Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Oriental Mercantile Community

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MEMBERS OF THE HONGKONG ORIENTAL MERCANTILE COMMUNITY.
1. Chau Six Ki.Chan Shu Ming.3. T. Chee.4. Ng Sau Sang.
5. The late A. Tan.7. Tsang King.9. Chan Ah Ying.
6. S. Minanu.8. The late Hung Kwong To.
10. Chau Yüt Ngam.11. Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim, J.P.12. M. P. Talati.

 

THE ORIENTAL MERCANTILE COMMUNITY, HONGKONG.

 

DAVID SASSOON & CO., LTD.

The firm of David Sassoon & Co. ranks amongst the three or four oldest houses in the Colony, for it has been closely and prominently connected with the business of the island for upwards of half a century. Its special lines are Indian cotton yarn and Indian opium, the latter having attracted the founders of the firm from Bombay to Canton before Hongkong was in the hands of the British. Mr. David Sassoon, the founder of the house, was born in Bagdad in 1792, and settled in Bombay about 1832. His father enjoyed the proud title of Nassi, Prince of the Captivity, and, in virtue of that, was head of the Jewish community in Mesopotamia. After having been engaged for many years in the opium trade with Canton and South China, Mr. David Sassoon sent his sons to open branches and extend the interests of the firm. They obtained a very strong hold on the opium trade, and as soon as the trade of South China began to come through Hongkong they established their headquarters for China in the Colony. They were thus first in the market, and have retained a leading position since. The head office now is in London, and there are branches at Manchester, Calcutta, Bombay, and Karachi, as well as in Hongkong and Shanghai. In the early days the Company owned their own opium clippers, but these have, of course, long since disappeared. For many years David Sassoon & Co. have represented the well-known Apcar Line of steamers, which maintains a regular service between Calcutta and Hongkong, and has recently extended its trips to Japan and Shanghai, sending a steamer about once every ten days. The firm is agent, too, for the Norwich Fire Insurance Company.

Messrs. David Sassoon & Co. hold shares in many of the most important companies in Hongkong. Mr. Edward Shellim, the local manager, has a seat on the board of directors of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company, the Hongkong Land Investment Company, the Hongkong Land Reclamation Company, the Canton Marine Insurance Company, the China Fire Insurance Company, the Hongkong Iron Mining Company, &c. The firm is also a large property owner in the island. It will thus be seen to what an extent the enterprise has grown.

David Sassoon, the founder of the house, was succeeded by his son, Sir Albert Sassoon, Bart., who was born in 1818 and died in 1890. The present head of the firm is Sir Edward Sassoon, Bart., M.P.

 
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E. D. SASSOON & CO.

There are certain businesses in Hongkong whose rise to prosperity and importance has synchronised with the progress and development of the Colony itself. Among the historic firms having their roots right down at the foundation of the Colony, that of Messrs. E. D. Sassoon & Co. must certainly be included. It

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DAVID SASSOON & CO., LTD.
S.S. "Japan."
Sir Edward Sassoon, Bart., M.P.The late David Sassoon.E. Shellim.
Offices.

is an offshoot of the still older house of David Sassoon & Co., the founder being a son of Mr. David Sassoon. Like the parent firm, Messrs. E. D. Sassoon & Co. are largely interested in Indian opium and Indian cotton yarn. They also have a large Manchester department and act as commission agents and bankers. In India they own five big mills—the Jacob Sassoon mill, operating 100,000 spindles and 2.000 looms; the E. D. Sassoon mill, the Alexandra mill, the Rachel Sassoon mill, and the E. D. Sassoon Turkey Red Dye Works. For many years they have been interested in a variety of undertakings in the Colony, and are owners of considerable property.

The head office is at Bombay, and there are branches in London, Manchester, Karachi, Calcutta, Hongkong, Shanghai. &c. Mr. J. E. Sassoon is now the controller of the business at headquarters, his partners being his brothers, Messrs. E. E. Sassoon and M. E. Sassoon. The whole of the firm's interests in South China are supervised from Hongkong, where Mr. A. J. Raymond is in charge. His post is a very responsible one, including as it does a seat on the directorate of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and on the boards of several other local companies, but he receives able assistance in the management from Mr. C. S. Gubbay.

