Original Account of the Operations of a Rubber Plantation in Early Twentieth-Century Borneo. BORNEO.

Original Account of the Operations of a Rubber Plantation in Early Twentieth-Century Borneo

Archive of seven typed letters totaling 32 pp, dated between February and June of 1916, all in very good condition. The letters were written by the manager of the Batu Lima Estate rubber plantation near Sandakan, British North Borneo, to the plantation's owner, a German named G. Sembill, who had been forced by the British to leave the country after the outbreak of World War I. These are carbon copies that were sent to the U.S. Consul, George M. Hanson. Hanson was asked by Sembill to keep an eye on operations, and he travelled the few miles from Sandakan to the plantation regularly to check on the work and accounts. The author of the letters, a Singalese man from Ceylon named Lingham, appears to have been the main on-site manager of the Estate (although Hanson refers to him as the accountant). From the narrative it seems that Sembill had doubts about how the plantation was being run, as Lingham is continually apologetic (though in one letter, he complains, "you mis-understand or rather give immediate orders so as to confuse something and weary my brain of what I should do or which thing should be done first as everything is important and urgent in your notes"); this may be why Hanson was asked to oversee things. These fascinating, detailed letters discuss problems of the weather, labor issues with “coolies” and other hired help ("Hussain and Ah Hong are living in one house and there goes some affairs between Hussain’s wife and Ah Hong"); serious and apparently expensive problems with weeds, and problems with wild pigs destroying the rubber trees. Other topics include stumping, tapping, planting, estate expenditures and bills, and general estate gossip. During his time in Borneo, George Hanson wrote many articles about his experiences, including one that discusses this particular plantation . A copy of this article, published In the American Consular Bulletin for August 1923, accompanies the archive.

Item #20626

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