The Hughes Family Trading Co.

  • February 14, 2006 at 8:16 pm #1697
    Ceara MacKenna

    The Hughes Family Trading Co.

    Abraham Newton Hughes, III heads up Hughes Trading Co.

    Chief Sales Officer: Silas Hughes

    Other family members hold various places of authority.

    The Hughes Trading Co. owns a fleet of approximately a dozen ships — relatively small in comparison with the larger trading companies of the 19th Century. There is also a small office and some warehouses along the pier.

    An independent company with no venture capitalists involved, the fleet was founded in the late 16th Century following William Stewart Hughes' heroism as a British Naval captain in the Spanish Armada of 1588. Hughes was given two ships for saving the lives of various nobility from the Spanish attacks. Retiring from the Royal Navy, after 40-some years, the former captain used the ships to begin trafficking tobacco between the New World and Europe.

    The family's ties to the American South and the New World lasted for more than 200 years with the company remaining small, often times working under a sub-contract for larger trading companies. William's son, Abraham Newton Hughes, Sr., invested money in various start-ups but, for the most part, the company remained unnoticed by the elite of Europe.

    Next in line, Abraham Newton Hughes, Jr. fended off buyouts and mergers and upgraded the family business. Under junior's leadership, the company expanded and modernized the fleet, though it still focused on shipping tobacco and cotton.

    This would remain until his son, Abraham Newton Hughes, III took over.

    Friends to Confederate diplomats James M. Mason of Virginia, who was named minister to Britain, and John Slidell of Louisiana, Hughes struck a deal to secretly supply German-made arms to the Confederacy.

    Whether any of those weapons actually arrived is something of great debate. The Union had blockaded much of the coast. What did happen, however, is the family received cash payments of Confederate Gold.

    Suddenly, the family had money. The fleet expanded. More contacts were made. Germans, looking at their own war, began talk of expansion. The Hughes family was there to help in the foreign company's trading exploits.

    The Confederates had lost and the family would likely be vexed by any attempts to contact the Americans, but the Germans remained family friends. And influence abounded.

    Suddenly, the small merchant family was of the nouveau riche class. Whether this was good or bad remained to be seen. This new class certainly didn't bring respect. But it did bring attention. Abraham Newton Hughes, III was knighted. The family moved into a larger estate.

    Money began to flow from the patriarch to his children, nephews, nieces, brothers and cousins. The wealth and power remained with Hughes. Everyone else in the family just needed to play catch up now.

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