A Victorian 18Kt Gold Presentation Snuff Box of Indian Interest
John Linnit, London, 1838
Rectangular, engraved with scroll work and flowers against a matte ground, the central cartouche engraved with a ship and "Ernaad", the inside cover with presentation inscription: "Presented TO CAPTAIN J. HILL, as a token of Esteem & Friendship, BY HIS PASSENGERS ON BOARD THE ERNAAD, during the voyage from CALCUTTA TO COSSEIR on Jan.y and Feb.y 1838"., marked inside base and cover. Length 3 1/8 inches (8 cm), approximately 87.6 dwt.
Cosseir (modern El Qoseir), in Eastern Egypt is located on Red Sea coast, about 300 miles southeast of Suez. The passage to India from Britain, by circumnavigated Africa, took six months until a new route via the Red Sea shortened the voyage to two months. The faster voyage made possible by a greatly shortened route and the use of steam propulsion, both for ocean-going vessels and for the Red Sea, which had been impractical to navigate by sail due to the shoals and winds.
The East India company pioneered the new route, from Bombay to Suez, in 1835. Several firms endeavored to profit from this middle east route for passengers and mail to India. For example, the firm Hill and Raven, later John Hill & Co., was involved with the Bombay Steam Co. in setting up hotels for passengers travelling overland. Hill & Co. was sold in 1841 to P & O, the firm that ultimately captured the route to India. Captain John Hill, to whom this box is presented, was almost certainly the principal of Hill & Co. The Ernaad is listed as built in Bombay in 1813 and served the British East India Company until 1839.
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