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A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people, especially one who trades with foreign countries. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. In 16th-century Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: meerseniers referred to local traders (such as bakers and grocers) and koopman (Dutch: koopman) referred to merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances and offering added-value services such as credit and finance.

The status of the merchant has varied during different periods of history and among different societies. In ancient Rome and Greece merchants could become wealthy, but lacked high social status. In contrast, in the Middle East, where markets were an integral part of the city, merchants enjoyed high status. In modern times, the term merchant has occasionally been used to refer to a businessperson or someone undertaking activities (commercial or industrial) for the purpose of generating profit, cash flow, sales, and revenue utilizing a combination of human, financial, intellectual and physical capital with a view to fueling economic development and growth.

Merchants have been known for as long as humans have engaged in trade and commerce. Merchants and merchant networks operated in ancient Babylonia and Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, Phoenicia, and Rome. During the European medieval period, a rapid expansion in trade and commerce led to the rise of a wealthy and powerful merchant class. The European age of discovery opened up new trading routes and gave European consumers access to a much broader range of goods. From the 1600s, goods began to travel much further distances as they found their way into geographically dispersed market-places. Following the opening of Asia to European trade and the discovery of the New World, merchants imported goods over very long distances: calico cloth from India, porcelain, silk and tea from China, spices from India and South-East Asia and tobacco, sugar, rum and coffee from the New World. By the eighteenth century, a new type of manufacturer-merchant had started to emerge and modern business practices were becoming evident.

Merchant Media

81,619 media by topicpage 1 of 817
Plaque: Two Portuguese Merchants

Plaque: Two Portuguese Merchants

Nigeria, Court of Benin

Joseph Sold to the Merchants, from The Story of Joseph

Joseph Sold to the Merchants, from The Story of Joseph

Georg Pencz (German, Wroclaw ca. 1500–1550 Leipzig)

Joseph sold to the merchants: a bearded man grasping Joseph with his left hand receives coins in his right hand, from the series 'The Story of Joseph'

Joseph sold to the merchants: a bearded man grasping Joseph with his l...

Georg Pencz (German, Wroclaw ca. 1500–1550 Leipzig)

Joseph Sold to the Merchants, from The Story of Joseph

Joseph Sold to the Merchants, from The Story of Joseph

Georg Pencz (German, Wroclaw ca. 1500–1550 Leipzig)

Ebisu (God of Luck, Protector of Merchants)

Ebisu (God of Luck, Protector of Merchants)

School of Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, Tokyo (Edo) 1760–1849 Tokyo (Edo)) Edo period (1615–1868)

Charles Grolier, provost of the merchants of Lyon (1650–73)

Charles Grolier, provost of the merchants of Lyon (1650–73)

Medalist: Claude Varin (active 1630–54)

Christ Driving the Merchants from the Temple, from The Passion of Christ, plate 3
Ichikawa danjūrō [to] ichikawa monnosuke

Ichikawa danjūrō [to] ichikawa monnosuke

Print shows the actor Ichikawa Monnosuke as a courtesan and Ichikawa Danjūrō as a merchant.

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 1

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 1

A grand interior where Earl Squander and a city merchant arrange the marriage of their son and daughter; the extravagantly dressed young man looks at his reflection in a glass while his future bride listens to ... more

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 1

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 1

A grand interior where Earl Squander and a city merchant arrange the marriage of their son and daughter; the extravagantly dressed young man looks at his reflection in a glass while his future bride listens to ... more

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 6

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 6

The countess is dying in a chair, an execution broadside at her feet indicates that Silvertongue has been hanged for killing her husband. Her young child (wearing a leg brace as a result of congenital syphilis)... more

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 6

Marriage à-la-mode, pl. 6

The countess is dying in a chair, an execution broadside at her feet indicates that Silvertongue has been hanged for killing her husband. Her young child (wearing a leg brace as a result of congenital syphilis)... more

An elevation, plan, and history, of the Royal Exchange of London

An elevation, plan, and history, of the Royal Exchange of London

Plan of the Royal Exchange of London, showing goods traded and the country of origin of the traders. | We Are One: This print provides a large-scale depiction of the city’s Royal Exchange, the hub of commerce f... more

The merchants and traders in this town in the agreement subscribed by them the 17th of October last engaged that the orders they might send for goods to be shipped them from Great-Britain should be on condition that the acts imposing duties for

The merchants and traders in this town in the agreement subscribed by ...

