First steamship to cross Pacific Ocean from Seattle departs in December 1882.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • Essay 1967

In December 1882, the British "tramp steamer" Madras departs Seattle for Hong Kong, China, via Honolulu. This is the first ship to depart Seattle for Asia. The steamship is one of several in 1882 to bring hundreds of Chinese laborers to the Pacific Northwest.

The Madras was a British 2,500-ton steamship. She arrived with hundreds of Chinese laborers who disembarked at Portland, Oregon, and Victoria, British Columbia, planning to work as railroad construction laborers, mining laborers, and in other pursuits. The Madras also picked up some Chinese returning home. The steamship arrived at Seattle with 605 Chinese persons and took on 671 tons of coal for fuel before leaving Seattle for Hong Kong. The Madras returned to Seattle in 1883 and took on a hundred barrels of salted salmon and 900 tons of coal.

During 1882, shipload after shipload of Chinese laborers arrived at Portland, Oregon, and Victoria, British Columbia. Many of the Chinese immigrants arriving in Victoria went to work in Washington state as well as in Western Canada.

Among the ships were:

  • steamship Euphrates, 600 Chinese passengers
  • steamship Suez, 890 Chinese passengers
  • steamship Strathairly, 1,056 Chinese passengers
  • sailing ship Bessie, 600 Chinese passengers
  • sailing ship Agate, 350 Chinese passengers
  • sailing ship Importer, 395 Chinese passengers
  • sailing ship Jonathan Bourne, 650 Chinese passengers

Between January 1 and June 26, 1882, Victoria recorded the arrival of 6,676 Chinese persons.


Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle From 1850 to 1897," Typescript dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle, 291-292; Lewis & Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest ed. by E. W. Wright (Portland: Lewis & Dryden Printing Co., 1895), 300, 306.

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