Home ° 2017


Caribbean Ports: ° Anguilla ° Antigua and Barbuda ° Antilles ° Aruba ° Bahamas ° Barbados ° Cuba ° Dominica ° Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo) ° Grenadines ° Guadeloupe ° Haiti ° Jamaica ° Martinique ° Netherlands/Antilles ° Puerto Rico ° Saint Kitts ° St. Lucia ° St. Martin ° St. Thomas ° St. Vincent and the Grenadines ° Tortola ° Trinidad and Tobago ° Turks and Caicos


Latitude 10 1/2 N, Longitude 61 1/2 W Physical Area: Rectangular in shape, measures 37 miles (60 km) by 50 miles (80 km). Total Area: 1864 square miles (4828km2) Major Cities: Port of Spain (capital), San Fernando Major Towns: Arima, Point Fortin, Chaguanas
Location: Seven miles off the coast of South America.

In 1498, a three-ship expedition led by Christopher Columbus sailed into this enchanted gateway island and began Trinidad's recorded history. However, its unwritten history goes as far back as 5,000 years or more BC, judging from archaeological artifacts.

Grenada, Tobago, Curacao, Trinidad. John Thomson, Mapmaker. 1816.

1816 map of Grenada, Tobaco, Curacao, Trinidad. John Thomson, Mapmaker.

The inhabitants of the island in pre-Colombian times were Amerindian tribes from the South American mainland. The main group, the Arawaks (or Aruacas) was a peaceful tribe from the upper regions of the Orinoco, in Guyana. These had settled mostly in the south of the island, where they employed themselves hunting, fishing and growing a few crops such as cassava, maize and sweet potato. They wove cotton to make hammocks, used tobacco for religious rituals, and expressed their artistic urges through woodcarvings and pottery. The northern part of the island - which the Amerindians called "Iere", or "Land of the Humming Bird" - was inhabited by a fiercer warring tribe called the Caribs who originally came from the Amazon region, settling the islands of Tobago, St. Vincent, Dominica, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Reputed to be cannibals, the Caribs fought fiercely against the European attempts to colonize the island; but it was, ultimately, a losing battle.

War, enslavement and diseases brought to the island by the outsiders took their toll, eventually almost completely destroying the Amerindian population, estimated to have been about 35,000 people when Columbus arrived.

On Columbus' third voyage, after a demoralizing week becalmed in the doldrums, Columbus saw the island which he named La Trinidad, in honor of the Blessed Trinity. He claimed the island for Spain; but it was at least 30 years before Spain showed any official interest in her new possession.

In 1530, the Spanish king appointed the conquistador Antonio Sedeno to be Captain-General of Trinidad for life, with a mandate to subdue the unruly natives. Sedeno struggled gamely to accomplish his mission, but the circumstances were against him; four years later, he returned to Spain, and Trinidad was once again left to her own devices.

Walter Raleigh and his expedition at Trinidad. 1595.

Walter Raleigh at Trinidad.

Trinidad was ruled liberally by the Spanish whose early settlers were primarily French planters and their slaves who had emigrated from other Caribbean islands. As in New Orleans, the French introduced Carnival and other social customs to the island.

The Spanish Crown's most important Governor (from 1784 to 1797) was Don Jos Maria Chacon, a multilingual Spaniard with a black mistress and mulatto children was most responsible for the British colonizing Trinidad. Chacon executed a well negotiated surrender preceded by a weak fight with the British. Apparently, he felt abandoned by the Spanish and trusted the British more than the French whom he called "treacherous friends."

Port of Spain. Trinidad.

True colonization of Trinidad did not begin until the end of the 18th century, when the Spanish King, acting on the advice of a French planter named Roume de St. Laurent, issued the historic Cedula of Population, designed to attract immigrants to the island. The terms of the Cedula, proclaimed in 1783, offered free grants of land to citizens of any land friendly to Spain, provided that they were Roman Catholic. This meant most of the new settlers were French, since England, Spain's other ally at the time, was mostly Protestant.

Trinidad was transformed into a colonized island, with French planters and free persons of color flocking from the neighboring islands. The population grew from 2,700 inhabitants in 1783, to 17,700 in 1789 - 10,000 of whom were African slaves, imported in large numbers because the Cedula allowed extra grants of land for each slave owned. French, or a French-based patois that exists to this day, soon became the main language spoken.

