'Mazatlan [Mexico] Augt 1850'

No. 41 in Fanshawe's Pacific album, 1849 - 52. Fold-out panoramic drawing on two joined sheets, the right one stuck down on the album page which is captioned by the artist below the image, as title. Mazatlan (Mazatlàn) is a port in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, on the Pacific coast opposite the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, across the entrance to the Sea of Cortes. It was founded in 1531 and by the mid-1800s had acquired a large German immigrant population who made it thriving commercial seaport, importing equipment for the nearby gold and silver mines. This explains Fanshawe's presence there in the 'Daphne', as his 1904 biography explains. From August to November 1850 he 'was employed in collecting freight on the Mexican coast; a very dreary time...as the places visited were of no special interest, social intercourse scant, and the service itself distasteful to him' (p.260). It goes on to detail how the Bank of England, which needed silver in particular, encouraged the Navy to continue allowing its captains to collect and transport mainly silver, but also gold, 'freight' from Mexican mines (and others elsewhere) on behalf of local merchants. This practice had been common in time of war but was no longer necessary, as the metal was also transhipped from Panama by mule train, over the Isthmus, to merchant ships at Colon for the Atlantic crossing. It also abetted Mexican corruption, since the merchants did it to avoid local taxes, but benefited the naval personnel involved and naval welfare. Despite his 'distaste' Fanshawe himself made a considerable sum from it. 'The fee given on receiving freight "on deposit" on board a man-of-war was 1 per cent, and for carrying freight 2 per cent. Of this latter amount 1 per cent went to the captain, 1/2 a per cent to the [station] admiral, and 1/2 a per cent to Greenwich Hospital [the main naval charity]', with lesser on-the-spot handling fees to other crew. Fanshawe's 'small freight of 600,000 dollars took four officers four days to count. A big freight might consist of five or six million dollars' (p.261). 'The chief ports for shipping freight were Mazatlan and San Blas (the harbour of Tepic). The principal silver merchants were - at the former place, [Jaca and] Torre; and at Tepic, Barron & Forbes...(pp 261-62). Fanshawe was later to run across the interests of Barron & Forbes in mining cinnabar (for mercury) and gold in California.

This view looks north over Mazatlan with its inner bay to the right, now the location of the main port. The shipping in the bay appears local, and does not include Fanshawe's 'Daphne'. The view is probably taken from the hill where the Mazatlan lighthouse now stands. Fanshawe did three views at Mazatlan in 1850 (PAI4648 - PAI4650) and one in 1851 (PAI4699).

Object Details

ID: PAI4648
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fanshawe, Edward Gennys
Places: Unlinked place
Date made: August 1850
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 227 x 652 mm
Parts: Album of watercolours of Madeira, Brazil, the Falkland and Pacific Islands, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Vancouver, and California (Album)

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