Barron, Forbes and Company
Barron, Forbes and Company (c. 1820s-1893), a powerful and diversified Pacific coast trade, mercantile, and banking firm, was founded in the early 1820s by partners, Eustace Barron and Alexander Forbes. First established at the Mexican Port of San Blas, Barron and Forbes soon moved headquarters to nearby Tepic, Jalisco. By 1831 Barron, Forbes and Company was said to have been responsible for 91 percent of imports, both legal and illegal. Eustace Barron earned himself the title of local cacique, or lord. Barron and Forbes cotton mills and textile manufacturing operations, La Jauja, dominated the Tepic landscape for decades. A branch office was located in Mazatlan.
According to author Howard Gulick [Nayarit Mexico, 1965]:
- “Barron, Forbes took full advantage of Mexico's international weakness and Britain's power. One or another member of the firm or of their families usually served as British consul, and sometimes one of them served as American council. The firm backed the conservative party most of the time, and was able to influence politicians. During the period from 1846 to 1853 the company controlled the port of San Blas by corrupting the customs employees to such an extent that it was practically impossible for anybody but the company to import goods profitably.”
An international incident arose when the governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco tried to banish two second-generation firm members, Eustace Barron, Jr. and William Forbes. Mexico's federal government eventually was forced to bow to pressures from British authorities and readmit the men to Jalisco. It was during this period Santa Cruz Island was developed and controlled by Barron, Forbes and Company.
Barron, Forbes and Company also owned and operated the New Almaden quicksilver mine in Alta California from 1847 to 1863. It had been discovered in 1845 by Andres Castillero, the man to whom Santa Cruz Island was granted in 1839. After an eight-year legal battle, the mine was lost to the Quicksilver Mining Company of New York in 1864. The firm of Barron, Forbes and Company survived until 1893.
Barron’s daughter, Catalina, married Manuel Escandon’s younger brother, Antonio. By 1831 British merchant houses numbered more 20, and by 1835 an additional 30 had appeared, including new partnerships, branches and agents. The British in Mexico 1821-1911
- Mayo, John. Commerce and Contraband on Mexico's West Coast in the Era of Barron, Forbes & Co., 1821-1859 New York: Peter Lang, (2006). First edition in orange boards.
- [original in SCIF archives]
In the News~
February 16, 1856 [Los Angeles Star]: “From Mexico. The latest advices from this country state that the British and American Consuls at Tepic, Messrs. Barron and Forbes, had been ordered to leave the country. This outrage is likely to lead to trouble. In the City of Mexico, Comonfort's power is threatened with a speedy downfall.” [ Comonfort became President of Mexico in 1855 (December 11, 1855 to 21 January 21, 1858) after the outbreak of the Revolution of Ayutla that overthrew Santa Ana. During his term as president, Benito Juárez served as president of the Supreme Court of Mexico. Comonfort resigned, and according to the Constitution of 1857, Benito Juárez, President of the Supreme Court, assumed the presidency.]
January 28, 1860 [Los Angeles Star]: “The steamer Santa Cruz, which arrived on Wednesday last, brought 310,000 Mexican dollars to Messrs. Bolton, Barron & Co., of this city.”
August 17, 1871 [NYT]: “In the Mexican Claims Commission, today, the case of Mr. William E. Barron, the surviving partner to Barron, Forbes & Co., vs. the United States, was taken up. This was a claim involving the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines of California. The claimants are British subjects, and claim on the ground that they are vested with the rights of their Mexican granter in the mines in question. Tenant rights were assigned to their firm some time prior to the 2nd of February, 1848. They complain, first, of the Act of Congress, of March 3, 1851, requiring them to submit new titles to the Board of Land Commissioners, established in California to try titles arising under Spanish and Mexican grants… The case was referred to the umpire, who now decides against the pretension of the claimants to Mexican citizenship and dismissed the claim.”