From a Ship Captain to a "Captain of Industry"
Call it the gamble of a lifetime...
It happened when Josiah Knowles returned to San Francisco, after a near record breaking voyage from England, and opened a letter from Henry Sears a short time later. Put simply, Sears invited him to amass a fortune - not as a Captain, but as the Pacific agent for the entire company. And the terms were awesome, promising the Captain fully one half of all gross receipts received.
Josiah Knowles accepted, but under one condition only: that if his efforts didn't meet expectations, he would be allowed to return to his beloved ship again.
But he never had to return. In a short time he no longer commanded one ship, but an entire fleet of ships sailing to all parts of the world. Next his operations moved into whaling, first by Josiah acting as agent for the giant New Bedford whaling merchant William Lewis, then by his formation of the Pacific Steam Whaling Company and Arctic Oil Works. Under his direct supervision were the main offices, the whaling fleets and the dock facilities in San Francisco.
He was here to stay. In 1879 he bought a stately home in Oakland, and it soon became a landmark in the Bay area. People would always point it out to visitors, and proudly explain that this was the home of "the distinguished Captain Josiah Knowles and his family".