From rags to riches: Golden Jubilee celebration for North Borneo (1931)


It took North Borneo Chartered Company 50 years to change the economic and social landscape of North Borneo. Yet, as the news article here reported, North Borneo pre-1881 was difficult to manage as proved by the unsuccessful attempt by Americans to tame the unforgiving land. And yes, American entrepreneurship tried their luck in this part of Borneo but it was thought that President Abraham Lincoln was not interested in steering United States ownership for a land far away from North America (although the scenario quickly changed by the turn of the century). This may partly hampered further colonisation effort. The Austro-Hungarian empire was offered the same land, but they eventually refused. Finally, the British tried and persisted. Half century later the chartered company proved that dedication, hard work and perseverance paid off. Here is the news article excerpt describing the growth of North Borneo economy at the time:

“Industry has gone ahead: some twenty million dollars of capital have been invested in the rubber industry alone. A quarter of a million acres are today under some form of cultivation. The vast forests are yielding up their wealth of timber in ever-increasing quantity. The volume of trade rose from $550,000 in 1883 to $11,500,000 in 1929, and although there was a decline in 1930, due to worldwide trade depression, North Borneo can still boast a handsome surplus of exports over imports.”

Article source: The Calgary Daily Herald, 19 November 1931

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