A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Part I-Chapter 3 : Shipping Merchants  > The China traders   Previous  1   Next

   The China traders  

As the bell of Philadelphia sounded to the hymn of Independence a new era came for American merchants. After the dust of war settled, the enterprising shipping merchants of New York and New England tested new frontiers for their trade. Scandinavia, Russia and finally China were their new destinations and promised great return. But China trade was not easy. First, the American merchants had little to offer in exchange of the China goods they sought. Then, external trade was heavily regulated as the Chinese, suspicious of Europeans and Americans alike, had ruled that these foreigners had to conduct all their China trade through Canton and even there, they were limited to treat with a small number of Chinese intermediates (the Hong merchants), such as Howqua, Mowqua or Kingqua, men who extracted huge fortunes from international trade. Yet in spite of all these restrictions, China trade was good business for American merchants, so good indeed, that it became the foundation of many great fortune in New England and at least a few in New York.

The "Empress of China", outfitted by a group of New York and Philadelphia merchants led by Robert Morris, was the first American ship to return from Canton with a load of China goods on June 30, 1784. In the following year, Elias Hasket Derby's ship "Grand Turk" opened China trade to Salem merchants. Samuel Shaw (), a Continental army hero and the supercargo of the "Empress of China", became the first American consul in Canton. He was succeeded by another former army officer, Samuel Snow, who built the American factory. The factories were compounds of warehouses and habitations, used by foreign residents as their base in Canton. All factories were located on the North bank of the Canton river, just outside the city walls, close to the hongs (business establishments of the Chinese merchants, members of the Cohong). 

                 The House of Perkins 1 : J & T.H. Perkins
The House of Perkins 2 : the Cushing and Sturgis branches
The House of Perkins 3 : the Forbes clan

Shipping Merchants  > The China traders   Previous  1   Next

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Shipping Merchants

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Bankers I

Early American Industrialists


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