Photographic copy.; Stamped on verso: Mss Division.; On verso: Ford 1503, Evans 11184. Ac. 373. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in... more

New-York, June 12, 1770. Advertisement. Whereas a number of persons, who are immediately interested in the importation of goods from Great Britain; have entered into a scheme, to frustrate the laudable endeavours of those patriotic merchants, an

New-York, June 12, 1770. Advertisement. Whereas a number of persons, w...

Positive Photostat.; Advertisement. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 104, Folder 15.

To the merchants and traders, of the City of Philadelphia. Gentlemen. The worthy and patriotic writer of the Farmer's letters, have clearly demonstrated, that the liberties of the British colonies in America, have been most cruely violated by th

To the merchants and traders, of the City of Philadelphia. Gentlemen. ...

Positive Photostat. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 143, Folder 1.

To the tradesmen, farmers, and other inhabitants of the City and County of Philadelphia. And will you suffer the credit and liberties of the Province of Pennsylvania to be sacrificed to the interests of a few merchants in Philadelphia? ... [Sign

To the tradesmen, farmers, and other inhabitants of the City and Count...

Imprint 2. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 143, Folder 7.

To the merchants and other inhabitants of Pennsylvania. [Recommending canals between the Susquehanna and Schuylkill and the Chesapeake and the Delaware] [Signed] A friend to trade. Philadelphia. Dec. 13, 1771.

To the merchants and other inhabitants of Pennsylvania. [Recommending ...

Positive Photostat. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 143, Folder 18.

Tradesmen’s protest against the proceedings of the merchants, Relative to the new importation of tea. Addressed to the tradesmen and inhabitants of the town of Boston in particular … Printed by E. Russell, next the Cornfield, Union-Street [1773]

Tradesmen’s protest against the proceedings of the merchants, Relative...

Copy 2 formerly numbered as Portfolio 37, Folder 22a. This item has been renumbered from Portfolio 37, Folder 22a. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images ... more

To the public. As the merchants of this city have nobly refused letting their vessels to the tools of government, for the base purpose of transporting troops and military forces to Boston ... [Signed] The Free citizens. New-York, Sept. 14, 1774.

To the public. As the merchants of this city have nobly refused lettin...

On verso: S; Sept 14, 1774. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 107, Folder 2.

Boston, May 24, 1774. The merchants and traders of this town are requested to meet at the West Chamber in the Town-House, lately improved by the Court of sessions, at four o’clock this afternoon, on matters of general and important concern; part

Boston, May 24, 1774. The merchants and traders of this town are reque...

Positive Photostat.; Stamped on verso: Mss Division.; On verso: Ac. 373. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. 2 duplicate copi... more

City of New-York. ss. Personally appeared before me Benjamin Blagge, one of his Majesty's justices of the Peace for the City and County of New-York, Isaac Sears, and Paschal N. Smith, of the said City, merchants, who being severally sworn, depos

City of New-York. ss. Personally appeared before me Benjamin Blagge, o...

Imprint.; Port of Boston. Closing.; On verso: S; Apr 17, 1775. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collecti... more

Sukeroku shirozak euri

Sukeroku shirozak euri

Title and other descriptive information compiled by Nichibunken-sponsored Edo print specialists in 2005-06. From the series: Seiro niwaka kyogen : Comedy bursting from the green houses. Format: vertical Chuban ... more

By order of His Excellency Sir William Howe, K. B. General and Commander in Chief, &c. &c. &c. All merchants and others having blankets and rugs of any kind whatever, are hereby ordered to bring in a true return of the same to the Barrack-Master

By order of His Excellency Sir William Howe, K. B. General and Command...