Buy at Art.com

Custom House and St. Vincent's Wharf
Trinidad. c. 1850
Engraved by Eugene Ciceri (1813-1890)

Born at the end of Napoleon's reign, Eugene Ciceri spent his formative years in an extended family of painters. His father, Pierre Luc Charles Ciceri (1782-1868), painted decorative murals and stage sets, and served as the designer of official ceremonies following the Restoration of Louis XVIII in 1814. Young Ciceri learned the basics of his craft from his father, and his great-uncle Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855) who enjoyed extensive patronage under Napoleon as well as the royalist rulers of the 1820s and 1830s.

Ciceri seems to have traveled overseas in his 20s, perhaps as part of his military service. Two watercolors from 1837 depict unspecified Caribbean landscapes that might be scenes from French territories such as Martinique, Haiti or St. Martin. On his return to France, he followed in his father's footsteps as a decorative painter. The grand opening of this public work took place on 13 May 1842. However, it seems to have been the last time that Ciceri accepted a mural commission on this scale.

Instead he turned his attention to the landscape painting that his uncle, Eug ne Isabey, was exploring. During this period, Isabey and Ciceri shared living quarters in the Parisian Quartier Pigalle where they were both influenced by their neighbors Theodore Rousseau, Jules Dupree, Narcisse Diaz, Johan Barthold Jongkind, and Jean-Francois Millet. Ciceri’s landscape painting, which became the basis for the rest of his career, reflected the concerns typical of these artists: preservation of France’s rural landscapes; awareness of the sanctity of labor; and the encroachment of industrialization. He made his Salon debut in 1851 at the exhibition now recognized for admitting the previously unwelcome Realist and Barbizon artists. He continued to exhibit paintings at the annual Salons throughout the 1850s, switching to lithographs from the 1865 to 1882.

The New York Times, June 23, 1870, New York, New York


In addition to its Hindoo Immigration, British Guiana in 1862 introduced a couple of cargoes of Chinese, but the cost of their introduction was, found to be greater than that of the Hindoo. Therefore, with a view to diminishing the expense of Chinese immigration, which was the principal objection to it, the colonies of British Guiana and Trinidad agreed in 1863 to establish an agent in China and to receive a certain number of Chinese laborers each per annum for the next three years. The minimum number agreed upon was 2,000, of which five-eighths, or 1,250, were for the former and three-eighths, or 750, for the latter colony; but in the first year of importation under this arrangement his number was exceeded, the arrivals in 1864 amounting to 2,758.

History of Trinidad. 1814 to 1839. Lionel Mordaunt Fraser.

It was calculated that the Chinese might be brought in from the West Indies at a cost of from twenty to twenty-live pounds sterling ($101 to $125) per adult, which sum, considering that they do not stipulate for a return passage, would not exceed the expense of the Indian coolie.

The Chinese who have been received have generally given satisfaction with the exception of two cargoes from Amoy received in Trinidad in the season 1865-68, and in the selection of which proper care had not been exercised. Of the Chinese that had been previously received in the latter colony, the immigrant agent reported that they have not only been subordinate and have worked well for wages, but that they have surrounded themselves with gardens and have acquired pigs and poultry; and that the women are nearly all industrious and quiet; still there were exceptions, some being idle and unmanageable. "The Chinese," he says, "are more difficult to manage than the Indians, and require temper and discretion on the part of the overseers. They have no respect for courts where corporal punishment is not inflicted, and are much given to petty theft." And he is of opinion that "a severe discipline, including corporal punishment, would nave a good effect on their first arrival. Imprisonment, with hard labor, they regard without apprehension."

During the season of 1866-7 there was no emigration from China to these colonies. In the month of March, 1866, the English and French Ministers at Peking entered into a convention with the Chinese government the effect of which would have been to greatly increase the expense of the emigration hat it could no longer be carried on with advantage to the colonies. Under this convention it was provided that every Chinese emigrant should, at the end of five years, be entitled to be transferred back to China at the expense of the colony; that even if he should remain there the sum which would otherwise have been paid for his passage should be handed over to him: that If he should enter Into a second engagement for five years he should receive a gratuity equal to half the cost of his return passage, his right to such return passage at the end of first engagement remaining as before; and that invalids, or men incapable of work, should be entitled, at any time, to claim payment of the sum necessary to cover the expense of their return to China.

