This is the first of a two-part paper, which reviews the evolution of the supply management function from the 18th century to 1940. A second paper will examine the continued evolution of supply management from 1940 until the present. The 1830–1940 period in North America was one of tremendous development for purchasing. It started with occasional reference in management texts and, particularly after 1900, saw the evolution of a host of ideas representing the foundation of today's perspective on supply management. At no time did purchasing practitioners and academics see the function as a narrow buying activity. Clearly, our predecessors were well aware of the benefits of integration and would have been comfortable with today's supply chain management precepts. They also recognized value, cost and price analysis, value analysis, purchasing research, talent management, outsourcing the supply function, supplier relationships, strategy and the need for performance measurement. They strived to contribute effectively to organizational goals and strategies, well aware of the potential impact of their actions on organizational success. An understanding of supply's evolution may not only assist today's supply management practitioners and academics in placing current practices and theories in context but also in charting our future.