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The political significance of the island of Cuba is not only based on its size but also on the fertility of its soil.

West Indies. Caribbeana, Cuba, Florida. 1757.

The greatest changes in the sugar plantations and sugar processing take place in the period between 1769 and 1800 when superior furnaces for purifying sugar were introduced, and tobacco from Cuba had become famous in all countries of Europe, where the custom of smoking, borrowed from the natives of Haiti, was introduced at the end of the 16th and early 17th century.

Tobacco Plantation in Cuba. 1899.
Tobacco Plantation in Cuba, 1899

It was generally hoped that the cultivation of tobacco, once rid of all the restrictions of a hated monopoly, would become a very significant basis of trade for Havana.

Atlanticd Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570 to 1640. David Wheat, author.

The earliest data on the quantity of tobacco supplied by the island of Cuba to the storehouses of the mother country date from 1748. It was estimated that the quantity supplied between 1748 and 1753 amounted to an average of 75.000 arrobas annually. Between 1789 and 1794 the output of the island rose to 250,000 arrobas annually; and it is believed that the overall output of tobacco on the island amounted to 300,000 to 400,000 arrobas between 1822 and 1825.

To work the land, a variety of different ethnic groups were brought to Cuba over the course of hundreds of years, in different proportions at different times. The slave trade from Africa began in the early 1400s. Coffee Plantation. Guantanamo, Cuba.Thousands of Africans were brought to Spain and Portugal, as well as other countries, before they were brought to the Americas. In the early 1500s, at the start of the Spanish conquest and colonization of the Americas, Africans living in Spain were called Ladinos. Ladinos were brought to Cuba at least as early as 1511-1514, some as slaves and some free. Because they knew the Spanish culture and language, they were more able to escape after being brought to the new world as slaves. Slavers decided therefore to begin to import slaves directly from Africa.

Christen Schjellerup Kobke, Danish Artist, 1810-1848

Christen Schjellerup Kobke, the son of a baker, entered art school in Copenhagen at age eleven and studied there for ten years. Christen Kobke, Danish Artist.

Kobke combined an interest in light and atmosphere with an appreciation for Denmark's medieval monuments to create solemn architectural silhouettes. He also painted charming and intimate portraits of his family, friends, and fellow artists. In 1838 Kobke took his first trip abroad, visiting Dresden and Italy. He also spent time in the Caribbean.

Upon his return home, his Italian scenes found little favor. Despite his talent and the praise of various contemporaries, Kobke was never inundated with commissions. When he applied for admission to the prestigious Academy of Art in Copenhagen in 1846, he was rejected. He died of pneumonia two years later, and the Danish public paid little notice. At the end of the 1800s, scholars and the public began to appreciate Kobke; he is now considered the most internationally renowned Danish painter of his generation.

The slave trade to Cuba began earlier and lasted longer than in the rest of the Americas/Caribbean. While Africans did not arrive in the U.S. until 1619, and Brazil in 1538, they were brought from Africa to Cuba as early as 1521. The trade ended in the U.S. in the 1860s and in Brazil in the 1850s, but in Cuba lasted until the late 1870s.

View of Havana, Cuba. 1639.

View of Havana. 1639.

The Portuguese began bringing Africans to Cuba and the Spanish followed. For a long period, the Spanish did not actually run the trade - mostly British, French, or Dutch slavers were involved since they had settlements early in Africa. Where Cuba's slaves were taken from in Africa varied over time. There were four major ethnic groups that accounted for most of the Africans brought to Cuba as slaves:

Bantu 400,000
Yoruba 275,000
Ibo/Ibibio/Ijaw 240,000
Ewe/Fon 200,000
Others 185,000

Sacramento Daily Union, June 10, 1896, Sacramento, California, U.S.A>

Tobacco From Cuba.

