“Don’t ever get on Miss Piggott’s bad side. It will more than crimp your style.” This should have been a warning written in bold letters on the outside of her San Francisco saloon. For Piggott, that cruel shrew of a proprietor, had during her 1860s-70s heyday, a side business that proved much more lucrative than running a saloon. In her employ was a slight Laplander named Nikko, a crimp – a cunning con man cum kidnapper – who lured marks into the saloon. Upon being maneuvered to just the right spot in the saloon, Piggott would pour said mark a lovely cocktail of equal parts whisky, brandy and gin with an opium kicker. Immediately woozy from the effects of the concoction, Piggott would land one blow to the front of the poor sap’s head while Nikko delivered one to the back. With the pull of a lever, the unconscious victim would fall through a trapdoor to the basement.
Alas, the mattress upon which he landed was not there to provide a free night’s slumber, but rather to mitigate bodily harm and in doing so maintain the street value of the newly anointed (kidnapped) sailor. By the time consciousness returned, he would find himself aboard a ship with a course set due east, in more cases than not, to the glorious port of Shanghai. Richard Dillon’s Shanghaiing Days noted that crimps and their deceitful mastermind collaborators could make upwards of $50,000 a year, a tidy sum equivalent to $1.5 million today. The advent of steam-powered ships which required skilled workers and the Seaman’s Act of 1915, which made crimping a federal crime ended this brutal practice for good.
Today, ships which have long since left behind the days of crimping, still put in to the thriving port of Shanghai. The name Shanghai translates to “City on the Sea,” and is situated at the Yangzi River delta that opens to the Pacific. In 1842, in the aftermath of the Opium Wars, the British named the city a treaty port, opening the doors to foreign trade. Ideally situated, the British, Europeans and Americans flocked to conduct commerce and growth exploded. By the time the Roaring Twenties came along, Shanghai had the best art, the grandest architecture and had established itself as the top Asian business hub. The wealth disparity that came alongside the cheap labor employed to run the city, however, set the stage for the rise of the Communist Party. Tack on the Japanese invasions of the 1930s that became outright occupation and by 1943 most foreigners had abandoned the city once known as the Paris of the East. Concessions ceded to the Japanese, in 1943, meant Shanghai’s 101 years as a treaty port came to a close.
Danielle DiMartino Booth is CEO and Director of Intelligence at Quill Intelligence
For a full archive of my writing, please visit my website — www.DiMartinoBooth.com
Click Here to buy Fed Up: An Insider’s Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America.