Christian Business Enterprise Reform: The Pioneer Line, 1828-1831

Joseph Slaughter

How did Christian businessmen respond to the transportation, communication, and market revolutions of the early nineteenth century?  The case study of the New York Pioneer Line offers one answer to this important question.  Established by upstate New York businessmen in 1828, the Pioneer was a stage coach line that advertised a business model centered on Sabbatarian and Temperance ideologies.  Running from Albany to Buffalo and promising consumers that it would not operate on Sundays nor frequent taverns and hotels that served alcohol, the Pioneer Line was a Christian Business Enterprise (CBE) that aimed to reform the early nineteenth century marketplace in the model of a pietistic vision of evangelical morality.  Similar to New England Puritans’ concept of communal accountability, the founders of the Pioneer worried that the transportation revolution (Erie Canal, in particular) was inducing American communities into violating their covenant with God.  Especially concerned about the growing practice of treating Sundays as a normal workday, they and others launched “Pioneerism,” a movement of CBEs that would profoundly shape American culture.

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