Columbia at sea: America enters the Pacific, 1787-1793

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Eric Odell Oakley (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Phyllis Hunter

Abstract: This dissertation evaluates the earliest phase of American engagement in the Pacific Ocean through a close examination of the fur-trading ship Columbia during the years 1787-93. I argue that Columbia established the dominant pattern of American commerce in the Pacific and, in doing so, played a significant role in the integration of disparate shores into a single Pacific World. This study also reconstructs her pioneering, yet understudied voyages in order to challenge a historiographical neglect of the eighteenth-century foundations of American empire in the Pacific. My research unfolds on three scales. First, Columbia reveals a series of interconnected local histories that hinge upon individuals in Boston, on the Northwest Coast of America, and in Canton. Second, her expeditions show how American merchants and sea captains leveraged transnational variations in trade to reorient the United States toward the commerce of the Pacific Ocean. Third, Columbia demonstrates how entrepreneurs of the Early Republic established a global trade circuit integrating the markets of the United States, the Pacific World, and China. This study also stresses the experimental nature of the Columbia expeditions. By reconstructing the financial outcomes of her voyages, I emphasize improvisation and adaptation as vital strategies in the development of a successful enterprise in the ocean hemisphere. Columbia’s success inspired a new generation of investors, imitators, and innovators to pursue similar profits in the Pacific World.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
American History, Ethnohistory, Fur Trade, Globalization, Maritime History, Pacific World
Columbia (Ship : 1787-1801)
Pacific Area $x Foreign relations $z United States
United States $x Foreign relations $z Pacific Area
Pacific Area $x History
Fur trade $x History

Email this document to