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Robert Newman & Company, also known as Newman and Company, were merchants of Dartmouth and Newfoundland involved in the Newfoundland salt fish trade and the Portuguese port wine trade.
In 1601, Richard Newman received fishing rights off "Newman's Rock" on the south coast of Newfoundland. In 1672, he founded the first Newman plantation in Newfoundland at Pushthrough on the south coast. Additional plantations were established in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. By the beginning of the 1700s, most of these plantations were consolidated under the masthead of Newman and Company, which was the Newfoundland house of Robert Newman & Company, successor to the earlier Dartmouth firm of Newman and Roope. From 1730 to 1775, the Newfoundland branch was run by the brothers Robert and Richard. When Robert died, his son John renamed the firm John Newman & Company. Following John's death, the firm came under the control of John's brother Robert, who reverted to the name Robert Newman & Company.
Under Robert's tenure, Robert Newman & Co. expanded its operations to Little St. Lawrence, Burin, and Little Bay to complement its premises at Hermitage, Harbour Breton, Conception Bay and St. John's. The firm relocated its headquarters to Harbour Breton from St. John's in 1812 as the migratory fishery declined in the wake of the burgeoning resident fishery, fueled by an increasing permanent population. While the West Country firms were declining -- most had withdrawn by 1825 -- Newman Brothers continued to prosper in Newfoundland, especially on the south coast. However, the activities of the firm slowly contracted in the second half of the century, partly due to increasing competition from St. John's firms, many of which had also expanded into the outports. The firm closed its Harbour Breton headquarters in 1907 and withdrew from Newfoundland.
However, one aspect of the firm's business in Newfoundland remained intact. From the seventeenth century, Newman Brothers and its affiliated companies had been importing port wine from the Oporto region of Portugal, usually in exchange for fish and oil. According to legend, in 1679, a Newman's ship loaded with port wine from Oporto, en route to London, was chased by a French privateer and blown off course, prompting the captain to steer for Newman's plantation in St. John's. The port remained at St. John's over the winter, and when it was brought to London in the spring, its quality was found to have greatly improved. This inspired Newman's to send large quantities of its port wine to Newfoundland each year to mature. This tradition was maintained until 1997.
Affiliated companies traded under the names of Hunt, Roope & Company in London and Oporto, and Newman, Hunt & Company in London.
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