1854: August Unshelm lost at sea in hurricane: Weber take over

“August Unshelm, ran the German Hamburg house of Johann Cesar Godeffroy und Sohn based in Matafele, Unshelm was lost at sea in in a hurricane in the Fijian Archipelago. At his death, Theodor Weber, then a young man of twenty-seven, who had come to Samoa from the firm in Hamburg through its Valparaiso branch in 1861, took charge.

Weber is the most remarkable man in the early history of Samoa. According to Robert Louis Stevenson, and indeed many others, his methods were a sort of skilful admixture of the tactics of Machiavelli and a caveman, but however that may be they seem at least to have gained him, as Stevenson freely admits, the respect of the whole community, white and native. By the end of 1869, that is in little upward of five years, he had as Trood says, “established a net-work of trading stations from New Britain on the north to Tongatabu on the south, including the Line Islands.”

Rules for traders: In the choice of his traders he took no account of nationality. For those seeking employment he had, it is said, but three questions, and all required affirmative answers: “Can you speak the language?” “Can you live among natives without quarrelling with them?” “Can you keep your mouth shut?”

Two points of advice were given: “Have a woman of your own, no matter what island you take her from; for a trader without a wife is in eternal hot water;” and “Give no assistance to missionaries either by word or deed, beyond what is demanded of you by common humanity” – for the missionary taught the native that cloth or coin were better payment for produce than beads and tobacco”.

History of Samoa – R.M. Watson

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