Untold lives blog

01 October 2019

East India Company private trade

Advertisements in the Calcutta Gazette of 12 March 1795 alerted readers to the arrival of the East India Company ship Royal Admiral with private trade goods to sell.   Private or ‘privilege’ trade was allowed to the captains, officers and crew of East Indiamen on a sliding scale of cargo space and value based on rank.  Mariners tended to concentrate mainly on items of high value but low volume.

Calcutta - ships near Smith's Docks 1820s'A view of the river, shipping and town, from near Smith's Dock' from Views of Calcutta engraved by Robert Havell - Shelfmark X644(18) [1824-1826] Noc
 Images Online 

The firm of Tulloh, Henchman, and Innes in Calcutta begged leave to inform their friends and the public that within the next few days they would be offering for sale on commission at their warehouse ‘the large, elegant, and well chosen Investments‘ brought from England by Essex Henry Bond, Captain of the Royal Admiral, and William Fairfax, his chief officer.

The goods offered by Bond and Fairfax consisted of:
• Claret from Carbonal, Paxton, Brown and Whiteford, Wilkinson and Crosthwaite
• Old hock and red port
• Ale and small beer in hogsheads and butts
• Cider and perry from Silas Palmer
• Hams; pickled tongues; red and pickled herrings; salted salmon; pickled oysters, French and Spanish olives; capers; Durham mustard; salad oil, with ground stoppers; pickles and sauces; white wine, elder and tarragon vinegar
• Cheeses – Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Berkley and Pine
• Bloom raisins; new currants; shelled almonds; Turkey figs; French plums; Sir Hans Sloane’s and plain chocolate; cocoa; pearl and Scotch barley
• Confectionery from Hoffman
• Books
• Elegant lustres [candle holders] and girandoles [chandeliers]; table and wall shades; milk bowls; butter dishes; sweetmeat cups; hookah bottoms; salt cellars; muffineers [small castors for sprinkling salt or sugar on muffins, or covered dishes for keeping toasted muffins warm]; Italian shades; tumblers; wine and water glasses; Madeira and claret glasses to match
• Beautiful prints from Macklin
• Looking glasses
• Mathematical instruments
• Plate and jewellery
• Silk and cotton stockings for ladies and gentlemen
• Irish linen; Manchester dimities; cambrics
• Cloth and cashmere; buttons
• Blankets and flannels
• Perfumery
• Stationery and Mogul cards
• Saddlery
• Cutlery
• Haberdashery
• Medicines
• Mahogany furniture
• Fowling pieces and pistols; shooting tackle
• Tin ware; iron kitchen furniture; garden scythes; ship chandlery; ironmongery; spermaceti candles; garden seeds; cork and cork jackets; gunpowder and patent shot
• Toys

Dring, Cleland and Co were offering by private sale Madeira wine imported in the Royal Admiral.  Bucking the trend for non-bulky goods, Steuart, Maudslay and Gordon alerted readers to the arrival of a number of elegant London-built carriages on board the Royal Admiral – chariots, phaetons, gigs and buggies.  They were also selling saddlery, superior in ’variety, taste and fashion’.

There are several advertisements in that issue of the Calcutta Gazette offering European goods just arrived in other East India ships.  The auction houses vied for custom and the buyers had the luxury of choice.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
H V Bowen, ‘Sinews of Trade and Empire: The Supply of Commodity Exports to the East India Company during the Late Eighteenth Century’ in The Economic History Review, Vol.55, No.3 (Aug 2002)

 

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