In the 1850's, on the eve of John Brown's raid and the coming Civil War, Harpers Ferry was a thriving industrial and commercial town of 3,000 people located on a bustling transportation system of railroads, canals, and highways that linked it to major commercial centers. Over 40 stores operated in town serving the need of mechanics, tradesman, businessmen, farmers, and housekeepers.
Although Harpers Ferry was in a slave state, whites and African-Americans, slave and free, patronized these stores together. Spending power varied but the average daily wage for a skilled worker was two dollars a day.
The merchandise shown in the pictures below includes typical items of the 1850's including fabrics, decanters, patent medicines, writing implements, hardware, and general notions. Although some stores in town sold groceries, most and fresh meats were obtained at the town market, which stood on Market Street.
(Information adapted from resources provided by the National Park Service.)