Tobacco Factory, Havana, Cuba.
Tobacco Factory, Havana, Cuba

NEW YORK, June 8. The Ward liner Seguarania, which arrived here today from Havana, brought the last cargo of Havana tobacco from Cuba which will arrive here until Captain General Weyler's order prohibiting the shipment of tobacco from the island shall have been rescinded. This cargo consisted of 1,208 bales and twelve barrels of leaf tobacco.

The Independent, Massilon, Ohio, March 10, 1898

Montgomery Reached There Today.
Work of Naval Court

Wharf. Havana, Cuba.

HAVANA, March 9.--The United States cruiser Montgomery arrived here today. Consul General Lee has been very briefly examined by the naval board of inquiry, and also one diver. Considerable time was spent on the wreck. Captain Sampson listened patiently to various theories propounded by newspaper men and others as to the causes of the explosion, and also to statements as to hawsers found in the harbor and iron on the shore. Evidently he attached little importance to any of these stories, but he intimated that he would investigate any that he deemed worth investigation.

The Spanish divers put in a good day's work, examining chiefly the forward part of the wreck on the starboard side. Captain Peral of the Spanish court of inquiry was at the wreck in a boat for some time.

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba was founded by Spanish conquistador Diego Vel zquez de Cu llar on June 28, 1514.

In 1516 the settlement was destroyed by fire, and was immediately rebuilt. This was the starting point of the expeditions led by Juan de Grijalba and Hern n Cort s to the coasts of Mexico in 1518, and in 1538 by Hernando de Soto's expedition to Florida. From 1522 until 1589 Santiago was the capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.

The city was plundered by French forces in 1553, and by British forces under Christopher Myngs in 1662. The city experienced an influx of French immigrants in the late 18th century and early 19th century, many coming from Haiti after the Haitian slave revolt of 1791.

Bacardi, the giant liquor conglomerate, began with the emigration of Facundo Bacardi y Maso from Spain in 1830. Born in Sitges, Catalonia, Bacardi arrived in the Caribbean port city of Santiago de Cuba, then a Spanish colony populated by many fellow Catalans. There the 14-year-old Bacardi began importing and selling wine. While working for an Englishman named John Nunes, who owned a local distillery, Facundo started tinkering with ways to upgrade the quality of aguardiente (fire water). Also known as rumbullion (then shortened to "rum"), Facundo hoped to "civilize" the dark liquor from its early incarnations as a coarse, harsh liquid swilled by buccaneers.

Cuba Sugar Plantation. 1899.

Cuba Sugar Plantation. 1899.

In 1843 Facundo married Amalia, the daughter of a French Bonapartist fighter, and soon began a family. Around this time his rum experiments had paid off and he offered samples of his light rum to relatives and friends. Facundo's secret formula enabled him to ferment, distill, and blend from molasses a rum one could drink straight, almost like wine, without mixers or additives. Since molasses was a byproduct of processing sugarcane, Cuba's largest export, there were ample quantities around the island. On February 4, 1862, Facundo, his brother Jose, and a French wine merchant joined forces to buy Nunes' tin-roofed distillery for $3,500, which had the necessities (a still of cast-iron, fermenting tanks, and aging barrels) for creating and selling a Bacardi brand of rum. Buying the old distillery lock, stock, and barrel, Facundo also received an added bonus in the deal--a colony of fruit bats--who later came to represent the Bacardi name.

Bacardi, Cuba.The Bacardi enterprise was a family affair, and Facundo's three sons -- Emilio, Facundo (Jr.), and Jose -- joined the company when they came of age and learned their father's secret formula for making what was fast becoming the Caribbean's finest rum. Emilio, the oldest, worked in the office; Facundo Jr. worked in the distillery; and Jose, the youngest, eventually worked in selling and promoting his father's products. Facundo Jr., in honor of his father and to celebrate the new family business, planted a coconut palm tree just outside the distillery.

