Outward Cargo Manifest of the Rowena, 1841
Cargo manifests and other shipping records offer a tangible glimpse into expansive commercial networks, reminding observers of the physical goods underwriting long distance trade. Amongst other merchandise, the Rowena carried hundreds of thousands of yards of cotton cloth—shirtings, sheetings, and drills—which served as the basis of American trade in the Western Indian Ocean. These records also offer scholars one of the best opportunities to trace extended supply chains. The first company listed, A. & A. Lawrence and Co., was one of the largest textile manufacturers in the United States, buying hundreds of thousands of pounds of raw cotton from slave plantations across the American South. The Rowena also carried over $18,000 of Spanish silver dollars. This specie allowed Americans to purchase a variety of East African commodities, including the cloves mentioned in this source, and provided much needed liquidity to the island’s entire economy. Lastly, the Rowena’s cargo also included guns and gun powder. A steady supply of American weapons helped the Omani Sultan retain control over Zanzibar and other East African ports and also contributed to the expansion of the East African slave trade.
This source is part of the teaching module on American and Zanzibari trade in the 19th century.
David Pingree Papers, B104 F15, MSS 901, Peabody Essex Museum