Positive Photostat.; Evans 15819 Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 145, Folder 16.

Market day
The coffee-house patriots, or news, from St. Eustatia / H. Bunbury Esqr. delint. ; W. Dickinson excudt.

The coffee-house patriots, or news, from St. Eustatia / H. Bunbury Esq...

Print shows interior view of a coffeehouse, presumably in London, where several man of commerce appear disgruntled at the news of the successful campaign to capture Saint Eustatius, a port used by British merch... more

Be it remembered, that Messrs. Samuel Fowler and Christopher Champlen of Newport, merchants [An insurance agreement to the sum of 800 pounds in merchandise on board the Brigantine Don Galvez, dated Boston January 29, 1784].

Be it remembered, that Messrs. Samuel Fowler and Christopher Champlen ...

Facsimile of a printed agreement filled in in manuscript.; Source unknown 9-18-43.; Stamped on verso: Source Unknown. Sep 18 1943. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsim... more

Boston, April 18, 1785. The minds of the people being greatly and justly agitated by the apparent intention of the government and the merchants of Great-Britain to deprive the industrious trader of every benefit of our commerce ... [Boston, 1785

Boston, April 18, 1785. The minds of the people being greatly and just...

Not in Ford.; Not in Evans.; Stamped on verso: 595. Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfoli... more

To the very respectable the linen merchants and manufactures of Ireland, ... this perspective view of the Linen Hall in Dublin with the boxes and bales of linen ready for exportation, the emblems of their industry; is dedicated by ... Wm. Hincks Wm. Hincks, delin. et sculp

To the very respectable the linen merchants and manufactures of Irelan...

Print shows linen merchants and manufacturers standing in front of Linen Hall, Dublin, Ireland. Title from item. Plate XII. Incorporated into the title is a cartouche showing beehives, with text "Industria Opum... more

Dutch Merchants Sketched at Amsterdam

Dutch Merchants Sketched at Amsterdam

Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London)

Dutch Merchants Sketched at Amsterdam

Dutch Merchants Sketched at Amsterdam

Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London)

To the Merchants and Masters of Vessels Employed in the Coasting Trade &c. This chart of the East coast of England and Scotland from the Humber to Aberdeen is most Respectfully Dedicated by their obliged Humble Servant William Heather [Mapa]

To the Merchants and Masters of Vessels Employed in the Coasting Trade...

Carta arrumbada que comprende la costa nororiental de Inglaterra desde el cabo Spurn y la suroriental de Escocia hasta la ciudd de Aberdeen

Cries of London, No. 1 : Buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap

Cries of London, No. 1 : Buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap

The vendor of rat-traps is pausing before a shop decorated with such live stock as a rabbit in a hutch, and a jackdaw in a cage ; he is offering his traps to a spectacled old gentleman, who is considering his w... more

To the Honorable the Senate and House of representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled. The memorial and petition of the subscribers, merchants, respectfully sheweth: That, among the multiplied injuries inflicted by the belligerent

To the Honorable the Senate and House of representatives of the United...

On p. [2]: [Stamp] May 2 1910 D. OF D. Page Order: Leaflet Available also through the Library of Congress web site in two forms: as facsimile page images and as full text in SGML. Printed Ephemera Collection; P... more

To the Merchants, and Masters of Vessels, Employed in the Coasting Trade, &C. This chart of the East Coast of England is most respectfully dedicated by Their obliged and humble Servant Wm. Heather [Mapa]

To the Merchants, and Masters of Vessels, Employed in the Coasting Tra...

Comprende la costa oriental de Inglaterra desde el cabo Psurn hasta Orford Ness

Champneis, head-and-shoulders portrait, right profile

Champneis, head-and-shoulders portrait, right profile

Title devised by Library staff, other information from Miles. Trimmed to image. Dexter, 218 Published in: Saint-Mémin and the Neoclassical profile portrait in America / Ellen G. Miles. Washington, D.C. : Nation... more

Jūdanme

Jūdanme

Print shows the Rōnin samurai dressed as police to test the loyalty of the merchant Gihei. A scene from act ten of the play Chūshingura or revenge of the 47 Rōnin.

