Arnhold, Karberg & Company – founded in Hong Kong, 1866
HF: The venerable firm of Arnholds, Karberg Company was founded in 1866 and I believe has had a continuous presence in Hong Kong, barring when it was liquidated during World War One, currently as Arnhold which deals in building materials and engineering equipment distribution.
The early days of the company were written about by the equally venerated Hong Kong historian Carl Smith in an article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch published in 1994. I have incorporated material from Carl’s original lengthy piece in two website articles:- The German Speaking Community in Hong Kong 1846-1918 – Part One and Two, linked below.
If you have not come across Carl Smith before you can read more about the man and his quite extraordinary passion for collecting data about Hong Kong here.
Carl’s article begins: “Arnhold, Karberg and Co. was established in September 1866 by Jacob Arnhold, Peter Karberg and Alemander Levysohn. The new company was a reorganisation of the former Oxford and Co. which in turn was the reorganised firm of L.E. Lebert and Oxford of Canton. The following notice was published in a Hong Kong newspaper. “Interest of L.E.Lebert of Hamburg ceased 4 December last  in L.E. Lebert and Oxford of Canton, from this date business will be carried on as Oxford and Co. A. Bourjau and C.A. Hubener are authorized to sign. Macao, 12 February 1858.” (FC 18 Mar.1858). In June 1865 Joseph Oxford, Henry Danziger, Jacob Arnhold and Alexander Cosman Levysohn, trading under…” (1)
Nicholas Kitto has very kindly sent the two photos shown below. Taken by Nicholas in October 2008, they are a small part of his superb collection of photographs which focus on historical buildings in China and Hong Kong. For more information about please see the link below.
“The company’s status can be seen in the impressive architecture of this Edwardian-era building. Designed by adventurous architects, the Australian Arthur W Purnell and his American colleague Charles S Paget, in a somewhat eclectic style, the building has the distinction of being one of the earliest surviving reinforced concrete buildings in China.(2)
Vaudine England notes, “the Guangzhou (Canton) building was only ever a branch, never the HQ, which was originally in HK and briefly (1920s-30s) in Shanghai.”
The complete Carl Smith article is linked below, under sources. Here is how the Arnhold Karberg and Company section begins:
Arnhold, Karberg and Co. was established in September 1866 by Jacob Arnhold, Peter Karberg and Alexander Levysohn. The new company was a reorganisation of the former Oxford and Co. which in turn was the reorganised firmof L.E. Lebert and Oxford of Canton. The following notice was published in a Hong Kong newspaper. “Interest of L.E. Lebert of Hamburg ceased 4 December last  in L.E. Lebert and Oxford of Canton, from this date business will be carried on as Oxford and Co. A. Bourjau and C.A. Hubener are authorised to sign. Macao, 12 February 1858.” (FC, ie Friend of China 18 Mar. 1858). Messrs. Bourjau and Hubener later opened a business under their own names. In June 1865 Joseph Oxford, Henry Danziger, Jacob Arnhold and Alexander Cosman Levysohn, trading under the style of Oxford and Co., entered a suit in the Supreme Court of Hong Kong against H.B. Cama and Co. for a debt 0f $12,294.21 (GG ie Hong Kong Government Gazette 10 June 1865). Alexander C. Levysohn and Jacob Arnhold were admitted partners in Oxford and Co. 1 January 1863 (CM ie China Mail 30 Apr 1863)…
If you are interested in reading a full history of the Arnhold company you might to read the recently published book Arnholds: China Trader, by Vaudine England, Pub Arnhold & Co, 2017.
- The Germn Speaking Community in Hong Kong 1846-1918 RASHKB Journal Vo.34 (1994) The Arnhold, Karberg & Company section is pp26-30.
- Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China (1908) ed. Arnold Wright
- Arnholds (HK) company website
- Nicholas Kitto’s website devoted to two projects, both involving historical buildings in China. The first is to photograph the many surviving foreign-inspired buildings in China’s former treaty ports and leased territories. This project is approaching completion. The second is to record Hong Kong’s 108 Declared Monuments.
- Arnholds: China Trader, Vaudine England, Pub Arnhold & Co, 2017. This recently published book covers the entire history of Arnholds.
- The Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong website RASHKB says “Anyone with an interest in the history, art, literature and culture of China and Asia, with special reference to Hong Kong, will enjoy membership of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, which is generally regarded as the premier Society for the study of Hong Kong and South China. Dating back over 150 years, the Society is today a very active body, organizing varied visits, talks, seminars and more.”
- How one company survived two world wars and a changing China to make roots in Hong Kong SCMP 30th 2018 – From refugee to relative riches, chairman of pioneering import-export outfit Arnhold & Co, looks back over 152 years of triumphs and traumas in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Canton
This article was first posted on 16th January 2018.
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