David Olyphant King

Portrait of David Olyphant  King

David Olyphant King (1828, Newport, Rhode Island, USA - 1862?, American Civil War in Virginia), D.0. King, was an American businessman and traveler who gave a published account of Angkor and the Cambodian royal court at Oudong in 1859.

D.O. King -- he was given the name of a close associate to his father --, the merchant David Olyphant -- was the seventh and last son of Samuel Vernon King (1772-1852) -- a successful New York merchant who pioneered the Asian trade and co-founded the King Talbot & Co. trading company, which became Olyphant Talbot & Co. after bankrupcy -- and Samuel's cousin Harriet Vernon King (1783-1852). While their father traveled extensively to the East, residing "in opulence" in Macao at some point, three of his four eldest brothers (apart Samuel Vernon King II (1804-1887)) died abroad during their commercial endeavors : Charles William King (1) (1809-1845, died on a ship and was buried in the Red Sea while returning to America from Canton); James Rivers King (1819-1848, died in Amoy, China, while working with Olyphant Talbot); Frederick King ("lost in a Typhoon in the China Sea", according to the records).

David Olyphant King arrived in Bangkok in 1856, possibly attracted by the fact that Rev. Charles Mattoon has been appointed as US consul in May 1856. He donated the funds for the land on which was built the Bangkok Presbyterian Mission School in November 1857, "on the west bank of the river in the lower suburbs known as Sumray", according to Rev. Samuel Reynolds House, an American physician and missionary. His journey to Cambodia was instigated by his American and British acquaintances.

We do not know whether he intended to travel more around Asia, or his visit to Siam and Cambodia was merely circumstancial. He was back in America at the beginning of 1859. When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, he joined the Union forces. In the official records, he is reported as "David King, from the Company H, 108th Reg., wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg, 23 December 1862".

(1) Charles W. King was high-ranked in the Olyphant company, since he headed the (disarmed) SS Morrison during the aborted attempt to land to Japan for commercial purposes in July 1837. Official trade between America and Japan would start 16 years, when, on July 8, 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, after more than two centuries of Japanese isolation.

Photo: The American merchant ship Morrison, sailing for Olyphant & Co., vainly attempted to reach the Japanese shores in July 1837.

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