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P. F. TALATI'S OFFICES.

 

P. F. TALATI.

One of the most lengthy records in the Colony is that of the house of P. F. Talati, which commenced business in Hongkong during the early years of the British occupation. It was founded by Mr. F. M. Talati, grandfather of the present partners, and for many years bore his name. On his death, in 1868, the house came to be known under the present style of P. F. Talati. Essentially Bombay merchants, the firm have branches at Calcutta and Hongkong, managed by the partners, Messrs. P. F., A. B., and M. P. Talati. Their extensive correspondence with their many agents has continual reference to precious stones and general Eastern produce. An extensive business is done with Europe, Africa, Persia, and India in silks, metals, drugs, and essential oils, the house having a high reputation for the quality of its goods. The Hongkong branch is managed by Mr. M. P. Talati, of whom a biographical sketch follows.

 
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MR. M. P. TALATI, of Wellington Street, Hongkong, who was born in Bombay in 1872, is one of the leaders of the Parsee community in the Colony, and a trustee of the Hongkong, Canton, and Macao Zoroastrian Charity Funds. He was educated at Elphinstone College, and, after extensive travels, joined the business of his family, who enjoy the distinction of being one of the oldest and most highly respected Parsee families in Bombay. He is now a partner in the house of P. F. Talati, and has charge of the Hongkong branch. The firm holds the reputation of being one of the oldest trading in the East. Mr. Talati is closely connected with the "Sirdar Dawur" family, the first Parsee family of Surat. This family is held in esteem by the British community in India by reason of the services which it rendered to the British Government in the building of the British Empire. Mr. Talati married Kuverbai B. Modi, a daughter of Burjorji E. Modi (the son of Sirdar Davur Edulji K. Mody), a very highly respected judge of Surat, by whom he has one son. Having good business connections with almost all Eastern ports, Mr. Talati has extended his trading relations to Europe, and is now working with many well-known European houses.

 
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E. PABANEY.

One of the largest trading firms between India and the Far East is that of E. Pabaney, which does an immense business in opium, yarn, cotton, silk, tea, and other valuable merchandise. The firm was founded by Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim, who was born in Bombay in 1840, and at the age of sixteen went into business there on his own account. Foreseeing the possibilities of the Far East, he opened a branch of his business in Hongkong in 1857. The success of the venture led to the establishment of other Far Eastern branches, and to-day the firm has an enormous stake in Oriental commerce. Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim is one of the leading members of the Khoja community, and comes from generations of traders, his father having been an owner of ships trading between India, Arabia, and Africa. He has ever been mindful of the obligations which devolve upon leading business men, and his public activities led to his being made a Justice of the Peace in 1883, and, more recently, to

E. D. SASSOON (Founder of the Firm).

THE OFFICES OF E. D. SASSOON & CO.
JACOB SASSOON
(The present head of the Firm).

his nomination as a Trustee of the Port of Bombay. His private benefactions have been on a large scale. He started the Khoja Orphanage at an initial cost of a lakh of rupees, and towards the Bombay Museum Fund he contributed the magnificent donation of three lakhs of rupees. Sir Currimbhoy occupies a high status in the Mahomedan community, holding important offices in various organisations. His son, Mr. Fazulbhoy Currimbhoy Ebrahim, is a prominent member of the band of enthusiastic and patriotic Mahomedans who are striving to fit their community worthily to play its part. Recently he appealed to his compatriots to furnish funds for the establishment of a modern secondary school at Poona—the appeal being backed by a generous donation of a lakh of rupees from his father, and of two lakhs from his sister, Khanumbhoy. The Hongkong branch of E. Pabaney is situated in Duddell Street, and the manager is Mr. Soomerbhoy Mowjee.
 
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THE LATE MR. CHAN A TONG
(Founder of the Firm).

JOSEPH CHAN A TONG
(Partner).
PETER CHAN A TONG
(Senior Partner).

 

CAWASJEE PALLANJEE & CO.

