James Lumsden and the Universal Trading Company

Published on behalf of Colin Vernall.

Last autumn saw the Preservation Unit in Archive Services complete a project on the William Simons ship plans, a collection including plans for Clyde built ships destined for Blockade Running: an illegal trade designed to break the Union’s naval blockade of the Confederacy during the American civil war. However, our records of local involvement in blockade running are not confined to the ship building archive, with other documents here revealing local connections to events in the civil war.


Pritchard and Huey’s ‘The English Connection’ with James Lumsden’s shares certificate in the Universal Trading Co. Ltd (DC112/C/16/21/3)

In this context, a document from our collection of records of the Lumsden family appears in a new publication titled The English Connection by Ross A. Pritchard, Jr & C.A. Huey. Bearing the owner’s name, James Lumsden Esquire, the item is a certificate for 500 shares in the Universal Trading Company, a blockade running enterprise. James Lumsden of Arden, who besides being a prominent local business figure, also went on to become Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1866-1869, was a graduate of the university who later donated money towards building the new campus at Gilmorehill.

Sir James, he was knighted in 1868, also hosted a ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone at the university’s new site at Gilmorehill, where the Prince and Princess of Wales were guests.


Lumsden’s certificate as it appears in Pritchard and Huey’s publication

However, in contrast to his illustrious career in business, civic and academic life, Lumsden’s investment in the highly profitable business of blockade running, is a reminder of the moral and ethical ambivalence of his class in Victorian life. While British public opinion was generally sympathetic to the Union and strongly opposed the Confederacy’s defence of slavery, among the small but influential elite, Sir James’ more mercenary approach was hardly out of step with his peers.


An acknowledgement in Pritchard and Huey’s ‘The English Connection’ citing two of our archivists Vikki Laidlaw and Claire Daniel

This item is just one of many documents realizing connections between our collections and these events; we are still discovering more and hope that visitors to Archive Services will continue to benefit from these rich primary sources.


Categories: Archive Services, Library

1 reply

  1. What an interesting post; it is always worthwhile to link the physical remnants of events to their true heritage. Context makes everything more interesting! We at Lloyd’s Register are also doing a digitisation project and we have a lot of certificates related to ship fittings that actually look extremely similar to your shares certificate for the Universal Trading Company! It’ interesting that that format was used in many different industries. We have a lovely one for marine chain cables on our blog that you may be interested in https://lrdigitisation.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/so-many-standards-to-choose-from/

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