Santa Fe Trail

In 1821, the Santa Fe Trail became America’s first great international commercial highway and avenue of cultural exchange. For nearly sixty years thereafter, it was one of the nation’s great routes of adventure and western expansion. Trade with New Mexico and the rest of Spain’s colonies had been closed to Americans and other outsiders until Mexican Independence in September 1821. The “Father of the Santa Fe Trade,” William Becknell, initiated trading and commerce with New Mexico from the United States in November 1821. The following year, he opened a wagon route later known as the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and New Mexico.