Among the Bombay merchants carrying on business in the Colony there is little doubt that, from the point of view of seniority, Messrs. Cawasjee Pallanjee & Co. take a premier place. Established at Canton in the days of the Honourable East India Company's "Factory Sites," they did a flourishing business in the southern Chinese capital until the time of the opium war, when they were forced to remove to the neighbouring Portuguese Colony of Macao. At that time, however, the Portuguese Government did not encourage foreigners to settle in their city as traders, and so the Company transferred their office to Hongkong as soon as the island was acquired by the British. Messrs. Cawasjee Pallanjee & Co. are general importers and exporters and commission agents, dealing especially in Chinese silks, Indian opium, and cotton yarn. The founder of the firm was Pestonjee Cawasjee, who died at Macao shortly after the war (i.e., in 1842). The present proprietors—Messrs. Rustonjee Cooverjee, Homusjee Cooverjee, Eduljee Cawasjee, and Pestonjee Cooverjee—are his descendants. They reside in Bombay, the headquarters of the firm, which is there known as Cursetjee Bomanjee & Co. There is a branch also at Shanghai. The Hongkong office is at No. 22. Stanley Street, and is managed by Mr. S. C. Khan, who has been in the Colony for several years. He is assisted by Mr. S. E. Sethna, son of Eduljee Cawasjee, and Mr. F. H. Sethna, the son of Hormusjee Cooverjee. Every three or four years the manager and assistants, if they wish, are relieved. Thus Mr. Khan is shortly going to Bombay, and will be relieved by Mr. D. K. Sethna, a son of the late Mr. Cawasjee Pallanjee, one of the original partners of the firm.

 
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TATA, SONS & CO.

This firm was established in the early fifties, and was one of the first Bombay houses to open a branch in Hongkong. In India the firm does a large business in cotton, yarns, pearls, and metals, and acts as agents for the Swadeshi Mills, the Central India Mills, the Ahmedabad Advance Mills, the Hydro-Electric Company, the Tata Iron and Steel Company, the Union Fire Insurance Company of Paris, and the South British Insurance Company. The Tata Iron and Steel Company is the biggest Swadeshi enterprise in India, having a capital of two crores and thirty lakhs of rupees, and the object of the Hydro-Electric Company is to supply electric power to some fifty mills in the city of Bombay, which are at present run by steam-driven machinery. The electric power is to be generated from a waterfall at Lanowlee, some 80 miles from Bombay. Messrs. Tata, Sons & Co.'s headquarters are at Bombay, and there are branches at Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka, New York, Rangoon, London, Paris, and Tuticorin, as well as Hongkong. The partners in the business are Messrs. D. J. Tata, R. J. T. Tata, and R. D. Tata. One resides in Bombay, another in Paris, while the third spends most of his time travelling between the various establishments. The offices in Hongkong are at No. 6, Ice House Street, and the manager here is Mr. B. D. Tata. In Hongkong the firm trades in opium, Indian and Japanese yarns, Manchester piece goods, and sundries.

CHAN A TONG.

This firm, which commenced business in 1883, has been responsible for the construction of many of the principal buildings in Hongkong and the coast ports, amongst them being the Government Buildings at Taipo, the new Harbour Offices, Central Market, Tramway and Power Station, Royal Dutch Petroleum Works, Hok-ün Cement Works, Tytam Reservoir, Taikoo Sugar Refinery Reservoirs, and nearly all the buildings at Quarry Bay belonging to Messrs. Butterfield & Swire, the godowns and retort house of the Gas Company, the German Consulate at Canton, and many large private residences. The firm laid the foundations of Jardine's Cotton Factory at Causeway Bay, and is now engaged in the erection of the new Law Courts. It has quarries of its own at Ly-ee-mùn Pass, and supplied dock stones for the Naval Yard extension as well as for the Praya Reclamation. Employment is afforded to some thousands of men. The founder, Mr. Chan A Tong, died in 1904, aged sixty years. His eldest son, Mr. Peter Chan A Tong, is the head of the concern, and he and his younger brother, Mr. Joseph Chan A Tong, are the only partners in the business. They are the sole proprietors of the business of Messrs. C. L. King & Co., Florida water manufacturers, whose registered trade-mark "Double Dragon" brand is known throughout the East. Mr. Peter Chan A Tong is a director of the Weldon House, Ltd., Hongkong. Both brothers are partners in the foreign-import and export firm of Messrs. Fernandez & Co., carrying on business at the above address. The firm has a brick factory at Whampoa worked by English machihery of the latest design. Messrs. Chan A Tong are large property owners, most of the European houses on both sides of the streets at Morrison Hill Road belonging to them, and they are owners, also, of several graphite, molybdenum, and silver-lead mines in Kwangsi Province. There is a branch of the firm at Canton.