In Trinidad the number of Indian Immigrants working on estates on October 1,1866, was 15,500, of which number 8,429 males and 2,005 females were under indenture, and 3,215 males and 1,851 females were not under indenture.

Result of Coolie Labor in Trinidad.

The experience of Trinidad has been nearly the same as that of its neighboring colony, British Guiana. The produce of sugar, which in 1835 was 44,732,430 pounds, fell in 1840—two years after the slaves became free—to only 23,377,776 pounds. In 1859 about 71,000,000 pounds were exported, and in 1864 more than 75,000,000 pounds were sent to Great Britain alone from this island. The two last named amounts were almost entirely the production of coolie labor, such negroes as were willing to work having, in a great measure, taken to the cocoa plantations which abound in the island.


Our inquiries into the coolie system have convinced us that if the Asiatic laborer, be he Chinaman or Hindoo, is to be made a source of profit to the Caucasian, he must be treated as a man and dealt with fairly and honestly. If his confidence is not gained it will be impossible to obtain the full benefit of his services.

Slavery was abolished in 1833 by the British Parliament. By mid-century, the island's already cosmopolitan mix turned to India to find cheap labor for the islands main product, the labor intensive sugar cane crop. Unlike the former slaves, the East Indians, as indentured servants, were allowed to keep their customs which included religious festivals with drumming, dancing and processions. Today the cultural mix of Trinidad is described as: 40% black, 40% East Indian, and 20% other, but all identify themselves first as "Trinis" or Trinidadian.

A sugar plantation in the south of Trinidad
c. 1850. C. Bauer

Sugar Plantation in the South of Trinidad. 1850. C. Bauer.

Unlike other Caribbean islands, Trinidad is blessed with many natural resources. The island's prior ancient status as part of the mainland means it shares substantial marine oil and gas reserves with its neighbor Venezuela.

The Colonies and India, December 17, 1886, London, United Kingdom


The following from the Royal Gazette of Trinidad may prove acceptable to those at home who take an interest in this question: "The Secretary of State having sanctioned the issue of licenses to extract pitch from lot "F," Pitch Lake, arrangements will be made to issue licenses, probably from December 1." Following upon this announcement a telegram was received at Port of Spain, on Nov. 19, stating that "the Trinidad Pitch Lake petitioners having failed before the Privy Council, the Governor has been authorised to grant licenses for the reserve lot."

Trinidad's Plantation Workers

Plantation workers in Trinidad.

Plantation workers arrived from India and other countries at The Depot
Port of Spain.

Between 1845 and 1917 a total of 143,939 Indians migrated to Trinidad under the system of Indian indenture. Most of these indentured labourers were drawn from the agricultural and laboring classes of the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar regions of north India, with a comparatively smaller number being recruited from Bengal and various areas in south India. Approximately 85% of the immigrants were Hindus, and 14% Muslims. Despite the trying conditions experienced under the indenture system, about 90% of the Indian immigrants chose, at the end of their contracted periods of indenture, to make Trinidad their permanent home.

East Indian plantation workers in Trinidad.

The predominant age group of the immigrants was 20-30 years and, while most came as unmarried individuals, there were those who came as small family units. The debate surrounding the nature and workings of the system of Indian indenture in India is multifaceted and relatively open-ended. A lot of ambiguity has marked the system, especially during it first three decades of operation. These include the recruitment process in India, British role in the impoverishment of 19th century India- a main push factor of Indian indenture, whether or not the Indians were fully cognizant of the real nature and details of what they were embarking on, and their level of awareness of the fact that they were leaving Indian soil. Initially, the journey from India to Trinidad averaged at about three months, but became substantially shorter and less turbulent with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Conditions on board the ships were cramped and depressing and there were frequent outbreaks of such diseases as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and measles which led to high mortality rates on some of the journeys. ~ Caribbean Atlas.

The Colonies and India, June 18, 1892, London, United Kingdom


...Sailing from Barbados at 10 P.M. on February 16, at daybreak on the 18th the high coast range on the north shore of Trinidad was in sight. I will not attempt a detailed description of Trinidad or occupy time with a history of the past; I must confine myself tonight with the impressions which I have brought away as to present condition. Trinidad is fortunate in not depending solely on sugar. Cocoa is grown most successfully, and now forms an article of export which already rivals, and promises soon greatly to exceed in value, the export of the older staple of West Indian trade. In addition to sugar and cocoa, other products, such as coffee, tobacco, and fruit, in which an active trade with the United States is being developed, give excellent promise for the future.

