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The cargo of the Mercedes

Estado de caudales, frutos y efectos de la fragata de guerra Mercedes. Lima, 1804, marzo, 28  AGI,LIMA,1440,nº25, fol. 756
Estado de caudales, frutos y efectos” que relacionan la carga de las tres fragatas de guerra y otras de comercio: Asia, Castor, Joaquina, Dos amigas y Astigarraga AGI,LIMA,1440,nº30
Bloque de monedas recuperadas de la fragata Mercedes
Restos de charretera y botones de la Real Marina en desuso
Tabaquera de oro
Detalle de la krameria trianda (Extracto de ratania). Biblioteca del Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC. M-RJB F(8)RUI[A24]
Bloque de monedas en forma troncocónica recuperadas de la fragata Mercedes
Gemelos de oro

In August 1804, almost two years after the order was given to send funds, the frigates set sail from the port of Montevideo carrying some two million, seven hundred thousand pesos in coins, and another two million, six hundred thousand in gold and silver paste, of which more than seven hundred and ten thousand pesos belonged to the Crown, with the rest belonging to individuals.

In her hold, the frigate Mercedes was transporting – according to the records of the funds – products and effects registered by the Royal Customs officials in Lima, amounting to around two million pesos in both coin and gold and silver paste:

  • 972,480 minted pesos, of which 5,809 were gold coins.
  • 950, 621 in silver paste, and 415 gold castellanos.

Thanks to the records of the Royal Customs office in Lima, we have detailed information of the other products and goods that were aboard the frigate:

  • A small box with three identical samples of the gold and silver coins minted at the Royal Mint of Lima in 1803.
  • 403 copper bars and 1,964 made of tin.
  • Two useless bronze cannons, the identification of which was vital to proving the identity of the frigate.
  • Along with the funds of the King and individuals, there were other products that should be highlighted for the value they had for the medicine of the day. One was a bark from which quinine was extracted; an ingredient that was necessary to make medicine to combat illnesses such as malaria. Much less common – but no less important – was a shipment of ratania extract; a medicinal plant whose high tannin content made it a powerful astringent and antiseptic. The shipment was addressed to Hipólito Ruiz, a botanist from Burgos who introduced the use of this medicine to Europe.
  • Other products had also been shipped: various amounts of vicuña wool, the pelts of various animals such as chinchillas, guanacos, skunks, tigers and leopards as well the skins of seals and sea lions.
  • Among other recorded products that stood out were: a set comprising two ladles, a mancerina (a special, wide saucer, designed to hold a cup containing drinking chocolate), a small candle-holder and twelve small spoons in silver; a gold tejo (similar to an ingot, but flat and slightly curved); and a leather-covered box containing, among other items, a gold mortar.