huning, a pair of brothers who immigrated to New Mexico from Germany in 1859, established wholesale and retail enterprises in the Arizona and New Mexico territories. Their main storehouse was founded in Los Lunas, New Mexico, in 1871 following the departure of Erhardt Franz to St. Louis. L. & H. Huning became a successful merchandising business in the Rio Abajo by establishing a mercantile monopoly in Los Lunas. The introduction of free-market exchanges, the extension of credit in traditional communities, and the creation of a market for locally grown cropsthese factors contributed to their success over the Hispano merchants in the postCivil War era. In addition, federal supply contracts entrenched L. & H. Huning in New Mexico, providing the stores main source of cash flow. This component allowed the store to anchor its foundations in the community and structure the local economy. Through selling merchandise, providing a market for local crops, and extending credit to their customers, L. & H. Huning was able to acquire its assets (wool and land) from store debtors in New Mexico and Arizona. The partnership ultimately made its fortune by selling wool to eastern industrialists. Merchants, such as the Huning brothers, wielded visible influence over the frontier economy through retailing, wholesaling, banking, importing and exporting, freighting merchandise, facilitating transactions, and receiving federal contracts. This thesis concludes with the dissolution of the L. & H. Huning partnership in 1888. The decline of the business was due to the end of the Indian Wars in 1886 (no more supply contracts), the closure of frontier posts, the decline of wool, and the importation of cheaper grains from Kansas via the railroad. In all, New Mexican merchant capitalists, such as the Huning brothers, established roots in their communities, earned fair reputations, adapted to New Mexican culture, provided economic services, and spawned multi-generational family businesses. Merchants replaced the Hispano patrons in the economic hierarchy, but created new social and economic dependencies in a changing capitalist landscape. Advisors/Committee Members: Durwood Ball, Jason Scott Smith, Paul Hutton, Richard Melzer.