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Thank you!

The 25th Annual Cannonball, Voyage on the Houqua, was a great success thanks to the generous support of our community.

This year, we are excited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Cannonball Gala on June 29th, 2024, at the Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer house. Our theme this year, “Voyage on the Houqua,”  holds a special significance to Stonington and the Palmer family. 

Abiel Abbot Low (February 7, 1811 – January 7, 1893) was an American entrepreneur, businessman, trader, and philanthropist who gained most of his fortune from the China trade, importing teas, porcelains, and silk, and building and operating a fleet of reputable clipper ships. In 1833, Low sailed to Canton, China, and started working as a clerk for the mercantile house of Russell & Company, the largest American firm in China and also the country’s leading American opium trading and smuggling enterprise. Low’s uncle, William Henry Low, had been at its head for some years. In 1840, he launched his own business in a joint venture with Wu Bingjian, also known as Houqua, a mentor for young Americans in China, a very important Hong merchant, head of the Canton Cohong, and one of the richest men in China. The company, A. A. Low & Brother named for both him and his brother, Josiah Orne Low, rapidly became one of the leading China and Japan silks and teas trading companies. Their original offices are now home to the South Street Seaport Museum.

In 1843, William Low and his pregnant wife, Ann, traveled back to the US from China on board the ship Paul Jones. During the journey, Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer, who was born in Stonington in 1799, was also on board. Palmer had spent more than thirty years at sea and was the first American to sight the continent of Antarctica in 1820. Frustrated with the slow pace of the Paul Jones, Captain Nat started carving a block of wood to create a model of his ideal hull design for a trading ship.

When they arrived in New York, Nat brought the design to A.A. Low & Brothers. When completed in 1844, it was the fastest clipper ship in the world, condensing a six-month voyage into just 100 days. The ship was named Houqua (Hoo-Kwah), after the powerful Hong merchant, who had died the year before the ship was launched. 

The Voyage of the Houqua propelled Captain Nat and other Stonington captains deep into the lucrative China Trade with innovative new designs that helped to create a global economy with America in the lead and effectively changed the course of history. Fortunes were made importing tea, opium, spices, and silk – and some of it was used to build Pine Point, the Palmer Family home, in 1851. 

This year we celebrate the ingenuity of Captain Palmer, explore trade routes and ports of call, and dive into the shipboard experiences of the men and women who traveled these routes.