 
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A. TAN.

The contracting firm of A. Tan has been established in the Colony for about half a century. The founder, a native of the neighbouring province of Kwangtung, started business in a small way in Hongkong, and in a comparatively short space of time built up a large and remunerative connection. The firm are contractors to the Government, and have been entrusted with several very important undertakings for the War Department, included among which are alterations to numerous forts and barracks in the Colony, and the construction of the Gun Club Hill Barracks, Kennedy Road Married Quarters, and the Jubilee Hospital at the Peak. The firm also built the Foo Moon Forts at Canton, and carried out a great deal of work in the north under the direction of the late Li Hung Chang, with whom Mr. A. Tan made a tour. In recognition of the excellent way in which the contracts for the Chinese Government were carried through, a title was conferred on Mr. A. Tan by the Viceroy of Canton. The business is now conducted by the sons of the former proprietor, for Mr. A. Tan died some two years ago. The offices are at Nos. 63 and 65, Queen's Road East, and are under the control of Chan Sui Wai, Young A. Tan, and Chan How. The brothers have all been taught English at Queen's College, and are well qualified to maintain the firm's reputation in the Colony.

 
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THE YUEN FAT HONG.
Koh Kai Shun.
Koh Yiell Qieu.Koh Mah Wah (Founder).Koh Fai Seck.
Koh Wan Kum.

 

THE YUEN FAT HONG.

The establishment of this firm in the Colony dates back forty-five years, and during the whole of that time it has occupied a leading position amongst the Chinese hongs of the Colony. Its founder was Mr. Ko Mah Wah, a native of Swatow, where the family house is still maintained. The present proprietors of the business are his sons, Messrs. Ko Soon Kum, Ko Yick Kum, Ko Fai Seck, and Ko Wan Kum. The first-named lives at Hongkong, whilst his brothers visit from time to time the various places in which the firm has interests. The firm is chiefly concerned in the rice trade, both import and export, and in the handling of general cargo. It owns five rice mills at Bangkok, and a large part of the product of these mills is brought to the Colony. The Yuen Fat Hong acts as agent for the Norddeutscher Lloyd's Bangkok-Hongkong line of steamers, and has a branch office in the Siamese port. The Hongkong offices are situated at No. 10, Bonham Strand West. Mr. Ko Soon Kum, the local manager, is a large property owner in the Colony, and is one of the recognised leaders of the Swatow community. He is a Chinese scholar, having passed a high degree in his own language, and he is careful to see that his nineteen children receive an excellent education. He has a son in Siam and another in Singapore. In addition to his other interests, he is chairman of the Man On Insurance Company, whilst as a former member of the Tung Wah Hospital Committee he has been actively associated with practical philanthropy.

 

KWONG HEE YING.

Mr. Quan Kai, head of the well-known firm of Kwong Hee Ying, and compradore to the Pacific Mail, Occidental and Oriental, Toyo Kisen Kaisha, and the Portland and Asiatic Steamship Companies, is one of the most enterprising and up-to-date Chinese commercial men in the Colony. He received his training in Western business methods in America, in which country he resided for many years. He was the proprietor, among other concerns, of a boot and shoe factory equipped with all the latest machinery and employing some 350 Chinese and 70 Europeans. So well did he succeed that he sent for his brother and his nephew to join him, and embarked upon a general import and export trade between China and America. Deciding to return to China, Mr. Quan Kai secured several valuable agencies in San Francisco, and for some years supplied these houses with goods from Hongkong. At the present time he is agent for one of the largest American flour-milling companies, the Portland Flour Mills Company, of Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. The fourteen mills operated by this firm are capable of turning out some 15,000 barrels of flour a day; for years they have been doing a very extensive business in Hongkong, and the whole of their trade in China, the Straits Settlements, and the Philippine Islands is entrusted to Mr. Quan Kai. Besides having all these important interests, he is the proprietor of a large silk store in Canton, and carries on an extensive general import and export trade. The Hongkong office of Kwong Hee Ying is No. 264, Des Voeux Road Central. At Canton the business is carried on under the style of Quan Kai & Bros., the partners being Mr. Quan Kai, his brother, Mr. Quan Sam, and his nephew, Mr. Quan Jow. Their branches and agencies include San For & Co., Retalulen; How Sang Chong, Son Sonate; Quan Kai & Co., Quezaltenango; Gustavo Lou Ya Yea, Guatemala; and How On Chong, Leon. Although an exceedingly busy man, Mr. Quan Kai finds time to undertake various public duties, and has served on the committee of the Tung Wah Hospital.

