It was a tiny cargo, but the 30 tonnes of tobacco brought into Liverpool from America on a ship called the Friendship back in 1648 had great historic significance. It is widely believed that the Friendship’s freight was the first instance of transatlantic trade between Liverpool and the United States.
James Jenkinson, the merchant involved, could have had little idea what a landmark journey he had made in maritime history terms. But the discovery of America and the formation of the British West Indian colonies heralded a whole new era of trade - and the growth of a new cluster of British ports. Because most trading links with Britain had been with the European landmass, ports in southern England were the biggest and most prosperous. However Liverpool’s blossoming was definitely aided considerably by the economic development of America - and west coast ports like Bristol and Lancaster were able to expand, too. Major cargoes were originally tobacco, sugar and rum and after 1700 Liverpool ships were also involved in what was known as Triangular Trade’. This entailed exporting goods to Africa, bringing African people back to be sold into slavery in the West Indies and America - and on the return leg, bringing home produce from America.