Friday, August 22, 2014

Pustau, William

Updated October 23, 2014

William Pustau, merchant, was listed as a resident of Hong Kong from 1846 to 1850. He was the founder of the mercantile firm, Pustau & Co. Wellington Street was listed as his address in 1846, and Queen's Road in 1850.

Selected Bibliography: Hong Kong's First [online]. Tarrent, William, The Hong Kong Almanack and Directory for the Year 1846, 1848, 1850, Hong Kong: China Mail, resp. 1846,1848 and 1850.

William H. Pustau was listed in 1846 as the head of William Pustau & Co. 魯麟洋行 or 布士兜公司, with its business address situated on Wellington Street (moved to Queen's Road in 1862). It was the Hong Kong affiliate of a company with the same name (sometimes with slightly different names such as Wm. Pustau & Co. or W. Pustau & Co. or Pustau & Co. ) founded in Canton (Guangzhou) on January 1, 1843 by an Altonaer, Carl Wilhelm Engelbrecht von Pustau (1820-1879). The Pustau firm in Canton was the first Germany trading house to have been established in China. An office (or branch) in Shanghai was added some time between 1843 and 1846, and it was once housed at No.2a on the Bund.

The Hong Kong Pustau was one of the sixty founding members of the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce (1861- ). It was one of the few corporate members that were not engaged in the opium trade at that time. If it wasn't opium, was it then coolie trade? Like many other European companies in Hong Kong, Pustau did jump on the bandwagon of carrying on the businesses of emigration agents specialized in acquiring Chinese immigrants to work abroad. It was in fact charged by Governor Arthur Kennedy himself with complicity in the Macau coolie trade. The company was quick in response to clear its name, but at the end received no apologies from Kennedy. The head of Pustau also sat on the HSBC Board of Directors in the 1880s and 1900s. The details I am still looking to find. So far I don't have much on William Pustau as a person, except that he was appointed Consul for Bremen in 1851 and for Hanover in 1865.

These men were listed as employees of Pustau & Co. some time between 1850s and 1880s, most of them sound German: William Ahrenbeck, Gustav Ludvig Broderson, L.S. Lutkens, Julius Menke, Hermann Louis Christian Otte, George von Polanon Petel, P. Pickenpack, A. Pustau, Kaufmann Wilhelm Pustau, G. Raynall, Paul Reimann, Alexander Ludwig Reuter, F. Schirlye. The names of non-German employees I have found are: Frederick William. Lawrence, Polycarpo Antonio Rozario (probably Portuguese), the Chinese compradoe Mok A-kune and the ill-fated George Mather Neill, a young man from Edinburgh who was killed in a nasty carriage accident in November 1867 in Hong Kong. He was twenty five.


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