William H. Russell (Skull & Bones; co-founder-1833) cousin Samuel Russell formally established Russell & Co. on January 1, 1824 for the purpose of acquiring opium and smuggling it to China. Russell & Co. merged with the number one US trader, the J. & T.H. Perkins "Boston Concern" in 1829. By the mid-1830s the opium trade had become "the largest commerce of its time in any single commodity, anywhere in the world." Russell & Co. and the Scotch firm Jardine-Matheson, then the world's largest opium dealer working together were known as the "Combination." [thanx to http://www.ctrl.org/boodleboys/]
Other great New England families related by blood to Perkins and the opium fortunes include Cabot, Lowell, Higginson, Forbes, Cushing, Sturgis, Coolidge, Alsop, Delano, and Weld
The Opium Trade began with the British (and American) love of tea. So much tea was purchased in China, and so little of value was bought by China in return, that Anglo-American silver began to be depleted. Opium was the solution to this problem. Bengali (lowland) and Afghan (highland) opium was smuggled into China, against the laws of the Chinese Empire, and sold for silver, which could then be turned around to buy tea. The quantity grew from 15 tons in 1730 to 75 tons in 1773 to 900 tons by the 1820's. This was the same British East India Companywhose subsidized tea was dumped in Boston Harbor.