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Copy of a letter to Messrs Batison & Co in London

Date: 1865-1886
Overall: 315 x 201 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Jope House
Object Name: Letter
Object No: 00048021

User Terms

    This letter is addressed to Messrs Batison & Co in London, dated 8 May 1865, from Leeris & Peat. The letter discusses a range of food products, their prices and how to pack them. Included are the plant gums ammoniacum, auimi, arabic, assa foetida and kino, as well as Bengal ginger and fine Madras tumeric.

    On the reverse of the letter is a pencil sketch of a bird, and flowers seen on Christmas Day 1865. There is also a sketch of a fish seen at Port Chance, Shortland Island on 28 December 1865, which was described as a peculiar looking animal with the appearance of a bat.

    This document was found in the back pages of the manuscript log of voyages from Sydney to the South Seas - first aboard the schooner CAPTAIN COOK, the second aboard the brig DART and the third on the schooner CHANCE - between 1865 and 1866.
    SignificanceShip's logs usually only contain information relating to the sailing operation of the ship such as weather condition, sail changes and watches. This combined log of the CAPTAIN COOK, DART and CHANCE is very unusual as it is also the personal account of a small Sydney merchant's trading adventures in the South Seas in the 1860s - at a time when Sydney was the major port and trade centre for the region.

    HistoryBy 1860, Sydney had developed from a penal colony to a major port and trading centre for the south-west Pacific. In 1862, a small British merchant and shipping agent based in Sydney named John Armitage Buttrey bought the wooden single decked two-masted schooner BERTHA. On 6 March 1865, Buttrey left Sydney aboard the renamed CAPTAIN COOK with his family heading for the South Seas with his own consignment of speculative cargo including tobacco, sugar, alcohol, paint and flour. Buttrey and his family arrived back in Sydney in mid-June 1865 - after visiting Samoa and Fortuna - with a cargo of 20 tuns of coconut oil, a ton of tortoiseshell and a single passenger, and sold the schooner later that year.

    In November 1865, Buttrey left Sydney with another consignment of speculative cargo aboard the 153 ton brig DART, owned by merchant George Bing. The cargo included alcohol, sugar, coffee, ironmongery, cannons, guns and powder, cartridge and shot.

    Buttery returned to Sydney from the South Seas on 22 February 1866 aboard the schooner CHANCE, which he had purchased a month earlier. The vessel returned with 1,900 lbs of tortoiseshell, one ton of beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) and Buttrey as the ship's agent and only passenger. In April 1866, Buttrey mortgaged the vessel and departed on yet another speculative voyage to the South Seas.

    The trade voyages of John Armitage Buttrey to the South Seas are characteristic of the rapidly expanding world trade and shipping in the second half of the nineteenth century. This change was largely a result of the free trade policies adopted by Great Britain, but also due to the demand for raw materials as a result of increasing industrialisation, and an increase in the productivity of Australian and American primary industries.

    By the early 1860s the Australian share of the increasing British overseas trade had risen rapidly from 2.6 % to just over 9% and considerable British capital entered the two major colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. This capital was used by British and Australian-born business people to further develop the Australian economy and Australia's own ship building and cargo carrying enterprises.

    Due to the great distances to England and Europe, the costs of running larger ocean going vessels and a possible historic preference for smaller craft (coming from early colonial legislation that restricted the size of Australian built ships) the majority of these Australian ship owners and builders tended to restrict themselves to small vessels such as schooners, brigs and ketches, which were used for inter-colonial trade and trade voyages to the South Seas.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Copy of a letter to Messrs Batison & Co in London

    Assigned title: Letter from Leeres Peat

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