A peddler is a traveling salesman who travels from town to town selling a variety of goods. In “Farmer Boy,” a peddler named Mr. Peters visits the Wilder family farm and sells them a variety of goods, including cloth for new dresses, a new book for Almanzo, and a tin horn for the children to play with. The arrival of a peddler was always an exciting event, as it provided an opportunity for families to purchase goods that they might not be able to obtain otherwise.
Peddlers were a common sight in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the advent of modern retail stores and e-commerce. They would typically travel by foot, horseback, or wagon, carrying their wares with them in a backpack or on a pack animal.
Peddlers sold a wide variety of goods, including clothing, household items, tools, and even books. They would often have a particular specialty or area of expertise, and would travel to areas where their goods were in demand – such as when the bootmaker visited Almanzo’s family. They would also trade goods as well, most often in a barter fashion. Otherwise, the goods were for sale with money.
Overall, peddlers played an important role in rural economies during the 1800s and provided a valuable service to families who lived in more isolated areas, who were not able to easily visit towns with a general store..