Heard, Augustine, 1785-1868

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Augustine Heard (March 30, 1785 – September 14, 1868) was an American entrepreneur, businessman and trader, and founder of the Augustine Heard & Co. firm in China.

Augustine Heard was born into a wealthy merchant family of Ipswich, Massachusetts. His father, John Heard (1744-1834), had made his fortune by trading with the West Indies, and his half-brother Daniel (1778-1801) also worked in foreign trade with the West Indies and China. Educated at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Augustine did not graduate and instead, in 1803, began working for a prominent Boston, Massachusetts merchant, Ebenezer Francis. Two years later, Heard embarked as supercargo to Calcutta on one of Francis' ships. Climbing the ranks of trading companies, Heard was, by 1812, captain of his first ship, the brig Caravan. He pursued his naval career for 18 years, becoming a renowned navigator and his feats became the subject of poems and stories. In 1818, Heard purchased 50 shares of the Suffolk Bank, a clearinghouse bank on State Street in Boston.

In 1830, at the age of 45, Heard settled in Canton, China, where he became partner in the trading firm of Samuel Russell & Co., by then the leading American opium dealer in China. In 1834, he returned to Boston for health reasons, and managed his business from there. He also developed close ties with his nephews, the sons of his brother George Washington Heard, and developed a business relationship with them. Heard set up his own company, Augustine Heard & Co., in 1840 with Joseph Coolidge and John Murray Forbes, friends and partners who had remained in Canton. The firm became successful, and grew rapidly to become the third largest American firm in China. Heard returned to China the following year and actively directed his firm until 1844 when he gradually started scaling down his involvement, travelling extensively to Europe and America, leaving the firm's operations in the hands of his partners and family members. By 1850, as well as the head office in Canton, the firm had branches in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Fuchow with agencies in Amoy and Ningpo.

As with many other American firms involved in trade with China at the time, Augustine Heard & Co. encountered financial difficulties in the 1870s and finally went bankrupt in 1875. A sister company bearing the same name established in the United States for the purpose of running operations from the U.S. side, had been created on April 13, 1861 and was dissolved on May 31, 1865.

In the late 1840s, Heard started developing his business in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and co-founded with his brother and brother-in-law the Ipswich Manufacturing Company in 1848, of which he became sole proprietor in 1852. Heard remained in Ipswich, where he founded the Ipswich Public Library, until his death following a short illness in 1868.

Augustine Heard largely entrusted control over Augustine Heard & Co. to members of his family. Among his family members who were involved in running the firm were his nephews Albert Heard, George Farley Heard, namesake Augustine Heard and John Heard, with whom he had returned to China in 1844. Nephew Augustine later became U.S. Minister to Korea.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Century Company records New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Elizabeth Heard papers, 1829-1864 Baker Library, Harvard Business School
referencedIn Portrait file: Guide. Houghton Library
referencedIn Stark, John William, 1788-1836. John William Stark Papers, 1792-1878. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Records of Boston merchants engaged in foreign trade, 1739-1887 (inclusive). Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Russell & Co., Guangzhou, China, Records, 1812-1894, (bulk 1819-1840) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Heard, Augustine, 1785-1868. Augustine F. Heard Papers, 1854-1865. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Additional letters from various correspondents, 1824-1882. Houghton Library
creatorOf Forbes family. Forbes family business records, 1753-1968 (inclusive). Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Parkman family papers, 1793-1896 Houghton Library
creatorOf Heard, Elizabeth, 1802-1865. Elizabeth Heard papers, 1829-1864. Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Heard family. Heard family business records, 1754-1898 (inclusive) [microform]. Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Augustine Heard and Company. Augustine Heard and Company Account Book, 1841-1875. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Heard family. Business records, 1754-1898 Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
creatorOf Ward, Samuel Gray. Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Heard, Augustine. Augustine Heard papers, 1840-1867. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Papers of the Grew, Andrews, Norton, and Wigglesworth families, 1738-1884. Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Augustine Heard and Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Boston Latin School (Mass.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
correspondedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935 person
associatedWith Forbes family. family
correspondedWith Grew family. family
spouseOf Heard, Elizabeth, 1802-1865 person
associatedWith Heard family. family
associatedWith Hurd family. family
associatedWith Nichols, George, 1809-1882 person
associatedWith Parkman family. family
associatedWith Reed, James. person
associatedWith Russell & Co. (1818-1877) corporateBody
associatedWith Stark, John William, 1788-1836. person
associatedWith Ward, Samuel Gray person
associatedWith Warren family family
Place Name Admin Code Country
People’s Republic of China 00 CN
Ipswich MA US
Boston MA US
Sea captains
Sea captains


Birth 1785-03-30

Death 1868-09-14





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