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American Opium Merchants

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  • John Murray Forbes, Sr. (1813 - 1898)
    Links John Murray Forbes (February 23, 1813 – October 12, 1898) was an American railroad magnate, merchant, philanthropist and abolitionist. He was president of both the Michigan Central rail...
  • William Howell Forbes (1837 - 1896)
    Mrs. Hemsley's sister, Valeria, (Mrs. Paul Forbes) was called for Miss Valeria Wright, of "Reed's Creek." Her husband was a native of New York. She bore him the following children: First, Thomas, who...
  • George Tyson (1830 - 1881)
    An American, George Tyson was a partner of Warren Delano Jr. and various members of the Forbes family in Shanghai Steam Navigation Company in the 1860′s. Passport applications 1874, 1878 available th...
  • Robert Bennet Forbes (1804 - 1889)
    He was born in Jamaica Plain, near Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Ralph Bennet Forbes and wife Margaret Perkins, of the Perkins family, and brother of John Murray Forbes. "As a member of the Forbe...
  • George Farley Heard (1837 - 1875)

* Hon’ble John’s Band

  • "When we sold the Heathen nations rum and opium in rolls,
  • And the Missionaries went along to save their sinful souls."

--The Old Clipper Days, Julian S. Cutler

from The Boodle Boys RA Kris Millegan©2000

Many historians discount the American activity in the opium trade, generally concentrating on the British and their mercantilist trading syndicate, the British East India Company. Because of the Navigation Act of 1651, Americans "were not permitted to sail their own ships to the Orient," they were required as colonists and subjects to buy all their Chinese goods in London from the East India Company. The East India Company’s monopoly on the tea trade was more of a reason for the American Revolution than the cost of the tax. ...

American smugglers, many of them prominent merchants, were already buying tea and Chinese merchandise from the Dutch and others. Smuggling was big business.

After the revolution, Americans were free to embark on their own mercantile adventures and when the East India Company outlawed their own ships from carrying opium, in 1805, American companies jumped right in. The War of 1812 caused some interruption of the trade but after the war the Americans held a major portion of the trade for many years.


  • John Jacob Astor
  • William H. Russell
  • George HW Bush
  • Samuel Russell of Middleton, Connecticut
  • Thomas H. Perkins
  • Russell Sturgis
  • Robert Bennet Forbes
  • Warren Delano, Jr.