Fine-Art Photography - John William Brown
42B Federal Street - Newburyport, Ma
Forbes was one of three brothers sent by their uncle to Canton, China, and achieved some financial success during a short time spent trading in Canton. However, unlike his brother Robert Bennet Forbes, who devoted himself to the China trade, Forbes returned to Boston and became an early railroad investor and landowner. As with Jay Gould and E. H. Harriman, Forbes was an important figure in the building of America's railroad system. From March 28, 1846 through 1855, he was president of Michigan Central Railroad, and he was a director and president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, he helped with the growth of the American Middle West.
On October 19, 1817 at age 13 he joined the crew of the Canton Packet and made his first voyage to China. He arrived in Canton, China in March 1818 using the eastern route. In June 1818, he returned to Boston.
Aboard the Nile he sailed for Manila. Previous to this time he had been ship's master of the Levant. He became a full captain before he was 20 years old. From Manila the Nile went to China, then to California, and from there to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
About 1832 he made his last voyage to China and in 1840 became head of Russell & Company, the largest American commercial house in China. Of his large means he made generous provision for his mother and younger brother. He visited China several times and became the American vice consul at Canton.
In 1834 he married Rose Greene Smith and they had three children: Robert Bennet Forbes (1837-1891), Edith Forbes who married Charles Eliot Perkins, and James Murray Forbes (1845-1885).