1853 Canton Stampless Letter By Augustine Heard & Co. China Tea & Opium Trade
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1853 Canton Stampless Letter By Augustine Heard & Co. China Tea & Opium Trade:
This antique letter dated "Canton, April 25, 1853" is addressed to "Benjamin Newton Esq." and appears to be signed " Augustine Heard & Co. E.Walker". The letter was sent to New York via Marseilles. In the three page letter Walker tells Newton about the prices of Canton Tea & Silk and other items including three porcelain dinner sets that he had shipped to Newton. He talks about the prices of items in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The letter measures 8 x 9 3/4 inches. This intersting business letter has one tiny hole on the seal otherwise extremely good condition! ! Benjamin Newton was a native of Newport, Rhode Island. He acted in the capacity of supercargo and roving merchant for cargoes of many vessels rather than as master of a single ship. In 1844-1845, he sailed with the Huntress to Canton and there helped dispose of her cargo. In 1847-1849 and 1849-1850 the Talbot sailed under Capt. Story and Capt. Blish to Singapore while Newton traveled by an overland route through Europe and met the ship at Singapore to sell its cargo. He did the same when the Esther sailed to Canton under Captain Stevens in 1850. Newton acted as a sort of roving agent for the New York commission merchant Gordon & Talbot and the closely aligned Canton merchant firm Olyphant & Co. The founding partners in both Gordon & Talbot and Olyphant & Co. were also Newport families and it's mostly likely this connection that brought Newton to China. By 1852, Newton was back in the United States, first in Newport and later in New York City. Newton's brother James and his nephew John partnered in a San Francisco, California wholesale dry goods and commission business which Benjamin helped facilitate through his connections with Augustine Heard & Co.
Augustine Heard and Company (Augustine Heard & Co.) was a major nineteenth century American trading firm in China whose operations consisted in importing and exporting a large array of goods, including tea and opium.
Augustine Heard & Co. was founded in 1840, in Canton, China by Ipswich, MA businessman, traveller, trader and former Samuel Russell & Co. partner Augustine Heard, and his partners, Joseph Coolidge and John Murray Forbes. Throughout its history, it was run in large part by Heard family members, most notably Heard's four nephews from his brother George Washington Heard: John, Augustine, Albert Farley and George Washington Jr.
In 1841, Augustine Heard, who had previously lived in China but had returned for health reasons to Ipswich, returned to China to head the firm until 1844. There, business flourished, notably because of the use of fast clipper ships and the import of steamships. Tea, one of the main commodities traded, did not provide much profit compared to opium, which enabled the firm's finances to soar, Augustine Heard & Co. becoming the third largest American firm in China in the mid-nineteenth century. The firm also introduced steamships to China, and imported them through its sister firm in the U.S. The firm also became the main trading agent for several large firms, including Liverpool firm John Swire & Sons Limited. in 1861.
In 1844, Heard began travelling extensively, and handed control over the firm to his partners. Among Heard's partners, his four nephews we most active and ably directed the firm. John Heard led the firm until his departure in 1852; Augustine Heard II then took over the leadership of the firm and became the first Westerner permitted to trade in Siam in 1855. When his brother John returned to take the leadership again, the younger Augustine became the firm's representative to Europe. Albert Farley later took over the firm and, finally, George Washington Jr. who remained in China until the firm's collapse.
The firm prospered until the 1870s when, just like its rivals, it encountered financial difficulties, and finally went bankrupt in 1875