Thursday, 21 April 2016

Edward Ellis Abrahamson cover

This 1896 cover carried double the usual rate of 10c to UK. It was increased from 8c on the previous July.

E E Abrahamson was a big character in early North Borneo with his business activities centred around Sandakan. He was born around 1860. He arrived in Sandakan in 1883 after spending some years in Malaya and Sumatra. He was initially appointed as manager of the firm Messrs W F Garland and Company, Civil Engineer and Surveyors. He later became a partner. By 1886 he started his own E E Abrahamson and Company. This was established as a partnership principally to exploit the timber resources around Sandakan Bay. A depot was built on Copuan Island to the south side of Sandakan Bay. A series of views of this depot was taken by a noted photographer from Singapore in 1887 which may surfaced at some future date, I hope. The company was also acting agent for various insurance companies and then became increasingly involved in several plantations of the then emerging tobacco industry.

The company was taken over by the China-Borneo Company in November 1888 with Abrahamson left in charge. They built a saw mill on Leila Road, a main road running south which was named after Governor Treacher's wife. But in July 1891, Abrahamson was dismissed for alleged irregularities while still on sick leave in England. He sued for wrongful dismissal which he won on appeal in August 1893. After that, he went elsewhere to conduct business, principally in Sarawak and Brunei mainly dealing with rubber and cutch using the Labuan based Island Trading Syndicate. He was popularly described as a pioneer and was well missed by most of the expatriates and locals in Sandakan. He died in England in 1915 at Christchurch, Hampshire. After Abrahamson, W G Darby was left in control. He went on to become the most prominent and wealthy expatriate business person in North Borneo. The China-Borneo Company was eventually wound up and sold to Harrisons and Crosfield at the end of 1919. 

This photo was taken from Frank Nestle Butterworth aka Peter Blundell's book, A City of Many Waters. I believe it might have the only photographic image of E E Abrahamson in the public domain. Frank Butterworth was taking the Sultan of Brunei around the cutch factory owned by the Island Trading Company. Walking on the left side of the Sultan could have been his boss, Abrahamson but unfortunately the book does not describe the persons in this photo. However, the manager of the cutch works between 1900 and 1905 was a Edmund Roberts. The cutch works was the only large scale enterprise in those days and employed up a thousand of the local people. 

A view of Brunei Town 

A couple of other interesting photos from this book.

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