Each post had its trader or sutler that sold general merchandise to soldiers. The trader was the only civilian allowed to operate a business for profit on a military fort. The trader's store at Fort Hays was located 50 feet behind this sign.
The building included living quarters for the trader, separate rooms for the officers and enlisted men where they could buy alcohol and play cards or billiards, and even a one-lane bowling alley. Soldiers could purchase all matter of items in the store such as combs, tooth powder, hats, blankets, and canned food items. The trader's store was, in effect, the forerunner of the post exchange (PX), officer's club, and non-commissioned officer's club of the modern army post. It was said that Fort Hays had one of the finest post trader's stores in the West.