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China, America and the Pacific

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Trade and Cultural Exchange


Source Libraries:

The archival content has been sourced from leading libraries and archives, including:

  • American Philosophical Society
  • Boston Athenaeum
  • Bridgeman Art Library 
  • California Historical Society
  • Hagley Museum and Library
  • Hawai'ian Historical Society
  • Massachusetts Historical Society
  • Nantucket Historical Association
  • Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Winterthur Museum Garden & Library

Nature of the Material:

  • Ships' Logs (valuable records of commodities and trading information)
  • Manuscript sources, including family and business papers of merchants, shipping dynasties, shipbuilders, shipmasters and supercargoes
  • Rare newspapers
  • Rare printed books
  • Visual material (including paintings, illustrations and photographs)
  • Historic maps
  • Objects
  • Ephemera, including Clipper ship cards

Details on the key additional Features:

  • Contextual essays, written by specialists
  • Interactive chronology
  • Historic data maps
  • Extensive image galleries including paintings and maps
  • Online exhibitions
  • Carefully selected external links
  • A detailed glossary

Editorial Board includes:

Michael Block,

University of Southern California

James Fichter,
Lingnan University

John Haddad,
Penn State Harrisburg

Paul A. Van Dyke,
Sun Yat-sen University

List of specific collections and some detail:

We have selected archival content from leading libraries, including:

Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody houses some of the most important material relating to the America-China trade. We have sourced a wide range of manuscript materials including family manuscript collections and ship logbooks. The family and business papers relate to the individuals or entire families engaged in trade in East Asia. Other manuscript content includes diaries, invoice books and ephemera, including Clipper ship cards.

Massachusetts Historical Society

We have selected a wide range of manuscript material including correspondence, memoranda, diaries, logbooks, notebooks, accounts and shipping papers. Much of this material comes from the renowned Forbes collection. The Forbes family were key participants in the China trade and the documents throw light on the fascinating commercial activities in which it was engaged. Other highlights from the collection include logbooks of the first American ship to visit China; a letter book of Houqua, a Canton trader; and trade letters from King Tamoree and Queen Charlotte Tapoolee of Kaua'i (Hawai'i).

University of Alberta

We include manuscript items largely pertaining to the fur trade in Canada. The collection helps document the beginnings of the fur trade in New France during the French Colonial Period; westward expansion by the North West Company and British merchants of Montreal, and the monopoly over Western Canada and British Columbia by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

California Historical Society

We include manuscripts and rare books including memoirs, narratives of voyages, prices current and diaries that document aspects of the China trade as well as the fascinating development of the fur trade.

University of California, San Diego

We include a selection of rare books from the Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages, as well as manuscript material for the Alaska Commercial Company Records.

Boston Athenaeum

A collection of manuscripts and rare printed books including private papers and correspondence revealing fascinating insights into the trading relationships and cultural exchanges that emerged as part of the China trade.

American Philosophical Society

We include manuscript materials from the Bancker Papers and the Elisha Kent Kane Papers.

Hagley Museum and Library

We include manuscripts from the impressive Samuel Francis Du Pont Collection. Du Pont played a key diplomatic role in opening Japan to American trade and investment. We also include visual and rare printed materials relating to the America-China trade from the Imprints and Pictorial Collections.

Hawai'ian Historical Society

Manuscript and rare printed materials from the Hawai'ian Historical Society shed light on the crucial role Hawai'i played in the Old China Trade and later the Pacific whaling industry.

Nantucket Historical Association

We include manuscripts, rare books and visual material including account and waste books, correspondence and ships’ logs providing valuable records of commodities and trading information.

University of British Columbia

We have included a selection of material from the Charles E. Spring fonds collection and The Chung Collection. The Charles E. Spring fonds collection contains documents on the growth of the northern sealing industry, its business workings, the method and practice of hunting, the extent of native involvement, the effect of the modus vivendi agreement and subsequent tribunal claims, and the financial and personal consequences suffered by Charles Spring. From the Chung Collection we have included many objects, photographs and items on early British Columbia history and immigration and settlement, particularly of Chinese people in North America, and items detailing the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

A collection of Chinese export watercolours, selections from the Latimer Family Papers, a sea journal, a swatch book and the John Haskell Papers.

Bridgeman Art Library

A selection of visual material including paintings of Canton Harbour, trade cards, photographs of merchant houses in Salem, Boston and photographs of a variety of objects such as porcelain trade items and Chinese export furniture.