A model citizen: Hong Kong, 1894

Submitted by David on Thu, 07/15/2010 - 15:59

He, for it was surely a man, was British (or just possibly Portuguese), worked as an Assistant at a Sugar company, lived on Hong Kong Island, and was most definitely in the minority.

This odd combination comes from a few simple breakdowns of the 1894 Jurors List, assuming that's a good starting point to find the model citizen of the day. More on the breakdowns:

He, for it was surely a man,

In the 1890's, if you were a juror you were a man. Women would have to wait until 1947 to become eligible to serve as jurors. [1]

was British (or just possibly Portuguese),

This next breakdown wasn't very scientific, I just grouped them by the sound & spelling of their names. No surprise that most (60%) sound like British names, though you could make a safe bet that Benjamin Franklin Taylor and George Washington Milward weren't!

You can probably guess the next group - Portuguese (22%). But you might be surprised at the group #3 - German (10%).

A quick check of the 1891 census shows we're in the right ballpark. 'European and American Resident Civil Population, Men" lists British @ 46%, Portuguese @ 33%, and German @ 7%.

worked as an Assistant

"So what do you do?" must have been a dull topic of conversation. In 1894, two-thirds of all the Jurors had the business title "Assistant".

As another sign of the times (this was when plague was still a major problem in Hong Kong), the list shows two each of Piano tuners, Photographers, and Watchmakers. But only one Plumber!

There's also a 'Moulder', which explains a lot about the furry appearance of several of our walls, and a 'Wharfinger', whatever that is.

Finally Sean will be interested to see there is an Innkeeper listed, and several Hotel Proprietors too.

at a Sugar company,

The biggest single source of jurors was The HK & Whampoa Dock Company, with 40 people (5.5%).

But taken as a group, Taikoo Sugar Refinery, China Sugar Refinery Company, and Taikoo Sugar Company take the lead with 75 jurors (10.3%). Seems like those Victorians had a sweet tooth!

lived on Hong Kong Island,

The 'Abode' section is the sketchiest part of the list, with many entries left blank. Still, it's clear that the vast majority of jurors lived on Hong Kong Island, with only 50 jurors (6.9%) declaring their district to be Kowloon.

Of those, most were working at one of the docks, either Kowloon Dock (21 people / 2.9%) or Cosmopolitan Dock (7 people / 1%). The rest just gave a generic 'Kowloon' as their district.

One oddity in the 'District' column is 'Harperville', given by three members of the Lammert family. I haven't heard of that district before - has anyone else?

and was most definitely in the minority.

The people on the Jurors List were a tiny fraction of the whole Hong Kong population. The 1891 census gives a total population of 221,441, but the Jurors List shows just 726 names.

The census shows 1,702 men recorded under 'European and American Resident Civil Population'. 711 of them, or around around two fifths, appear on the Jurors List. It's clear that even among this group, many people never made it onto the Jurors List.

For the Chinese population, the numbers are much more extreme. Only fifteen Chinese jurors were chosen from the 127,690 Chinese men recorded in the Census.

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[1] Juries: a Hong Kong perspective, page 38


1. There is a listing as early as 1885 for Mrs. B and Miss Shepherd, "Harperville"

2. 1905 Jurors lists shows

"Knox, Lefferts  ..  China Mutual Insurance, Harperville, Robinson Road

3. In 1914, his [Noel Croucher] address was 9 Garden Road, known either as Harperville or Harper's Villa, owned by Li Tsze- chiu and managed by J.H. Seth.  this too apears to have been a boarding house or bachelor's mess. [or "private hotel" perhaps - Annelise]

The quest of Noel Croucher: Hong Kong's quiet philanthropist
 By Vaudine England

4. The 1919 Ladies Directory shows the Misses Graca at Harperville, 9 Garden Road

A Moulder would have been part of the team preparing sand mouldings replicating the part to be cast in molten metal prior to the liquid iron/steel being be poured to make parts for ship's engines, anchors etc. A very skilled job, sadly not common these days. The larger shipyards in Hong Kong had the capability to build complete ships including the engines. IDJ

The two competing sugar companies were not catering to the sweet teeth of Victorian Hong Kong - they were supplying the whole of China! This was a seriously big business in late Victorian Hong Kong - both companies were large and well capitalised and maintained huge networks of Agents across China. Consequently they, like the Dockyards, were large employers of European - mainly British - middle managers. There are several studies of the vast networks of godowns and agencies that they maintained across China and the complex accounting involved, since they normally supplied on credit.

A measure of the importance of these businesses - when Yang Shangkun, one of the Eight Immortals and then President of China, met a delegation from Swires, in the later 1980's, he immediately remarked "I remember you people - Taikoo Sugar!"

The Dockyards were the other big industrial enterprises but in 1894 there was only the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company because their competitor, the Taikoo Dockyard, was not established until after the death of John Samuel Swire, who had expressly forbidden the establishment of such an enterprise. No sooner was he in his coffin than his sucessors, who included members of the Scott family of Scottish shipbuilding fame, set up the Taikoo Dockyard with a graving dock big enough to take the largest British battleship of the day, which was fully operative by 1911.

So I would expect a 1900s Jury List to contain even more shipyard managers.

A "wharfinger" would describe the owner or manager of a wharf and its associated godowns - cf the Hong Kong Wharf and Godown Company, now part of the Pao Group - and as such would be quite a grand personage.

A "moulder" in a shipyard may have been be involved in castings but such a person is more usually called a "pattern maker" - the job of "moulder" in shipyards prior to CAD/CAM was a highly skilled one and involved translating the naval architect's drawings into full sized "moulds" by drawing out the ships plans at full size on the mould loft floor  using the Table of Offsets and making "moulds" (patterns) for the ships components from them after making numerous corrections for skin thickness, angle, etc. A very skilled and well paid job.  

IDJ & ACB, thanks for the extra knowledge about these topics.

In case anyone recognises his name, the wharfinger in question was:

  Brown Frederick Archibald Wharfinger Hongkong & Kowloon Wharf & Godown Co., Ld.       Kowloon

Regards, David