After the Treaty of Paris (1783) brought to a close the War of American Independence, the former American Colonists were free to trade where Britain had before held a monopoly. In February 1784, the Empress of China set sail from New York to Canton, the only port in China from which foreign trade was conducted. Laden with tea, porcelain, silks, and lacquered furniture, the ship returned to its home port in May 1785 – the first United States vessel to take part in the lucrative China trade.
On display in the Eliza Pumpelly Mauran Blackwell Gallery are exquisite objects made in China for the export markets of Europe and America. These tradeware pieces include delicate porcelain, eighteenth century glass paintings, and nineteenth century views of Canton from the Pearl River.