Imagine, if you can, what Tamshui Harbor looked like 140 years ago. Back then, the port had not yet silted up, and large vessels could still move through and moor in the harbor. Workers laden with cargo scutter back and forth between the berthed boats and river bank while, nearby, merchants come and go by a cluster of foreign trading companies. The Douglas Lapraik & Co trading company, established in 1871, is very much of that era.re.
Jump forward some 140 years to the present, and you will see Tamsui’s Jhongjheng Road, divided into three sections by the Tamsui Metro Station and the statue of Canadian missionary George Mackay. It was along the first and third of these sections that the foreign merchants used to gather, and where many of their companies were located. The middle section was a street market for Han Chinese. Douglas Lapraik & Co is located in the third section.
Since Douglas Lapraik & Co was a latecomer onto the scene, and needed to differentiate itself from the other foreign traders in terms of its products and market, it focused mainly on goods and passenger transport. For several decades, the company held a monopoly over Taiwan’s shipping lanes. If you wanted to travel from Taiwan overseas, you had to board one of their boats to Hong Kong, where passengers would alight or transit. The company was witness to both the opening up of Tamsui port and the ensuing rapid development of the area, but it also left its mark on many of Taiwan’s important historical events: one of Douglas Lapraik & Co’s flagship “Sea Dragon” class ships conveyed Mackay to Taiwan.