Edward Hooper made his living as a prize agent. When legitimate vessels (both civilian and naval) were seized by privateers or naval vessels, they and their cargoes were sold. This sale was divided into shares that the owners, officers, and crew of the victorious vessel would receive. Hooper's job was to divide and allocate those shares, and his pay was a portion of them.
|London Gazette, June 28 - July 1, 1783, Page 2|
|London Chronicle, March 10, 1761, Page 6.|
|London Evening Post, March 24, 1774, Page 2.|
Hooper's generosity did not extend to those who wronged him. He appears on occasion in the archives of the Old Bailey bringing cases against men and women who sought to defraud him with false promissory notes. The first to be brought to trial was a man named John Williams in 1763, who was acquitted of the charge, as was Mary Collins in 1765. Perhaps this inspired others to try stealing from Hooper, but Elizabeth Dunn in 1765, Catherine Dicks in 1781, her husband Thomas Dicks that same year, Joseph Scott ('a Black without feet') in 1783, were all sentenced to death for the same crime. The jury recommended Scott be shown mercy.
Joseph Phipps was in Hooper's office to claim legitimate prize money in late 1783, but his greed and impatience got the best of him. Phipps slipped out of his shoes to sneak quietly upstairs, and into Hooper's private quarters where he pocketed kerchiefs, shirts and buttons. Phipps escaped the noose, but was sentenced to transportation.
Trade cards, including Edward Hooper's, were advertisements meant to draw in potential customers, the same way that a business card does today. Hooper and his engraver, W. Jones, chose to include the customers themselves: a naval officer and a seaman. They are surrounded by the tools and symbols of their profession, including oars, a trident, octant, spyglass, and fouled anchor. A sea battle is depicted beneath a description of Hooper's occupation, which is then flanked by the sailor and officer.
The officer wears a captain's dress uniform per the regulations of 1767 to 1787, which helps to date this piece. He proclaims 'Let us bang the Don's' referring to the Spanish enemies of the Crown. In 1779, the Spanish joined France and the United States against Britain during the American Revolutionary War, which helps us to date this piece.