The island’s strategic location in the northern part of the Strait of Malacca led Captain Francis Light of Britain’s East India Company to found a British colony there in 1786. The British occupation was formalized in 1791 by a treaty with the sultan of Kedah; the adjacent mainland area was added in 1800. In 1826 Penang combined with Malacca and Singapore to form the Straits Settlements. In the beginning, the island (called Prince of Wales Island until after 1867) was virtually uninhabited and had excellent shelter and water for sailing vessels plying the India-China run. It quickly attracted a cosmopolitan population of Chinese, Indians, Sumatrans, and Burmans and rapidly surpassed any other trading post in western Malaya. From the mid-19th century Penang became a market and point of transit for the valuable tin and rubber of the mainland. Although the countryside continued to be Malay, Malay influence, tradition, and economic life almost disappeared from the urban and port areas, where Penang became predominantly Chinese by ethnicity and European in manner and economic outlook.