 

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KWONG HEE YING.
Quan Jow.Quan Jee On.Quan Sam.
Premises in Des Voeux Road.Quan Kai.
Portland Flouring Mills Company.

 

WANG HING.

The visitor to Hongkong who passes along Queen's Road Central for the first time cannot fail to be attracted by the number of well-equipped and tastefully arranged Chinese silver and jewellery shops. Among these, none has been established longer or enjoys a higher reputation than that owned by the firm of Wang Hing. The business was founded by the father of the present proprietors in 1854. It occupies a central position, but, notwithstanding this advantage, the large measure of public favour which the firm enjoy would not have been secured unless the articles offered for sale had always been of first-class quality and workmanship. The firm supply every year numerous cups and trophies for local races, and are entrusted with a great deal of the silver work required by local societies. They may always be relied upon to execute commissions with good taste and despatch.

 

THE FOOK ON INSURANCE AND GODOWN COMPANY, LTD.

This firm, which is doing an extensive fire and marine insurance and godown business, was floated as a public company in 1900 with a locally subscribed capital of $1,000,000. It is a purely Chinese undertaking, with a branch at Shanghai and agencies throughout China and the Straits Settlements. The present directors are Messrs. Kwan Kai, Tang Lai Pun, Yu To Sang, Wong Chung Leong, and Choi Fuk Sang. The secretary is Mr. Ng Sau Sang, who has occupied the position since the formation of the Company. He was born in the Colony, was educated at the Penang Free School, and has served on the committee of the Tung Wah Hospital. The assistant secretary is Mr. Yu Chok Sang. The headquarters of the Company are at No. 9, Des Voeux Road West.

 
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INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR VIEWS OF WANG HING'S PREMISES.

 

THE I ON MARINE AND FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, LTD.

This company, which, as its name implies, effects only marine and fire insurances, was floated in 1899 with a capital of $1,000,000, the whole of the money being subscribed by Chinese. During the ten years of its existence it has established an extensive connection and a good reputation both amongst the Chinese of the Colony and in the ports of China. It has agencies in the Straits Settlements. Australia, America, Philippine Islands, Japan, Cochin China, and the Treaty ports of China. The directors of the Company are Messrs. Tso Yuk-shan (chairman), Li Shou-hin, Ku Fai-shan, Li Wai-ü, Fong Sin-ting, Wong Chok-king, and Li Pok-kwan. Mr. Chan Shü-ming, who is the permanent secretary, manages the business of the firm; Mr. W. Cheuk-man, who is the assistant secretary, takes charge of the foreign affairs of the Company; and Mr. Chan Ngoklim is chief accountant. Messrs. Deacon, Looker & Deacon are the solicitors of the Company, whose head office is at Nos. 24 and 26, Bonham Strand West, Hongkong.

 
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THE YAN ON MARINE AND FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, LTD.

This is another of the purely Chinese insurance companies that have been floated during recent years. It was formed in 1901 with a capital of $1,000,000, the whole of the money being subscribed locally. The head office is at No. 303, Des Voeux Road Central, and there are agencies in most of the largest Chinese, Japanese, European, American, and Australian seaports. The management is vested in a board of six directors, and one of the promoters of the undertaking. The permanent secretary is Mr. Chan Yüt Ngam, a native of Canton, who has been connected with business in the Colony for many years. He is assisted by Mr. Chung Chi Nam, whose proficiency in English has proved of great service.

 
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C. AH YING & CO.

