Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Hardy Brothers - a Scotch-Irish Argentinian sugar empire.

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog) I have an old book with a modest title: "The Scotch Irish in History as master builders of Empires, States, Churches, Schools and Christian Civilization" by Rev James Shaw, published in Illinois in 1899.

Here's an example, not of that book's content, but of its ethos, and of the Ulster-Scots entrepreneurial vision which 100 years ago made Belfast a dynamic, prosperous and outward-looking international city, driving some of the biggest industries in the world. Richard Hardy (1844 - 1891) and Charles Hardy (1859 - 1913) were originally from Ballymena. They set up an import/export business which sold linen into South America - and in turn they also set up a huge sugar plantation and refinery in Argentina and brought sugar back here. They also generated their own electricity which made Las Palmas the first town in the country to have public street lights! Here are two summaries:


"...(Hardy) was one of those hard-bitten, tenacious men that Antrim rears, with all the dogged obstinacy of the Scotch and the intelligence of the Irish, whom you find struggling and prospering throughout the seven seas. His father kept a small draper's shop in Ballymena, but it could not hold the wanderer and his dreams. After a spell in Australia, he came to Buenos Aires, where he started a small dry goods store, made money selling Belfast linen, and married a native lady. Then he became an estanciero, and in the end sold his shop and fenced lands to stake his whole fortune on the development of the sugar and tannin business in the wild Chaco. It took a brave man to create this oasis of industry in the heart of the jungle, but he did it..."

(From Men, Manners and Morals in South America, published 1920)


"...It was about the year 1874 that Messrs. Hardy Brothers, of Belfast, established the importing firm of Hardy & Co., in Buenos Aires; the late Mr. Richard Hardy was the head of the firm, and the business grew so fast that they found themselves in a very short time at the head of a large trade in Irish linen and hessians. The finest linens from Ireland were introduced into this market by the firm and found a splendid sale, and the sugar business, which was then in its infancy and creeping up, generated a demand for bagging which Messrs. Hardy & Co. for many years supplied. No merchant in Buenos Aires watched the market more keenly or studied the currents of trade more closely than Mr. Hardy ; he saw the tendency of the country to protective customhouse duties, and with a zeal deserving a better result he was the first to start flax growing in the Plate and literally spent a thousand pounds on an experimental flax farm in Quilmes.

He brought out the best machinery, scutched the flax here and spun the Argentine yarn in Ireland; but one way or another the result was not favorable; he then turned his mind to the manufacture of hosiery and under-clothing, introduced the best machinery and all those great and important manufactories of stockings and undershirts which exist in the city to-day were founded and introduced by Mr. Hardy. He traveled over the country in every direction, studying its adaptabilities and requirements; he visited Tucuman and was in and out through every sugar factory in that province; he traveled over Entre lUos and Corrientes.

It was a period remarkable for what is termed concession fever; everyone was taking out concessions, and Mr. Hardy followed the current, visited the Gran Chaco and took out a concession in the year 1880 to start a sugar plantation and factory at Cerrito, which is beautifully situated at the confluence of the three rivers: Parana, Upper Parana and Paraguay ; and here he made his first start in sugar planting, with such unlooked for success that he soon discovered the area of arable land for the planting of sugar cane was too limited for his views... He at once applied to the government and under the terms of the land laws received a territory of four hundred square miles, and it is on this magnificent territory that he constructed the factory and built up the establishment which we now visit.

The Messrs. Hardy's sugar establishment at Las Palmas, in the Chaco Austral, is the largest, the grandest and most successful of all the sugar plantations in the Chaco ...the Hardy sugar factory of Las Palmas is paved with sovereigns, from the port to the factory, from the factory to the Indian village of Cancha Larga, from the colonies still further out, back to Mr. Hardy's bouse; in every field, in every Indian path, in every "senda" we see the impress of the gold sovereign..."

(from the Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, 10 July 1909)


"Belfast and the Province of Ulster in the 20th Century" (Pike, 1909) records two men called Hardy, but they seem to be of a different family than the above. There's a brief biography online here. If anyone out there knows more, please get in touch.


Maximilian Hardy said...

These men are cousins of mine as my family are descended from James North Hardy & Sons of Ballymena/Belfast who were in the linen trade.