"A Sale of Souls" - W.H. Brommage - San Francisco Chronicle (Blackbirding)

Part 1 of W.H. Brommage's expose titled, "The Blackbird Cruise." Published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Newspaper

"Experiences of a 'Blackbirder' Among the Gilbert Islands" - Arthur Inkersly and W.H. Brommage - Overland Monthly

Friday, June 1, 1894

". . .Passing over the voyage, I will proceed at once with the narrative of incidents at Butaritari, and other islands of the Gilbert, or Kingsmill, Archipelago, from which group came several of the South Sea Islands at the Midwinter Fair. . ."

II-"The Blackbird Cruise" - W.H. Brommage - San Francisco Chronicle

"Further Details of the Slaver 'Mont Serrat’s' Expedition to the Gilbert Islands; A Probable Explanation of the Disaster That Befell the “Black-Birder” Tahiti; The Strange Story of the Pirate Jergerson Rivaling the Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; A Native Execution Described"

1892-10-16

". . .The story of the cruise of the “blackbird” steamer Montserrat was told in yesterday’s “Examiner” by the special correspondent, mr. W.H. Brommage, who had shipped as a sailor for the voyage. In obedience to the instructions under which he set out Mr. Brommage confined his narrative to a simple and accurate statement of the facts with no attempt of sensational effect. In fact, the story was modified by the suppression of some details which would have thrown the horrors of the traffic into stronger relief. To-day our correspondent makes some additions to his narrative which will be found exceedingly interesting. . ."

I-"A Sale of Souls" - W.H. Brommage - San Francisco Chronicle

Inside History of the Slaving Cruise of the "Blackbird" Steamer Montserrat; An "Examiner" Reporter Ships on the Slaver and Exposes an Infamous Trade; A Hideous Traffic Conducted Under the "legitimate" Plea of Supplying Laborers by Contract; Ignorant Gilbert Islanders Lured From Their Homes To Die In Fever-Infected Plantation

1892-10-15

". . .On the 23rd of last April the tramp steamer Montserrat left San Francisco for the ostensible purpose of a trading voyage among the South Sea islands, but in reality, as was suspected at the time, to go on a slave-trading expedition. Her purpose was to make laboring contracts with the simple people of the islands to work on the plantations of the fever-stricken west coast of Guatemala for five years. On the face of it, the contract is legitimate, but when it is known that for little or not pay these people leave their beautiful island home, go into a strange country, among a people whose language they do not understand, live like dogs and die like sheep in the cane-covered marshes, and under the burning suns of tropical Guatemala, the cruelty of such deportation becomes apparent. Such traffic in the South Seas has gone on for years under the familiar name of “blackbirding,” but the ships that come out of the Western Pacific, packed with the half-garbed natives of the islands, are no less slavers than those swift barks that in other days sailed from the west coast of Africa to the southern shores of America. This enterprise was under the joint management of San Francisco and Central American capital. The manager-in-chief of the expedition was W.H. Ferguson, whose connection with a similar slave ship, the ill-fated Tahiti, in which 400 natives were drowned, will be remembered. In command of the Montserrat was Captain Blackburn. Dr. R.J. McGittigen of San Francisco, a graduate of the Cooper Medical College, accompanied the expedition as surgeon, and James S. Osborne, a young San Franciscan, went along as passenger. With a full crew, provisions and supplies to last four months the vessel sailed, and after visiting eleven islands of the Gilbert group carried 388 imprisoned laborers to San Jose de Guatemala, and there delivered them to the wealthy Spanish plantation owners, who lodged them upon their sugar plantations along the coast to labor out the five years of their contract or to die with the infectious diseases coming to that marsh district. On board the Montserrat was a reporter of the “Examiner” in the guise of and performing the functions of a sailor. His vivid story of the methods used to secure the laborers, their weary voyage of twenty-three days from their sea-girt (?) home to Guatemala’s coast, their painful journeys overland to the plantations in the interior is told below. . ."