Among the provision and coal merchants, stevedores, and general storekeepers of Hongkong, Messrs. C. Ah Ying & Co., Nos. 22 and 23, Connaught Road Central, hold a recognised position. They are navy and military contractors, ship and family compradores. His Majesty's ship canteen tenants, contractors, wholesale dealers in cigars, tobacco, &c. In partnership with a few friends, the firm was established by Mr. Chan Ah Ying at Weihaiwei. The headquarters were removed to Hongkong in 1897, and since that time other branches have been started in Shanghai and Singapore. The agents in England are Messrs. Wm. Miller & Co., Portsmouth. The firm's cable address is "Ah Ying," and the A.B.C. code, fifth edition, is used. The manager and part proprietor of the business, Mr. C. Ah Ying, started business in a small way, and, by honest endeavour and steady application, has achieved a considerable measure of prosperity. A native of Hongkong, he acted as mess-man to many of Her Majesty's ships on the China station in 1881, and from every naval officer with whom he came into contact he received cordial testimonials as to his trustworthiness and business ability. He is now a landed proprietor and a member of all the leading clubs. He married a daughter of Mr. Ng Chak San, and has eight children—four sons and four daughters.

T. CHEE & CO.

Mr. T. Chee is the head of the firm of T. Chee & Co., merchants, Des Voeux Road. The Company has been in existence for about fifteen years, and for nearly half this period Mr. Chee has been in control. An extensive business is done in all classes of goods, and especially in Manchester piece goods and Australian flour. The branch at Canton has the distinction of being the first house opened by a British subject in the native city, and a large trade is carried on there now. The firm are the agents in South China for the Heinz food products. The head of the business is a well-known figure in the field of sport, and acts as secretary of the Kowloon Cricket Club.

 

ATAKA & CO.

The first Japanese firm to open a branch in the Colony was Messrs. Ataka & Co., whose business is that of general importers and exporters. They are largely interested in coal, yarn, sugar, rice, cotton, metals and practically every kind of Japanese and colonial merchandise, and control an irregular line of cargo steamers running between Hongkong, Japanese ports, Saigon, Rangoon, and Java. They are also the agents for the Japan Ship-owners' Association, which has the charge of a fleet of over 130 vessels aggregating 300,000 tons; for the Nippon Marine Transport and Fire Insurance Co.; the Iwasaki Coal Mine; the Furukawa Coal-Mine, and for the Omi Cotton Duck Co., of Japan, of whose canvas they sell very large quantities. The proprietor of the firm is Mr. Yakichi Ataka, of Osaka. The headquarters are at Osaka, Japan, and branches have been established at Tokyo and other places in that country. The local offices at No. 3, Queen's Road Central, are superintended by Mr. S. Minami.

 
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S.S. "TSURUGISAN MARU."OFFICES OF THE MITSUI BUSSAN KAISHA.

 

THE MITSUI BUSSAN KAISHA.

The history of the house of Mitsui is an interesting record of commercial prosperity following upon the unity of the various branches of one large family. The present heads of the firm can trace their descent from Takashige Mitsui, who held the title of "Echigonokami," and lived as the feudal lord of Namadzuyé Castle in the fifteenth century, and was a member of the famous Fujiwara clan. Takashige was succeeded by Takatsugu, but Takayasu, the son of Takatsugu, moved to Matsuzaka in Ise, where he settled as a private citizen, and laid the foundation of the present Mitsui firm. It was not, however, till the time of Hachirobei Takatoshi that the business assumed any very considerable dimensions. Takatoshi invented the system of cash-retailing; organised the system for the collection and remittance of money, and also the carriers' business, when economic science was in a very rudimentary stage and monetary transactions were almost unknown in the country. In 1687 the Mitsuis, represented by Takatoshi, were specially appointed by the Tokugawa Government as its purveyor and public exchange controller, and in recognition of their services in this connection were granted an estate in Yedo. In 1723, observing the oral will of Takatoshi, his son, Hachirobei Takahira, laid down in writing the family rules by which he and his five brothers pledged themselves to form a collective body of partners working with a collective capital. This is the agreement upon which the whole undertaking of the Mitsuis is based to-day. According to the social institutions of Japan, the unit of society is the family, and not the individual as in Western civilisation. Again, by the laws and customs of inheritance, the estate of the father descends to the first-born. The younger sons must be adopted into another family, or, failing this, must make their own fortunes independently.

