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Seaports, Captains, Merchants

East Indies.

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Malay Archipelago (Maritime Southeast Asia): ° Bangladesh ° India ° Indonesia ° Malacca Strait ° Malaysia ° Maldives ° Myanmar (Burma) ° Pakistan ° Philippines ° Riau Islands ° Singapore ° Sri Lanka ° Thailand ° Timor

Malaysia ° Bintulu ° Ipoh ° Kota Kinabalu ° Kuala Lumpur ° Luban ° Miri ° Penang ° Port Kland ° Sandakan ° Sibu ° Tawau

Located strategically on shipping lanes between the East and West, Peninsula Malaysia had attracted early travellers from different parts of the world.

India and Malaysia, from an Atlas of the World in 33 Maps, Venice. 1553India and Malaysia. 1558.

Melaka's spice trade led to its attack by the Portuguese in 1511, resulting in the fall of the Sultanate. Together with their conquest, the Portuguese brought in Catholic Christianity to the locals.

But in 1641 the Dutch took over control of Melaka. The British came at the end of the 18th century in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

In East Malaysia, Sabah became a British protectorate under the Chartered Company, British North Borneo, whilst the Brooke family ruled Sarawak as the White Rajah, meaning the White King, for 100 years. During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur

In 1857 a group of 87 Chinese miners poled their way up the Klang River in search of tin. At that time, tin was in huge demand, especially by America and the British Empire, which needed the durable, lightweight metal to help fuel their industrial revolutions. In Ampang, few miles to the east, there were huge reserves of it, and this spot was the highest point where the prospectors could land their supplies. They named it "muddy confluence," built a thatched-roof village, and within a month all but 17 of them had died of malaria. More tin prospectors soon followed, and within a few years the village thrived. Like all mining boom-towns, it was raucous place, populated almost exclusively by men. They spent their days in grueling labor, crouching over tin pans or digging the earth, returning to the town at dusk to console their loneliness in bars, gambling halls, and brothels.

As they did in the gold fields of California, the Chinese miners organized themselves into clans and warring factions called "secret societies." Without a centralized Chinese authority keeping peace, order in the mining areas was nearly impossible. Whole clans could be swept up in fights that started over little more than a drunken dispute between two men.

In 1868, needing a solution to the chaos, the headmen of the local clans elected a man named Yap ah Loy as "Kapitan China," or leader of the Chinese community. With the support of the local sultan, he built prisons and quelched revolts, quickly establishing an infamous reign over the entire Kuala Lumpur mining area.

Loy had barely established control, however, when the Malay Civil War broke out. The merchants of the Straits Settlements, concerned that the war would ruin their prosperity, asked Britain to intervene. Britain was initially reluctant to get involved with internal politics, but rumors that the merchants would turn to Germany instead sparked a fear in London that Britain could lose its tin interests in Malaya. London sent in a new territorial governor, Andrew Clarke, to apprise the situation. Clarke gathered the feuding princes aboard his ship off the island of Pangkor, and convinced them to sign a document known as the Pangkor Agreement. The Agreement ended the war, established a new Sultan of Perak, and -- most significantly -- called for the presence of a British Resident "who must be asked and acted upon on all questions other than those touching Malay religion and custom."

This was the beginning of increased British involvement in Malaya, one that would eventually place Kuala Lumpur at center of history. The British residential system quickly spread. Frank Swettenham, the Resident of Selangor, chose Kuala Lumpur as his administrative center and oversaw the rebirth of the city, ordering the construction of new buildings using brick. In 1896, Swettenham convinced the Sultans of four states to unite under the umbrella of the Federated Malay States (FMS), and Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital.

The city became a classic center of British colonialism. Sharply uniformed officers and bureaucrats administered the FMS from beneath the distinctive copper domes of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. In the off-hours, they played cricket on the field of the Padang and sought liquid comfort in the Selangor Club, where only whites were allowed.


November 4, 1890, London and China Telegraph, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom


Hindu Temple of Sri Muthumariamman.
Hindu Temple of Sri Muthumariamman

On the principle of its being best to leave well alone, we (Penang Gazette) had not intended saying anything further about the reletting of the Penang Opium Farm. We notice, however, that the Singapore papers have published some remarks which induce us to state what actually occurred during the visit of the Acting Governor, and in doing so we have only to qualify one of the statements we made in our issue of the 23rd. On the arrival of the steamer Sea Belle on Sept. 2 the Opium Farmer laid before the Acting Governor a humble petition, asking to be allowed a reduction of the rent, and offering a rental considerably above that for which eventually the farm was relet. Sir Frederick Dickson refused to listen to the prayer of the farmer, and insisted on payment in full as per contract. Better counsels, however, seem to have prevailed when the Sea Belle returned from the Western States, and matters eventuated as we related. Oong Ah Thye, the present holder of the farm, is generally supposed to be the representative of the farmer who has been released from his agreement.

It is with great regret that we are called upon to record the demise of Dr. H. A. Marsden, who had been suffering for seme few days with fever, but not so severely as to cause alarm to himself or his friends. An inquest was held, resulting in a verdict of death from the effect of fever. It appears that a small blood vessel was broken internally, but is not considered to be the cause of death. Dr. Marsden was only a year and twenty-three days out in the East.

