VIC Des Voeux Road looking West c1895 HKPL.jpg

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 16:33
Date picture taken


Well spotted Annelisec and Moddsey. I agree that the sign says "United States Mail Lines". The fact that it appears on this building and is in the plural ("Lines" not "Line") may be useful in narrowing down the period when the photo was taken.

A check of old newspapers on MMIS shows that adverts were regularly placed under the heading "US Mail Line" (no "s") from 1889 (HK Telegraph, 13-5-1889) to 1898 (HK Daily Press, 18-2-1898). The adverts state that the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. carried the US Mail and gave details of its Hong Kong Agent. The Agent changed and moved addresses from time to time.

1889 to 1891. Agent C.D. Harman, 50A Queen's Road Central.

1892 to 1893. Agent J.S. Van Buren, 72 Queen's Road Central.

1894 to 1898. Agent J.S. Van Buren, 7 Praya Central.

1899 to 1901. I can't find any records.

1902. Agent J.S. Van Buren, Queen's Building.

1903. Agent E.W. Tilden, Queen's Building.

I don't think either 50A or 72 Queen's Road Central can be seen in the photo, but can anyone tell me if 7 Praya Central was the address of the building bearing the sign prior to reclamation of the harbour infront of it and the Praya becoming Des Voeux Road?

If it was, based on the years Van Buren was at 7 Praya Central, the photo should have been taken between 1894 and 1902.

The newspaper adverts from 1889 to 1898 use the singular term "US Mail Line", implying Pacific Mail Steamship Co. was the only company carrying the mail between Hong Kong and the USA. However, from 1902 (HK Telegraph, 23-8-1902) the adverts start to use the plural "US Mail Lines" and promote the services of the Occidental & Oriental Steamship Co. and Toyo Kisen Kaishu in addition to Pacific Mail Steamship Co. suggesting that the franchise may have been extended from one to three companies.

If so, and this was reflected by changing the Agents sign from "Line" to "Lines", the plural term may have started to be used from 1898 at the earliest.

1898 to 1902 is the best I can do at the moment, but it's a bit speculative and depends on the accuracy of the presumption that the building with the sign in the photo was 7 Praya Central. If anyone can confirm that, and pin down the dates when Van Buren moved out from 7 Praya Central and the US Mail franchise was expanded to more than one company, it may help to further narrow down the date of the photo. 

The Oriental annual for merchants and manufacturers


2 Praya Central

Siemssen & Co

Holliday, Wise & Co. (Just 2 Praya no Central in address)0

4 Praya Central

Arnhold, Karberg & Co.

7 Praya Central

Nippon Yusen Alisha

9 Praya Central

Shewan Tomes & Co (No Street number)

Praya Central

Butterfield & Swire

David Sassoon Sons & Co

Dodwell & Co

Melchers & Co

Occidental and Oriental steamship company

Pacific mail steamship company

Toyo Kisen Kaisha