In the case of the Mitsui house, however, from the oldest to the youngest there is not one who can enter an absolute claim to any particular property. The Mitsui house is a collective body, a joint association consisting of eleven families or partners, which works with the collective capital of the eleven families, in their joint name, and under the system of unlimited joint liability.

With the restoration of the Meiji era, an important epoch was opened in the history of the firm. While the new Government under the direct control of the Crown was in process of consolidation, the Mitsuis acted as its principal financing agent, and it was in a great measure due to this that Japan was enabled safely to negotiate the crisis with which it was then threatened. As a reward for this and other services Baron Hachiroemon Mitsui, the present head of the house, was created a peer, and other members were given titles of various degrees. After relieving this financial strain, the Mitsuis applied themselves with new energy and vigour to reforming their business undertakings on Western lines. In 1876 the old Exchange House was transformed into a bank on a joint-stock basis. This was the first private bank established in Japan. In the same year a new and most important undertaking was organised for the purpose of general trading. The firm, well known as Mitsui Bussan Kaisha in the East, and as Mitsui & Co. in Europe and America, is the outcome of this enterprise. In 1889 the house acquired from the Government the concession of the Miike Coal Mines, and Mitsui Kozan Kaisha (the mining department) was established in order to control these and many other mines owned by the house. Thus has the business been developed gradually until it has reached its present flourishing condition. It is now difficult to give anything more than a general idea of the vast sphere of influence which the Company fill in the economic world of Japan. Their operations are devisible into three distinct departments, namely, Mitsui Ginko (banking department), Mitsui Bussan Kaisha (foreign and domestic trading department), and Mitsui Kozan Kaisha (mining department). These departments comprise nearly every branch of business in the commercial and industrial world—banking, mining, home and foreign trading, shipping and warehousing, as well as fisheries, agencies, and iron and engineering works. The Mitsui Bussan Kaisha, the foreign and domestic trading department, has its head office at Tokyo, and branches at Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Moji, Nagasaki, Kuchinotzu, Taipeh, Newchwang, Tientsin, Shanghai, Hongkong, Singapore, Bombay, London, and New York. It has representatives at Hakodate, Yokosuka, Maizuru, Kure, Wakamatsu, Karatsu, Kishima (Suminoye), Miike, Sasebo, Seoul, Chemulpo, Antung, Vladivostock, Harbin, Mukden, Kanjvsh, Tetsurei, Tailien, Tainan, Chefoo, Hankow, Tsingtau, Foochow, Amoy, Swatow, Canton, Calcutta, Rangoon, Manila, Saigon, Bangkok, Sourabaya, Hamburg, San Francisco, and Portland. The firm has a fleet of 11 efficient steamers, all 100 Al, of gross tonnage aggregating over 26,500, one of which is almost exclusively engaged in the transportation of the Company's own merchandise. But, besides the shipping and agency business, the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha also does an immense trade in coal as sole proprietors of the famous Miike, Tagawa, Yamano, Hondo, and Ida Coal Mines, and as sole agents for Kanada, Ohnoura, Ohtsuji, Mameda, Mannoura, Yoshio, Tsubakuro, Yunokibara, and other coals.

The branch in Hongkong acts as agent for the Tokyo Marine Insurance Company, Meiji Fire Insurance Company, Nippon Fire Insurance Company, Government Tobacco Monopoly, Nippon Brewery Company, Shanghai Spinning Mill, Nippon Match Factory Company, Nitta Leather Belt Company, and Shinagawa Fire Brick Company. The manager of the branch is Mr. M. Kobayashi, who is a well-known resident of Hongkong and president of the Nippon Club.

 
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OFFICES OF THE YUEN FAT HONG.[See page 229.]

 

THE MITSU BISHI COMPANY.

