"Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases....but for the most part they died of mere famine....thus we lived for the space of five months in this miserable distress....it pleased God after a while to send [the Virginia Indians] which were mortal enemies to relieve us with...
[Chief Powhatan said] . . . ‘Therefore lay me down all your commodities together. What I like I will take, and in [return] give you what I think fitting their value.’ . . . He fixed his humor upon a few blue beads. A long time he . . . desired them, [and] Smith . . . [described the beads] as being composed of the most rare substance of the color of the skies, and not to be worn but by the greatest kings in the world. . . . [Before] we departed, for a pound or two of blue beads [John Smith] bought . . . 2 or 300 bushels of corn, yet parted good friends.
Jamestown, founded in 1607, was the first successful permanent English settlement in what would become the United States.
In its early years, the settlers at Jamestown experienced an extremely high mortality rate, the lack of food actually leading some of the settlers to resort to cannibalism during the winter of 1609-1610, this period becoming known as the “starving time.”
The problem of the colonists finding a marketable commodity was solved in 1612 when John Rolfe, experimenting with tobacco seeds that may have been from Trinidad, developed a marketable crop that could be exported to England. The English king, James I, would give the Virginia Company a monopoly on tobacco, making the trade even more profitable. He even allowed the company to set up a lottery to provide further funds for the Jamestown venture.