Thursday, June 19, 2008

Early California Ships


How Commerce Grew In the Early Days of the Golden State.

The first European vessel to enter this port (San Francisco), of which there is any record, was the Eagle, in 1816, commanded by Captain William H. Davis. She sailed from Boston via the Sandwich Islands and Alaska. She brought an assortment of goods which were a revelation to the natives, and their garments of skins and hides were substituted by the clothing of civilization. Payments were made in hides, tallow, soap and fish. The Eagle then became engaged in the sea otter trade and was very successful, as otters were plentiful in this bay and all along the coast. She made three trips, netting about $25,000 on each trip. This stimulated others, and this discovery no doubt gave an impetus to commerce which made this port known to the world.

Commerce in those days of manna was carried on in what might be termed a "free and easy" manner. On many articles the duty was 100 per cent, which practically amounted to confiscation or made smuggling necessary in self defense. The Mexican officials generally opened the door. Frequently vessels were permitted to pass Monterey, the port of entry, coming to Yerba Buena, and after selling as much of the cargo as possible to return to Monterey for entry and dispose of the remainder.

The shippers were not sworn as to the value of the cargo. They gave fictitious invoices, and by this means would got off on the payment of $5,000 on a $20,000 cargo.

It became so customary to swindle the government as scarcely to excite comment, except in cases where goods were concealed in false linings of the vessels, and the government officials were outwitted. — Overland Monthly.

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