Synopses & Reviews
In 1984, the author and a group of his archaeology students discovered fragments of Chinese porcelain at the site of a Pomo Indian village on the Mendocino coast north of San Francisco. How did these hundred year old ceramics find their way to this remote area? And what of the local legend that told of Pomo women wearing Chinese silk shawls in the 1850s? In seeking the answers to these questions, The Voyage of the 'Frolic' navigates a journey through the lives of nineteenth-century Boston merchants, Baltimore shipbuilders, Bombay opium brokers, newly rich businessmen in gold rush San Francisco, and a woman who burned her father's papers in 1942 in an attempt to conceal the truth about his voyages as captain of the 'Frolic' almost a century before. A truly fascinating picture of the politics, finance and logistics of the nineteenth century opium trade.
This is the detailed history of the clipper Frolic, a sailing ship built in New England in the 1840s specifically for the Asian opium trade: its design and construction; the voyages between Bombay and China; its personal stories of skipper, crew, and owners; its conversion to the Chinese cargo trade to Gold Rush California; and, finally, the end of the Frolic in 1850 when it wrecked on the rocks of the Mendocino coast north of San Francisco.
In the late summer of 1984, the author and a group of his archaeology students excavated fragments of Chinese porcelain at the site of a Pomo Indian village a hundred miles north of San Francisco. How did these ceramics, which were more than a hundred years old, find their way to this remote area? And what could one make of local legend that told of Pomo women wearing Chinese silk shawls in the 1850's? The author soon learned that in 1850 the clipper Frolic, a sailing ship built specifically for the Asian opium trade, had wrecked on the Mendocino coast, a few miles from the Pomo village. He unearthed the business records of its owners, A. Heard & Co., which showed that respectable Bostonians had made their fortunes running opium from India to China. In describing the design, construction, and outfitting of the Frolic, the author was aided by a stroke of luck - a slave named Fred Bailey, later known to the world as the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, worked in the Frolic's shipyard in 1836 and wrote detailed descriptions of the building of such ships. The Frolic, under Captain Edward Faucon, plied the opium trade from Bombay to China from 1845 to 1850. The author describes the political, financial, and logistical aspects of the profitable enterprise before 1849, when the introduction of steam vessels into the opium trade made the Frolic obsolete as an opium clipper. However, the California gold rush created a lucrative market for Chinese goods, and the Heard firm dispatched the Frolic to San Francisco with a diverse cargo that included silks, porcelain, jewelry, and furniture. When the Frolic wrecked on the Mendocino coast, the Pomo Indians salvaged its cargo, and the vessel's history passed into folk tradition. The subsequent lives of those intimately associated with the Frolic are profiled. The owners' families preferred to forget the source of their fortunes, and prior to her death in 1942, the daughter of the Frolic's captain burned her father's papers to preserve his reputation.
Fascinating picture of the politics, finance and logistics of the nineteenth century opium trade.
The story of how Chinese porcelain and silks arrived in a remote Pomo Indian village on the Mendocino coast in the 1850s takes the reader through the lives of nineteenth-century Boston merchants, Baltimore shipbuilders, Bombay opium brokers, and newly rich businessmen in gold rush San Francisco.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -216) and index.