19th-Century Scrimshaw & Chinese Paintings

Value (2005) | $12,000 Auction$18,000 Auction

GUEST:
My great-grandfather shipped on the Portsmouth, which was the second ship into Japan in 1856.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
He served 38 years in the Navy.

APPRAISER:
So these came down in your family.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And he was in Asia and the China trade.

GUEST:
All over.

APPRAISER:
What we've got here is an excellent history of the China trade, and that is the trade of the spices and silks and teas and porcelain and all types of things to the West. And one of the very first groups-- Europeans-- that were there as traders were the Dutch. And you'll notice that on the hilltops, there are these little black dots and these walls. Those are actually fortifications. They were put in by the Dutch, and this is the Pearl River, outside Canton. Now, that was the very first trading center, actually, in China, in the 16th century. And certainly in the 17th century, it started to expand, and the Dutch put fortifications in there to maintain their monopoly over the China trade. Well, it didn't work. So by the time your great-great-great-grandfather was there, these forts were abandoned, and they were called the Dutch folly forts. So ships, as they went up the Pearl River, would come through here and then they would go to this area, which is called Whampoa Reach. And you can see, actually-- there's an American flag on this ship, right there, and Americans were very involved in the China trade. Well, the Pearl River is too shallow, so what they'd do is, they would unload these ships full of cargo, and put it on shallow-draft vessels that would go all the way up to Canton. So this is almost like a photograph album for your ancestor to come back home with. Now, he wasn't just in Canton; he was also in other cities. And if you look over here at this picture, you'll see this waterfront with the houses That's the city of Macao, which is a Portuguese colony, because with the Dutch, the Portuguese were among the first traders in Asia. They, again, lost their monopoly, but they maintained it in Macao from the 16th century all the way to almost the present day. They just relinquished it fairly recently. And you notice that those buildings there are all European-based architecture.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Finally, here we come to this city. This is Hong Kong. And if you look here in the background, you'll see that there's a little teeny American flag on the hill. Americans were trading in Hong Kong, even though it was an English colony. These are probably from the mid-1840s to mid-1850s. This was all in a big book, along with other pictures that were more typical, like this. I picked these four out of the 40-something you had, because these are much better quality than the others. These are very specific views of trading centers, major trading centers in China. The condition's a little rough. You can see some pieces that have fallen apart. But you've also got a scrimshaw. What do you know about it?

GUEST:
My great-grandfather-- his stepfather was a ship chandler up in Massachusetts, in New Bedford, and he supplied a good portion of the whaling ships that went out of that area, and that's where they must have picked this up.

APPRAISER:
So the same fellow that brought all this back also brought the scrimshaw. I think at auction, the whole group would bring between $12,000 and $18,000.

GUEST:
Jeez!

APPRAISER:
It's amazing.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lark Mason Associates
New York, New York
Appraised value (2005)
$12,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
Event
Tampa, FL (June 25, 2005)
Period
19th Century
Material
Bone

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