Charles Henri Maurice BOSMAN [c.1839-1892] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Charles Henri Maurice BOSMAN [c.1839-1892]

Charles Henri Maurice
c.1839-08-29 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)
Birthplace (country): 

Dutch born Bosman, arrived in Hong Kong about 1859 where, at the age of 20 he was working for the Dutch coolie trader,  Cornelius Koopmanschap.

He met a Ms. Sze and the first of their five children was born when he was 22 years old and she was 20.

In 1862, aged 24, the company name was changed to Bosman & Co. in Hong Kong, and Koopmanschap & Co in San Francisco.

He also became the Dutch Consul.   What was the value to a coolie trader of being Dutch Consul ?  The shipping of "emigrants" to Dutch Guiana had to be done under his consular supervision. 

In 1867, the US Congress banned the coolie trade to the USA as being a form of slavery.

When he was 29, he was part owner of the Hongkong Hotel in 1868 and was there for the grand opening, He was also a director of the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company.  (James Whittall, the resident senior partner of Jardines at the time,  was chairman of the Dock Company, the same J. Wittall for whom Bosman was working before he died).

Bosman was described by the Dutch Ambassador to Britian as "a prestigious man, well received among the upper classes" and one of the most important businessmen with China and Hong Kong.

However, his business was not doing well.  He sold his assets and left Hong Kong, also leaving behind Ms. Sze and their five children.  She, at age 28,  then became the concubine of Mr. Kwok and had three children with him.

In 1873, when Bosman was 34, he started the "Eastern Agency" in London.

Four years later, when he was 38 and she was 21, he married Mary Agnes Forbes in San Francisco, 4 October 1877 and she moved to London too.  Miss Forbes' father, Alexander, was a well known  "pioneer" in the Bay Area, developing subdivisions of land in San Rafael near San Francisco.

While Bosman was courting Mary Agnes, Bosman's sons by Ms. Sze were teenagers, being educated at the "Central School", Hong Kong (later Queen's College) but it is not known who paid their school fees.  One of those sons became Sir Robert Ho Tung.

It appears that Alexander Forbes, Bosman's father-in-law, was English and the chairman of the San Francisco Committee of the Anglo-California Foundation, and that Bosman represented them when they gave a lovely gold and silver casket to the British Prime Minster, Lord Beaconsfield in 1879.

In Australian newspapers,  the Eastern Agency ran ads showing it was being liquidated in 1885 and any creditors were told to contact C.H.M. Bosman in London.  He then joined J. Wittall & Co and worked there until his death seven years later.

And then we find this:

"Showing the names of all aliens to whom certificates of Naturalisation have been issued since the 8th day of August 1888.  Dated  August 1889

BOSMAN, Charles Henry Maurice      
The Netherlands      
15th November 1888      
8 Redcliffe Square, London.

A man named Charles Bosman and his American wife are found in the 1881 and 1891 UK censuses as being based in Kensington in London. They had 4 boys and one girl.

So, it seems Bosman became an Englishman and died just 4 years later, in 1892, age 54.


Sir Robert Ho Tung Bosman

1898 - If the Governor will vouch for you ...

Treasury decisions under tariff and internal revenue laws, etc, Volume 1
United States. Dept. of the Treasury - 1898

"In support of Mr. Ho Tung's claim that he is a British subject, the certificate of Sir William Robinson, governor and commander-in-chief of the Colony of Hongkong and its dependencies, and vice-admiral of the same, is submitted, setting forth that he has examined affidavits of birth, and has satisfied himself by such examination that Mr. Ho Tung was born in said Colony of Hongkong of Dutch and Chinese parents, on the 22d day of December, 1862"

In 1901, when travelling in New York, Robert Ho Tung used the name 'H.T. Bosman". (see New York Times article).  One of the younger brothers chose to use his Western name, Walter Bosman.  You can find a Family Portrait, with Walter in Western, and the other children in Chinese clothes - at this powerpoint presentation

In 1908, when voyaging by ship from Hong Kong to London, he was denied the right to land in San Francisco. see New York Times article

San Francisco, 28 September 1908

Polygamy No Harm, Says Son of Dutch Father and Chinese Mother.

Robert Ho Tung Bosman, a Hongkong millionaire, who with two wives and three children arrived from the Orient on the steamer Korea yesterday, will be deported.  This decision was reached to-day by a special board of inquiry.

It is said that Bosman, who desires to travel in this country, will appeal from the decision to the Secretary Straus at Washington.  He says he sees no harm in polygamy.  His father is Dutch and his mother Chinese.  He is a prominent citizen of Hongkong.

(Margaret returned the next day.  Robert appealled and he, Clara, the children and Kate Archer stayed.  The appeal was rejected, and then all returned the following April 1909).



C.H.M. Bosman gravestone in Brompton Cemetary - photograph in "Tracing my Children's lineage" shows:

Born - 29 August, 1839

Died - 10 November 1892

Here is his obituary in the China Mail, 1892, 21 Dec:

C.H.M. Bosman obituary


29 Apr 2011 - Age at death corrected
7 May 2011 - Typos corrected, Bosman's age at various times added, removed reference to Ho Kom Tong


Photos that show this person



I visited Brompton Cemetery in Chelsea yesterday and was able to take some pictures of Bosman's grave. Note that the gravestone inscription reads Henry rather than Henri.

Charles Henry Maurice Bosman
Charles Henry Maurice Bosman, by Philk


Charles Henry Maurice Bosman
Charles Henry Maurice Bosman, by Philk


Thank you very much for this interesting post, it's really detailed!

I was wondering if you could provide sources for the information posted about Charles Maurice Bosman? I haven't found some much detail about Bosman in any publications.