By Marian Mathison Desrosiers
Merchant John Banister (17071767) of Newport, Rhode Island, wore many hats: exporter, importer, wholesaler, retailer, money-lender, extender of credit and insurer, owner and outfitter of sailing vessels, and ship builder for the slave trade. His recently discovered accounting records reveal his role in transforming colonial trade in mid18th century America. He combined business acumen and a strong work ethic with knowledge of the law and new technologies. Through his maritime activities and real estate development, he was a rain-maker for artisans, workers and producers, contributing to income opportunities for businesswomen, freemen and slaves. Drawing on Banisters meticulous daybooks, ledgers, letters and receipts, the author analyzes his contribution to the economic history of colonial America, highlighting the complexity of the commerce of the era.