Opium Trading Journal of Samuel Brimblecom, Aboard Barks “Coquette” and “Antelope,” and Onshore in Bombay and Canton, 1845 – 1847.
Square 8vo, 20 cm. Unpaginated (about 100 pp manuscript entries)
This is an American opium traders – for lack of a better term commonplace book. Samuel Brimblecom was second officer aboard the American opium clipper “Coquette,” a 454-ton bark owned by the Perkins firm in Boston and the “Antelope,” a 372-ton bark owned by J.M. Forbes, employed in running opium and tea between China and India for American merchants Russell & Co. These are Brimblecom’s notes, tallies, memoranda, lists, letters, and even drawings made while at sea or ashore in India and China. A brief summary of contents is as follows: Recognition views of Malaysian coast. Opium transported for Sassoon (wealthy opium-dealing family) aboard ships Starling and Harriet, 1844 46. Shipments of Malwa (opium) via “Antelope. Two pages on “Division of time at sea” showing the number of hours Brimblecom spent “on deck” and “below,” how much he slept and ate, and what he did with his free time. “Opium Squadron” of Russell & Co. – five ships – with “number of guns” and “stations” including the “Coquette” of which Brimblecom was 2nd officer. Similar list for the “Augustine Heard & Co.” opium squadron. List of officers sailing for Russell & Co. Brief abstract log of “Coquette’s” course from China to Bombay, February, 1847. Nine pages listing “Old Stock, Russell & Co. New Malwa, ” with consignor’s mark, number of chests, carrier, and delivery date. Three pages of goods carried by James Endicott, presumably for Russell aboard the ship “Great Britain,” for P & D Nesserwanjee Camajee, opium traders in Canton. Five pages of same for two other Indian companies trading out of Canton. Shopping list dated January 17th, 1847, of goods Brimblecom was to procure for the “Shanghai market and for persons there,” including such articles as “1/2 doz. fine pleated shirts @ 15$ per doz.” for Mr. Coolidge. The second half of this list contains similar items “For H. Kong,” including a “Chinese Letter” for Boston Jack, a compradore who was the first Chinese person to have lived in Boston (brought there by pioneering China trader John Boit in 1796). Page of “Articles to be Obtained at Bombay.” List of clothing for “As Soo Washerwoman.” Four pages of deliveries for Augustine Heard & Co. aboard the “Antelope.” Two pages of itemized payments made to Boston Jack in 1844. Four pages of shipments to Cowasjee Pallanjee, opium traders in Canton, made by the “Antelope.” Two-page punchlist of goods and services “required by the Barque Coquette. A similar half page of “Improvements” required.” Pencil draft of a 5-page letter by Brimblecom to his mother from Bombay in 1847. “I am now Second mate of the Barque Coquette, one of the Russell & Co’s clippers and am serving as such in order to obtain experience sufficient to enable me to command a vessel…” He goes into detail about how he spends his days in Bombay, and tells her that “one great fault to be considered when contemplating residence in China is the almost total absence of female society.” He speaks of a girl back home and hopes she’ll come with him when he “obtain(s) a command in China.” She’s 21 and he’s 24, and he wants to marry her and take her with him. He reveals to Mom that she is “Miss Holden of Barre Mass.” All this is interspersed with poetry (about women), drawings (of women), navigational reckoning, and miscellaneous notes pertaining to the trade. (For the record, Brimblecom married Sarah Holden of Barre, MA, in 1850.) A personal, detailed, and intimate portrait of the life of an American opium trader. The back pastedown has a fine pencil drawing of the “Antelope,” with her masts raked back in true opium clipper style. Bound in 1/4 calf over boards. Entries clean and legible.