What became Commerce was land that was part of the Quapaw Indian Agency, allocated in the late 1830s. The Quapaw were removed to the area in the 1830s by the federal government after residing for hundreds of years on the west side of the Mississippi River in what later entered the union as the state of Arkansas.

Immigrants arrived and formed a mining camp named Hattonville after Amos Hatton. In 1906, Hatton developed the Emma Gordon zinc and lead mine, whose resources had attracted workers. Starting in 1908, the Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri Inter-Urban Railway built a line between Miami and Commerce to serve the mining industry. In a series of steps the line was later acquired by the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway. In 1913, the residents called the local post office North Miami, though by June 1914 the post office took the present-day city's name that came from the Commerce Mining and Royalty Company, which had bought the mining camp.

In 1914, the mining company platted the town; a mayor–council government formed two years later. By the 1920 census, Commerce had a population of 2,555.

Commerce was the site of two notable events in the mid-1930s. In April 1934, Bonnie and Clyde and their associate Henry Methvin killed Commerce Constable William C. Campbell and kidnapped police chief Percy Boyd. By May, Bonnie and Clyde would both be dead. In 1935, in an event that would later become notable in retrospect, Mickey Mantle's father would move his family to Commerce, to work as a miner. Mantle would later be nicknamed "The Commerce Comet."

Most mines closed by 1960, due to a declining market and the realization of extensive environmental damage to ground, water and air. Residents have turned to occupations such as farming and ranching.

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