As the Bacardi boys learned their father's trade, another young man named Enrique Schueg y Chassin, who had been born the same year Don Facundo purchased the Santiago distillery, was maturing and would soon join both the business and the family. In the ensuing years, as the business thrived, young Facundo's coconut palm did, too, and became an enduring symbol of the Bacardi family and its spirits operation.

Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Just before Don Facundo and his partners bought the Nunes distillery, an Australian named T. S. Mort perfected the first machine-chilled cold storage unit. Three years after Bacardi was established, Thaddeus Lowe debuted the world's first ice machine. Though these two inventions seemed completely unrelated to Don Facundo's premium rum, they later helped Bacardi conquer the social drinking marketplace by making ice and cold mixers commonplace. Yet such thoughts were far from Don Facundo and his family's minds, for they had no idea how widespread the appeal of their smooth, fine rum would one day become. Instead, they greeted Bacardi's increasing popularity in Santiago and the neighboring villages as a pleasant surprise. Tobacco Plant.

As was proper in the day, customers brought their own jugs and bottles to the distillery, which Bacardi family members promptly filled and returned. With business booming, Don Facundo decided the current method of distribution wasn't good enough and set out to find an alternative. Meanwhile, back in Spain, Queen Isabella, who ascended the throne in 1843 at the age of 13, was deposed. For Bacardi and his family, as with most Catalans living on the Spanish-controlled colony, the insurrection mirrored their own growing unrest. As civil war raged in Spain in 1872, Emilio, who had become a Cuban freedom fighter, was caught and exiled to an island off the coast of Morocco. During his absence, in 1875, hostilities grew and a rebellion swept through Cuba, though the family business was untouched. Four years after his capture, Emilio returned to Cuba and learned Bacardi rum had earned a gold medal at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876.

As the 1880s dawned, Don Facundo retired and turned Bacardi over to Emilio, Facundo Jr., Jose, and Enrique, who was now his son-in-law. The company's distribution problems had been solved with a suggestion from Dona Amalia, to provide Bacardi products with a distinctive, easily recognized label. As many of Santiago's residents couldn't read, Dona Amalia recommended using a symbol to represent Bacardi. The Bacardi logo was then born, sporting a most unlikely mascot, the fruit bat.

Before the turn of the century, as Bacardi flourished, Cuba was again engaged in battle to gain its independence from Spain.

Emilio, fighting for his country, was banished a second time and Enrique went with him into exile.

The United States joined the fray after a mysterious explosion on the U.S. battleship Maine sparked the Spanish-American War in 1898.

January 6, 1899, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Will Retain the Customs Receipts.
Complaint Made That Havana Has Fattened at the Expense of the Whole Island of Cuba.

Special Dispatch to The Call.

SANTIAGO, Cuba, Jan. 5. The explanation of the War Department at Washington of its intentions regarding the transfer of customs receipts from the different ports in Cuba to Havana is met here by statements from the Cubans that the plan is similar to the one adopted by the Spaniards, when requisitions on Havana obtained less than 6 per cent of what the requisition called for. The merchants, business men and influential people here say Havana has grown rich and prosperous at the expense of the rest of the island, and the Cubans and governmental officials at Santiago say the Cubans of Havana are responsible for Major General Brooke's order on this subject. The people here add that the Havana Cubans are still anxious to maintain the same system of centralization of funds that was in force before the American occupation.

A dispatch was received from Havana to-day saying that the customs receipts may remain in Santiago. The effects of this information are good and particularly so, so far as the laborers are concerned.

Senor Bacardi, the Mayor, has assured the laborers that all work now in progress will go on, and therefore there is not likely to be any immediate trouble. But educated Cubans, the members of the San Carlos Club, the Judges of the Supreme Court, the local newspapers, and Cuban and foreign merchants here agree that the situation is substantially unchanged and that any such projects as was originally outlined simply means taxation without representation. Their argument is that General Brooke, residing at Havana, will always be antagonistic to the interests of the province of Santiago and likely to object to necessary expenditure in this section. Prominent Cubans emphatically assert that if a Cuban Government should assume to issue such an order concentrating the customs receipts at Havana civil war would break out immediately. It is hoped that a civil government may be established in every province, distinct from the rule of the governor general, who should be merely the military chief of the island.

