In 1839 The Emperor of China’s Sauce was introduced in England. Newspaper adverts said that the sauce was originally prepared by an eminent English physician living in India. It was remarkable for its richness, fullness, piquancy, and strong digestive properties. In India ‘it maintained a celebrity previously unknown among Sauces, and was there considered indispensibly requisite with every kind of fish, meat, game, made dishes, or curries’. Bon-vivants at London West End clubs declared it to be ‘the finest in the world’. It could be taken to promote digestion - half a wine glass full should be drunk an hour before dinner.
The sauce was manufactured and sold wholesale and for export by David Morse who lived with his wife and family at Cullum Street in the City of London. Morse had paid a large sum to secure the recipe. The public could buy the sauce from respectable chemists, grocers, oilmen and fruiterers throughout the UK, including Fortnum and Mason, and the Dundee Marmalade Warehouse in Regent Street.
Advert for Emperor of China's Sauce City Chronicle 12 October 1841 British Newspaper Archive
By 1841, adverts for The Emperor of China’s Sauce included endorsements from a number of publications. The Conservative Journal described it as ‘particularly palatable’ and said its only fault was that it made you eat more than you would without it. The Age reported that Sir Charles Metcalf had remarked in 1839 that the sauce was the best he had tasted since his return to Europe from India.
The Emperor of China’s Sauce was just one of David Morse’s business interests. He was a tea dealer and the publisher of a weekly newspaper City Chronicle, Tea Dealers’ Journal and Commercial Advertiser. First published in May 1840, the City Chronicle aimed to advocate the rights of traders such as tea dealers, tallow chandlers, cheesemongers and hop merchants, but published articles on a wide range of topics – politics, law and crime, sport, and fashion.
In 1840 Morse advertised in the City Chronicle for a youth wishing to perfect himself as a man of business. He offered the opportunity of gaining practical experience of the different properties of tea and a general knowledge of all colonial produce, hops, tallow etc. The premium for one year’s placement was 100 guineas.
Advert for Anti-Slavery Sugar Company in Morning Herald (London) 15 August 1840 British Newspaper Archive
Morse was Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Sugar Company founded for the cultivation of sugar, rum and other crops by free labour in British India. The Company was raising capital in 1840 and Morse undertook to supply prospectuses to potential investors.
However it appears that Morse’s business ventures did not progress smoothly. At the time of the 1861 census he was working as a daily labourer. The London Gazette of 8 November 1861 announced his bankruptcy – David Morse, late of 14 Little Tower Street, City of London, wholesale tea dealer, now of 3 Amelia Place, New Cross, out of business.
David Morse’s wife Charlotte died in 1870 and the 1871 census records him as a pensioner living at Morden College, a charitable institution in Blackheath. Morse died in Peckham in 1880 aged 78.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast e.g. Weekly True Sun 1 December 1839; City Chronicle 1 December 1840, 12 October 1841; Morning Herald 15 August 1840.
London Gazette 8 November 1861.