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A current exhibit at the Baker Library | Bloomberg Center spotlights a fascinating period in the ongoing story of US–China trade relations. Drawing on wonderfully descriptive letters and diaries as well as hundreds of company documents and journals, “A Chronicle of the China Trade: The Records of Augustine Heard & Co., 1840–1877” offers a vivid account of a family trading firm’s rise and fall against the backdrop of a rapidly changing socioeconomic landscape. The exhibit will be on display through October 27.

"View of the Hongs at Canton, 1825−1835," by artist Lam Qua, depicts the area where foreigners were allowed to live and to do business with the Chinese. (Peabody Essex Museum)

The old Shanghai customshouse, ca. 1869. It was demolished in 1925 to make way for the current customshouse. (Harvard-Yenching Library)

A bill of lading, April 16, 1863. (Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School)

Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1785, Augustine Heard began his career as a seafaring merchant, captaining his first ship at 27. He founded Augustine Heard & Co. in 1840, after living and working in China for a time. (Ipswich Museum)

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