Tableaux de Paris. Les charbonniers Marlet ; lith. de Marlet

Tableaux de Paris. Les charbonniers Marlet ; lith. de Marlet

Print shows a woman with her arms spread, standing between two men who are fighting, one being restrained by another man, in front of a small shop that may sell alcoholic drinks; there are large bags hanging on... more

U.S. Reports: Bond and Another v. Jay, 11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 350 (1813)

U.S. Reports: Bond and Another v. Jay, 11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 350 (1813)

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 11; Cranch Volume 7; February Term, 1813; Bond and Another v. Jay

U.S. Reports: Merrimack, 12 U.S. (9 Cranch) 317 (1814)

U.S. Reports: Merrimack, 12 U.S. (9 Cranch) 317 (1814)

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 12; Cranch Volume 9; February Term, 1814; Merrimack, The

U.S. Reports: Frances, Boyer, Master (Thompson and al. Claimants), 12 U.S. (9 Cranch) 335 (1814)

U.S. Reports: Frances, Boyer, Master (Thompson and al. Claimants), 12 ...

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 12; Cranch Volume 9; February Term, 1814; Frances, Boyer, Master (Thompson and al. Claimants), The

U.S. Reports: Frances, Boyer, Master (Gillespie's Claim), The, 12 U.S. (9 Cranch) 363 (1814)

U.S. Reports: Frances, Boyer, Master (Gillespie's Claim), The, 12 U.S....

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 12; Cranch Volume 9; February Term, 1814; Frances, Boyer, Master (Gillespie's Claim), The

U.S. Reports: Venus, Rae, master, 12 U.S. (9 Cranch) 253 (1814)

U.S. Reports: Venus, Rae, master, 12 U.S. (9 Cranch) 253 (1814)

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 12; Cranch Volume 9; February Term, 1814; Venus, Rae, master, The

U.S. Reports: Frances, Boyer, (Dunham and Randolph's claim), Master, The, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 183 (1815)

U.S. Reports: Frances, Boyer, (Dunham and Randolph's claim), Master, T...

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 13; Cranch Volume 9; February Term, 1815; Frances, Boyer, Master (Dunham and Randolph's claim), The

Proof of one side of a New York Merchants Banking Company 100 Dollar Bill

Proof of one side of a New York Merchants Banking Company 100 Dollar B...

Attributed to Asher Brown Durand (American, Jefferson, New Jersey 1796–1886 Maplewood, New Jersey)

[Broadside]: Patent sponge boots, for horses feet. ... James Boyd, 24 Merchants' Row, Boston, June 1, 1825

[Broadside]: Patent sponge boots, for horses feet. ... James Boyd, 24 ...

Reference copy may be in LOT 4397A. This record contains unverified, old data from caption card. Caption card tracings: BI BUSINESS; RBD; Mass. Boston Misc.; Broadsides 1825; Horses; Ad. Boots...; Shelf.

Das allegrösste Bilder ABC. P bei Winckelmann & Söhne in Berlin

Das allegrösste Bilder ABC. P bei Winckelmann & Söhne in Berlin

Print shows the letter "P" formed by a man with his left arm raised and holding one wing of a bird and with his right arm at his waist holding the other wing of the bird, with examples "Pferdehandel" showing tw... more

Das allegrösste Bilder ABC. T bei Winckelmann & Söhne in Berlin

Das allegrösste Bilder ABC. T bei Winckelmann & Söhne in Berlin

Print shows the letter "T" formed by a man with his arms over a cross-member or rafter, with examples "Tänzerinn" showing young women dancing; "Türke" showing a Turkish man wearing a turban, sitting with a youn... more

A south east view of Merchants Hotel, nth Fourth St. Philada, J.M. Sanderson & Son / drawn and engraved by J.R. Smith, Philada.

