History ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-10-2017


This master’s 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 crops—these factors contributed to their success over the Hispano merchants in the post–Civil War era. In addition, federal supply contracts entrenched L. & H. Huning in New Mexico, providing the store’s 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.

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Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Durwood Ball

Second Committee Member

Jason Scott Smith

Third Committee Member

Paul Hutton

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Melzer




Merchant Capitalism, Far Southwest, History of New Mexico, Nineteenth-Century American West

Document Type