|Flatboat and a Keel Boat By Unknown - Link- originally Pittsburgh History & Landmarks, Public Domain, Link|
Heavy groceries constituted a distinct branch of the trade of St Louis for many years. The Colliers, the Lacklands, the Glasgows, were dealers in heavy groceries. They would be called importers now. They brought to St Louis sugar by the boat load, coffee, tea, and a few other staples in enormous quantities, selling them at small margin as desired by jobbers. The business experience of Henry Von Phul, who lived to be the oldest merchant in St Louis and died in his 91st year, dated back to the first decade of the century when he was employed by James Hart at Lexington, Ky. Mr Hart was the brother in law of Heny Clay, and the son of the man for whom Thomas H Benton was named. Young Von Phul began his commercial career by taking charge of keel boats loaded with flour, lead, and provisions. He floated down stream, stopping at the principal towns on the Mississippi river, trading his products for cotton. He continued this until he reached New Orleans where he sold the cotton and other products that had not been traded, as well as the keel boats. He then returned on horseback to Lexington where he made up another shipment and repeated the voyage and the trading.