A south east view of Merchants Hotel, nth Fourth St. Philada, J.M. San...

Print shows citizens engaged in a number of activities on a busy street. A carriage is dropping off or picking up luggage at the hotel while guests are relaxing on the balcony. (DLC/PP-1993:212.23) Title from i... more

Es war aber mit jenen Kaufleuten ein frommer Pilger, welcher Clemens hiess

Es war aber mit jenen Kaufleuten ein frommer Pilger, welcher Clemens h...

Illustration for a story showing one of King Octavian's infant sons lying on the ground; Clement, a pilgrim, traveling with a group of merchants, sees the baby and purchases it from a band of outlaws. Title fro... more

Merchants' Exchange from "A Book of the United States: exhibiting its geography, divisions, constitution and government ... together with a condensed history of the land ... the biography of about three hundred of the leading men; a description of the principal cities and towns; with statistical tables ... Edited by G. Mellen. With engravings, etc"

Merchants' Exchange from "A Book of the United States: exhibiting its ...

This image has been taken from scan 000314 from "A Book of the United States: exhibiting its geography, divisions, constitution and government ... together with a condensed history of the land ... the biography... more

Yoshiwara

Yoshiwara

Print shows two travelers outside a shop, the vendor sitting on a table in front, also pine trees, haystacks, and a view of Mount Fuji in the background, at the Yoshiwara station on the Tōkaidō Road. Title and ... more

View of the merchants exchange. Boston, Mass.

View of the merchants exchange. Boston, Mass.

This record contains unverified data from PGA shelflist card. Associated name on shelflist card: Thayer, B.W., & Co. Copyright deposit, District Court of Mass.: 1842

U.S. Reports: Lawrence v. McCalmont et al., 43 U.S. (2 How) 426 (1844)

U.S. Reports: Lawrence v. McCalmont et al., 43 U.S. (2 How) 426 (1844)

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 43; Howard Volume 2; January Term, 1844; Susan Lawrence, Plaintiff in error, v. Robert McCalmont, Hugh McCalmont, and William Johnson Newell, Defendants

U.S. Reports: Rhett v. Poe, 43 U.S. (2 How) 457 (1844)

U.S. Reports: Rhett v. Poe, 43 U.S. (2 How) 457 (1844)

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 43; Howard Volume 2; January Term, 1844; Robert Barnwell Rhett, Plaintiff in error, v. Robert F. Poe, Cashier of the Bank of Augusta, Defendant

Futagawa

Futagawa

Print shows travelers with palanquins and approaching on foot, a shop with the merchant sitting on a bench in front, at the Futagawa station on the Tōkaidō Road.

U.S. Reports: Warner et al. v. Martin, 52 U.S. (11 How.) 209 (1851)

U.S. Reports: Warner et al. v. Martin, 52 U.S. (11 How.) 209 (1851)

Description: U.S. Reports Volume 52; Howard Volume 11; December Term, 1850; John A. Warner, a Citizen of the State of Pennsylvania; John A. Warner and Company, Citizens of the same State; and William Heald, Jac... more

Provision store of H.I. Nason

Provision store of H.I. Nason

Provision Store of H.I. Nason. Mr. George P. Nason, president of the Charlestown Five Cents Savings Bank, son of the owner of this provision store at the corner of Bartlett and Green Streets, is here seen as a ... more

[French naval expedition to the Indo-Chinese archipelago: Merchants' place at Toumhai]

[French naval expedition to the Indo-Chinese archipelago: Merchants' p...

Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, 1856 April 26, p. 340.

La marchande de moutarde

La marchande de moutarde

Leaning upon the left door-post of a narrow doorway, above which there is a barred window, stands a young girl. Within the smaller interior, an old woman wearing a white cap stands bending over a table on which... more

[La marchande de moutarde] / Whistler.

[La marchande de moutarde] / Whistler.

Print shows a young woman standing in the doorway of the shop that sells mustard; a woman stands in the interior of the shop, filling an order. Title from Beall. Signed on plate. American prints in the Library ... more