Port of Spain, Trinidad

The island possesses a unique source of wealth in the famous Pitch Lake.

(The Pitch Lake-La Brea in Trinidad is a strange large lake mad of natural pitch - tar - asphalt - bitumen. It is the largest Pitch Lake in the world and there are not many of them. La Brea is thought to be millions of years old.)

The value of the exports and imports may be taken at 5,000,000 lbs., the two sides of the ledger approximately balancing each other.

The total population is 196,000, about one-third of the inhabitants being Coolies. At the present time East Indian emigrants are being introduced in large numbers, many of whom prosper and become permanent settlers. These imported labourers are not to be compared in physical power with the negroes, but the latter are not disposed to regular industry and are under no pressure to work from necessity. In the course of its chequered history, Trinidad has passed in succession under the rule of Spain, France, and England. All the races who have had dominion over the island are represented in its heterogeneous population. The lower class of shopkeepers are Chinamen. English is everywhere spoken, and the French and Spanish languages are heard on all sides. Trinidad has a public revenue of nearly half a million. While this handsome sum, under able administration, much has been done to introduce civilization and to develop resources. Much yet remains to be accomplished, and there is no need to far that opportunities will be neglected by the present able and vigorous Governor. I had many interesting conversations with Sir. Napier Broome. I shall endeavour to give the leading points discussed in a few words.

Under present conditions the West Indian Islands find their best market for sugar in the United States and for cocoa in London. It would be a help if the Mother Country could give to the products of Trinidad a preferential position in her markets. This idea can now, however, be no longer entertained; we have called into existence too many industries depending for their success on the cheapness of raw materials. Every Colonial Government would be glad to obtain Imperial guarantees for loans for local objects; but if we stood prepared to put all our Colonies on an equal footing in this respect we should be saddled with intolerable charges. To maintain strong garrisons in every part of the Empire would be popular with local society; but such a policy would impose an undue burden upon the Mother Country.

An excursion to the Maracas Waterfall was a charming incident in our stay at Trinidad. After driving for some miles over a flat country, through numerous large sugar plantations, we commenced a rapid ascent, following a running stream which rushes down a thickly-wooded valley from its source in the central mountain range. Nothing can exceed the loveliness of the scenery. The vegetation presents all the richest beauties of the tropics, ferns forming the undergrowth. On every side are majestic trees covered with creepers. Parasites hang down from each branch like the strings of a harp. Here and there the space has been cleared for cocoa trees, whose pods at this season wear their most brilliant colours of yellow, pink, and orange. The Falls of Maracas in dry weather is diminished to a thin veil of water. It descends from a precipice 300 feet in height, recalling the graceful lines of Tennyson: --

Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn did go,
And some like wavering shadows rose and fell,
Rolling a slumberous sheet of foam below.

We sailed from Trinidad on February 20, and at 8 p.m. on the following day were safely anchored in the Carenage of Georgetown, the picturesque chief town of Grenada.

Colonies and India, March 16, 1895, London, United Kingdom

Since the beginning of 1893 the value of imports paying ad valorem duty, as given in the Trinidad Customs returns, has included not only the net value of the articles imported as given in former years, but also the cost of the packages, freights, and other charges, thus adding very considerably to the former rate of valuation ; while since the same date certain modifications have been made in the mode of valuing free goods and goods paying specific duties. These changes were confined to direct imports, no change having been made in the mode of valuing transit goods. The value of these charges may be taken at 96,341£, but it is not an easy matter to determine the exact amount; but, taking it as correct, the increase of trade for the above years is therefore 197,866£.

With regard to his remark that the value of the export trade in 1893 was less than that of 1883 by 460,000£, the returns show that the value of the export trade in 1893 exclusive of bullion and specie, was 1,789,608£, while that of 1883 net was 1,759,376£, or an increase of 30,232£. The total value of the net import and export trade in 1893 as compared to that of 1883 shows an increase of 324,439£, from which has to be deducted, as already explained, 96,341£; consequently the increase of trade in i 1893 over that in 1883 was 228,098£ a very different result to that deduced by Mr. Alcazar, viz., that the total trade of Trinidad in 1893 stood at 750,000£ less than in 1883.

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.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

Kindly Kindly Donate.


DALevy @


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.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.