By Vivek Bald
Nineteenth-century Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island, luggage heavy with silks from their villages in Bengal. call for for “Oriental items” took those migrants on a curious course, from New Jersey’s boardwalks to the segregated South. Bald’s heritage unearths cross-racial affinities lower than the outside of early twentieth-century the US.
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S. ports. Over the winter of 1907–1908, the New York–based Travel Magazine presented the Caribbean as if it were merely an extension of the United States; its monthly feature articles on seasonal destinations spoke in virtually the same breath of New Orleans, Savannah, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad, of Florida, Barbados, and Havana, while shipping companies advertised “Tours to the Tropics” that included Jamaica, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama. The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s ad juxtaposed the January weather forecasts for New York (“Min.
From the Hooghly to the Mississippi to the Panama Canal By the first decade of the twentieth century, the Bengali peddlers’ operation worked like a well-oiled machine. If its origins lay with small-scale peasant-traders, as early reports suggest, the chikondars’ network eventually came to resemble the operations of much larger Indian merchant and banking groups. S. cities, while it continued to draw in less-experienced and -traveled young men from rural Hooghly to peddle goods overseas. S. Department of Commerce and Labor described an operation that was small but complex and highly coordinated.
Over the course of each six to twelve months, a few merchants based in Calcutta purchased batches of chikan goods from producers in Hooghly’s villages. 53 Archival records indicate that, once a year, these new recruits made their way over land or down the Hooghly River to a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in the southern part of Calcutta known as Collinga Bazar. 54 Here, a number of more senior traders with ties to the Hooghly District—likely the men described as “merchants” in the 1908 report— occupied a series of addresses on Kerr Lane and Collin Lane, two small side streets off Collinga Bazar Street.