Sunday, February 24, 2013

299. Benjamin Franklin and Ginseng


On August 28, 1784, the Empress of China, the first United States commercial ship, in which the main goods were American Ginseng, reached Canton, China. We know that Benjamin Franklin was not among the founders who initiated the pioneering sail that started the direct connection between China and the United States.

However, Franklin made great contribution to make available Ginseng, the main goods, long time ago. 46 years before the great sail, Franklin had told the colonists in North America, “We have the Pleasure of acquainting the World, that the famous Chinese or Tartarian Plant, called Gin seng, is now discovered in this Province, near Sasquehannah: From whence several whole Plants with a Quantity of the Root, have been lately sent to Town, and it appears to agree most exactly with the Description given of it in Chambers’s Dictionary, and Pere du Halde’s Account of China. The Virtues ascrib’d to this Plant are wonderful.”

Knowing the Ginseng’s great value to the commercial value in the trade with China, Franklin worked to promote Ginseng in North America. From the letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin, on September 1744, we can tell that Franklin successfully spread the information concerning Ginseng to Boston, “I will enquire after the Herb you mention: We have a botanist here, an intimate Friend of mine, who knows all the plants in the Country. He would be glad of a Correspondence with some Gentlemen of the same Taste with you; and has twice thro’ my Hands sent Specimens of the famous Chinese Ginseng, found here, to Persons who desired it in Boston neither of whom have had the Civility to write him a Word in Answer, even to acknowledge the Receipt of it; of which please to give a Hint to Br. John.”

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