The well-known Japanese firm trading under the name of the Mitsu Bishi Goshi Kwaisha (Mitsu Bishi Company) are engaged in numerous undertakings, such as banking, mining, shipbuilding, and engineering. Their head offices are at Tokyo, and they have branches at Osaka, Kobe, Moji, Nagasaki, Wakamatsu, Karatsu, Niigata, Shanghai, Hankow, and Hongkong. The banking department has the largest deposits of any bank in Tokyo, and its credit is becoming widely known abroad. The Company's mines produce gold, silver, and copper in large quantities, and the greater part of the metal is treated at their metallurgical works at Osaka. The precious metals are refined by electrolysis to almost absolute purity, and the copper is made into electrolytic cathode of the highest conductivity, which commands good prices on the London market. The annual output of the electro refinery is as follows:—Refined gold, 18,250 ozs.; silver, 498,700 ozs.; copper cathodes, 6,000 tons; and copper vitriol, 800 tons. The Company have big colliery concessions in the provinces of Buzen, Chikuzen, and Hizen, with a total output of over 1,000,000 tons annually. Not only are the Company sole contractors of coal to several of the leading steamship lines, but they also supply coal to the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Imperial Arsenals, the State Railways, &c. For the conveyance of coal to Shanghai, Hongkong, and other ports the Company own a fleet of six colliers, besides tugs, launches, junks, and lighters. The Mitsu Bishi Dockyard and Engine Works are situated at Nagasaki and at Kobe. The former extend over 90 acres, and have a frontage of about 8,000 feet along the western shore of Nagasaki Harbour. There are three dry docks and one patent slip, and in the largest dock vessels up to 714 feet on the keel can be accommodated. The machinery is of the most modern type, and is driven to a large extent by electricity. The shipyard at Tategami has seven berths, and an annual output capacity of over 30,000 tons. The Company's dockyard and engine works at Kobe were opened in August, 1905, and have now a floating dock with a lifting power of 7,000 tons, but before long another bigger floating dock with a lifting power of 12,000 tons will be completed, with many workshops, up-to-date machine tools, &c. The Mitsu Bishi Paper Mill at Takasago has a daily output of 70,000 lbs. The Company also do a large general and bonded warehouse business, and have extensive landing and delivery agencies.

The Hongkong branch is situated at No. 2. Pedder Street, and is concerned chiefly with the import of coal for distribution amongst shipping clients. The manager is Mr. T. Matsuki, who has been many years with the Company.

 
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MIYASAKI & CO.

This Company is one of the latest additions to the Japanese business houses of Hongkong. The firm, which is an old-established one, owns and operates the Hoshu Coal Mine in Japan, which turns out upwards of three hundred tons of good steam coal a day, and it was in order to find an additional outlet for this that the Hongkong branch of the business was opened during 1907. The firm already does a considerable business in the Colony, and is prepared to execute orders for bunkering and the supply of coal generally. Messrs. Miyasaki & Co. were formerly contractors to the French Mail Line at the Japanese ports, and at the present time they hold contracts from some of the largest steamship lines in Japan. Mr. Y. Kubo, the manager of the Hongkong branch, is a nephew of Mr. Miyasaki, the head of the Company.

 
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MEE CHEUNG & CO.
Y. JohnsonThe Retail Depôt.Wan Chong Kai.

MEE CHEUNG & CO.

Messrs. Mee Cheung & Co., of Ice House Lane, Hongkong, who executed a contract for Lloyd's Greater Britain Publishing Company in a manner that gave every satisfaction, are one of the oldest photographic firms in the Colony. They undertake all classes of work, and make a special feature of enlargement and bromide work. They stock a large number of views of the neighbourhood and of South China, besides cameras, films, and printing papers of all kinds. There is a special department for developing and printing for amateurs. The manager, Mr. W. Chong Kai, is a capable photographic artist. The assistant manager, Mr. Y. Johnson, who has been with the firm since it was first started, has had experience in the United States. About thirty hands are employed at the head office, and a new depot was opened recently at No. 8, Beaconsfield Arcade, chiefly for the sale of photographic stores for amateurs. In 1904 the firm obtained a bronze medal from the St. Louis Universal Exposition, and in 1906 they were awarded a silver medal at the Hongkong Exhibition held at the City Hall. On the occasion of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught to the Colony, the royal party were photographed by Messrs. Mee Cheung, and copies of the photographs, forwarded to Their Royal Highnesses, were cordially acknowledged in a letter to the firm.

 
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