This thesis examines the development of the economy during the period the Mormons were in Illinois, 1839-1846. It argues that the economy developed similarly to contemporary towns and that the Mormons in Nauvoo participated in the local and regional market. However, the doctrine of the gathering produced explosive population growth, including almost 5,000 immigrants from Britain. The economy was not able to absorb the number and this contributed to the exodus of the Mormons to the west in 1846. The main sources used are surviving account books, diaries, journals from merchants and farmers. The first chapter describes the settlement of Illinois and where the Mormons fit in relation to contemporary towns. They were influenced by boosterism, paper towns, and the river economy in Illinois. The public rhetoric about communal practices caused confusion with Mormons and their neighbors. In the second chapter, using data from the account books, evidence shows that the Mormons traded with other towns and participated in the market. In the third chapter, the impact of the gathering, particularly the British immigrants, is analyzed. As the explosion of population occurred in Nauvoo, rival towns, particularly Warsaw, were threatened by the perceived economic strength. The death of prophet Joseph Smith in 1844 was the beginning of the end for the economy in Nauvoo and contributed to the decision to abandon the town and move west in 1846. The study challenges the prevailing historical interpretation of a self-sufficient economy even though there were some unique elements in Nauvoo due to the religious aspect of the gathering. Comparing commerce in Hancock County to the regional market in different stages of economic development shows how Nauvoo fit into the larger picture in western Illinois. One contribution of the study is to show the impact of the emerging market economy and that even the Mormons participated in the market.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History



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Nauvoo, Mormons, market, economy, Illinois



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