Boiling and testing opium.
Boiling and Testing Opium, 1880s

We (Penang Gazette) are now enabled to state that the new lease of the Penang Opium and Spirit Farm has been signed by Oong Ah Thye, Khoo Tean Poh and Lim Ah Kye. These names do not appear in connection with the former lease, nor with the farms in the Protected Native States. We understand that the Government is losing no time n entering an action against the farmer who has held the lease for the last year and nine months.

In 1891, K. Thambusamy Pillai, an influential descendant of Indian immigrants from Tamilnadu, India, the founder and President of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, installed the murti (consecrated statue) of Sri Subramania Swamy (in what is now known as the Temple Cave). Since 1892, the Thaipusam festival in the Tamil month of Thai (late January/early February) has been celebrated here.

The first several years of the country's history were marred by a Communist insurgency, Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the Federation in 1965.

London and China Telegraph, London, England, November 1, 1892


Opium is going up tremendously in price. At the beginning of the year the price of a chest was $480, three months ago $570, and now the price quoted is $633.

At this rate, unless the price of chandu is raised sooner or later, there is reason to fear that, what with the extensive smuggling carried on here, the opium farmers will suffer considerably . . .

The case against the chinchew and the fireman of the steamer Nam Yang for smuggling chandu at Penang has resulted in their conviction and sentence to fine and imprisonment. Mr. H. Cobb, the Harbour Master of Teluk Anson, leaves the Perak Government service to take up the managership of the Perak Forwarding Company, under Messrs. Howarth Erskine Tate and Co. The company will receive goods at Teluk Anson to be forwarded to any part of Perak, thus supplying a long-felt want.

A club, called the "Penang Peranakan Club," has just been established amongst the respectable class of Jawipekans here, and an application has been made to the authorities for its exemption from registration under the Societies' Ordinance. The object of the club is the mutual improvement of its members, and one of its rules strictly prohibits gambling and sale of intoxicating liquors in the club premises.

London and China Telegraph, November 1, 1892, London, England

The Malay Native States.

Colonel Walker has made another expedition almost to the Kelantan frontier, but without coming across the Ex-Orang Kayah. Some stragglers have been taken prisoners; and in these cases they have willingly surrendered. A few casualties are reported amongst the rebels. Mr. Cuscaden and Inspector Fleming nave scoured the Chick a and Mela districts. The Sultan is still at Singapore, and Tungku Ali, one of his sons, has joined him. Another Paliarig chief, the Dato Kajah of Jellei, is on his way to Singapore.

Batu Caves.
Batu Caves, Hindu Shrine
with Status of Lord Muruguan, Selangor, Malaysia

The pinnace which upset with H.E. the Governor and party in the Kinta river, and the portmanteau containing H.E.'s orders and decorations have been recovered. A Kwala Lumpoor correspondent writes: You see the Chinese driving about in grand style, carriages and pairs, their syces dressed up in gorgeous style, but if it comes to the question of ready capital, they will most probably be found in very sore straits. It is quite true that some miners made and make enormous profits, but then they are not satisfied, and invest double as much again in new mines, and the result is that they are always hard up, notwithstanding their enormous profits.

Within easy reach of the town are places to which a visit would certainly give great pleasure and satisfaction. The most interesting, however, are the Batu Caves (a 400 million year-old limestone hill with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites). These are certainly worth while visiting, and I don't think that there is another sight so grand and imposing in the world. Some of the caves extend miles and miles inward, and have never been explored yet. Millions of bats live there, and the caves are full of their guano. I believe a company with a very small capital would find it very profitable to export this guano.

The Selangor Government recently received a surprise. The mining rights in two small blocks of land of about 13 and 12 acres, situated on the boundary of the Rawang concession, realized by public auction $5,150 and $2,080 respectively. From this it will be seen that the first block fetched nearly $400 an acre -- the highest price probably ever paid for any land in the State. This shows how it would pay the Government to prospect its own territory, instead of leaving the prospecting to adventurers.

Oceans.The World of Pirates.The World of Pirates. 
The World Atlas of Pirates: Treasures and Treachery on the Seven Seas: Maps, Tall Tales, and PicturesMalaysia. 
Angus Konstam 
Kuala Lumpur is the main port of entry in and out of Malaysia. It is now the capital of the country, however Kuala Lumpur was founded as a tiny mining town in 1857. In the middle of the city, the sparkling Masjid Jame River flows uninterrupted; the Klang and Gombak rivers meet and seem to encompass the entire city. The abundance of water in and around Kuala Lumpur adds to its allure and beauty. Outdoors enthusiasts marvel at the exquisite diversity of the bird life and scenery in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia.The Honored Dead. Robert M. Macomber.
The Honored Dead (The Honor Series; Historical Fiction)
Robert M. Macomber

Seventh in the award-winning Honor Series. Lt. Cmdr. Peter Wake, in French Indochina in 1883, meets up with opium warlords, Chinese-Malay pirates, and French gangsters. Perfect for the armchair historian and adventurer. Starred Booklist review compares it to the best historical sea fiction ever written by Patrick O''Brian and C.S. Forester as well as the historical fiction of Bernard Cornwell.

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



Merchant Shipping

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

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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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