Dr. Castillo and Mayor Bacardi have proved true in this crisis and have urged the citizens to remain peaceful while waiting the results of the visit of General Wood and Dr. Castello to Washington.

General Wood, accompanied by his aid de camp, Lieutenant Hanna, and Dr. Castello, representing the merchants and business men of this city, left here for New York to-day on board the United States transport Mississippi. They were accorded an enthusiastic send-off from the palace and during their passage down Marian street to the wharf. The municipal band preceded General Wood, who was accompanied by the Mayor and his staff and large numbers of officers and Cubans, who walked the entire distance amid continuous applause and cheers for General Wood.

The latter was deeply moved. There were between 5000 and 6000 persons in the procession, and the women wept and wished the general bon voyage. Cuban gratitude was never more clearly expressed. Men, who a few weeks ago were antagonistic to the American commander, were to-day among his most enthusiastic supporters.

The members of the Supreme Court and the band of the Fifth Regular Infantry were on board the auxiliary gunboat Hist, which saluted the Mississippi and bade her farewell in the usual manner. The Mississippi, which was brilliantly decorated, was also saluted by the Punta Gorda batteries.

Los Angeles Herald, January 9, 1899, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Santiago Still Anxious

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, January 8. Senor Bacardi, mayor of Santiago, is cabling to Havana each day regarding the situation, explaining that the local excitement growing out of the proposal of the United States' authorities to concentrate the customs receipts at Havana, is not allayed, and that the people want provincial and municipal autonomy. It is understood that General Wood, governor of Santiago, with General Castillo, will reach the United States on or before Tuesday next, and arrangements have been made for a special cable service to inform the people here as to the developments after General Wood's arrival in Washington.

After defeating the Spanish fleet at Manila, the U.S. and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, which ceded Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico to the U.S. for $20 million. In 1901 Cuba became an independent republic, and Emilio returned home to the Bacardi family and business.

March 10, 1898, The Independent, Massilon, Ohio.


Cruiser Brooklyn Ordered From West Indian Waters to Hampton Roads.
Talk of a Flying Squadron Lighthouse and Revenue Cutters May Be Used.

Map of the Straits of Florida with Cuba.

WASHINGTON, March 9. The big armored cruiser Brooklyn has started away from La Guyera, under orders from the Navy department, directly for Hampton Roads. She has been making a flying cruise in the West Indies and around the eastern end of Cuba, and it was the original intention to have her go to Colon on the Isthmus, and thence to work northward, along the eastern coast of Central America. The sending of the ship to Hampton Roads, instead of returning her to Key West, whence she came, is taken as an evidence of a change in policy on the part of the naval strategists, who have come to the conclusion that the gathering of the most and best of the vessels of the north Atlantic squadron at Key West is putting too many of our eggs in one basket and unduly exposing the eastern coast. There has also been talk of organizing a flying squadron, composed altogether of fleet cruisers, four in number, and having them ready to go to sea at a moment's notice in pursuit of an enemy's ships, relying upon the big battleships for the home guard. This, however, has not been decided upon.

Los Angeles Herald, August 8, 1899, Los Angeles, California

Gaining Control of the Cuban Tobacco Output Cuban Cigar Labels.

Chicago Aug. 7. More than $10,000,000 of English capital has been invested in Cuban tobacco plantations. English firms control the Cuban tobacco market and the American importers of Havana tottacco will have to look to the English for their goods hereafter. James Grantham of London, a representative of English capitalists, who was in Chicago today on his way to the Pacific coast, is authority for the foregoing statement. He has been some time in Cuba, and has just returned from there. Comparatively recent investments of English capital in Cuba and Porto Rico are estimated by him at about $30,000,000.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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