Perry Expedition to Japan
This is a unit of 10 pieces of correspondence related to the Perry Expedition to Japan. None of the items have postal markings or cancels. One letter is addressed to Commodore Perry. The other nine are addressed to Dr. James Morrow (b. 1820, d. 1865). Dr. Morrow was the expedition's agriculturalist/botanist. It is most fortunate that his journal from the expedition was published in 1947. The journal serves as an aid in authenticating the correspondence and places it in historical context.
-- 1861.12.19 - Morrow Letter, Not Related to the Japan Expedition.
It is my experience that correspondence to and from the Perry Expedition is very scarce. With the exception of the material discussed below, I have only seen two other piece of correspondence outside of material that has been published in the standard works on the expedition. They are discussed here. One item has a postage paid handstamp and a Hong Kong receiving backstamp. It was directed to a member of the expedition via South Hampton, England to Hong Kong where it was picked up by an expedition ship (the Supply) and delivered to the addressee in Yedo Bay, Japan. The other item was an "On Public Service" cover containing a letter from Commodore Perry ordering the movement of one of the squadron's ships. This cover was a part of the Ryohei Ishikawa collection of known as The Forerunner Foreign Post Offices in Japan: British-US-French, Ryohei Ishikawa's Collection.
None of the ten pieces of correspondence discussed below have postal markings (origin or receiving). The US origin item (#3) was probably mailed to China via the US and British postal systems in a double envelope with the outer envelope addressed to the American Consul containing postal markings. The Consul removed the letter and served as a forwarding agent to get it to the expedition. No markings would have been applied in that process. The China based items (#1, #2, #4, #6~#10) probably past through the various British Postal Agency offices to forwarding agents/US Consul who then provided them to the expedition. At this time this type of mail did not receive postal markings. It is also possible they were hand carried to the forwarding agent or handled under separate cover as the US based item. For information on this practice, click here. The letter from Harris to Commodore Perry (#5) was probably delivered from one ship to another as the squadron was at anchor in Yedo Bay, Japan. For general comments on the movement of mail to and from the expedition, see below
#1 - 1853.1.4 - A.P. Happer to Dr. James Morrow - Hong Kong (Susquehanna)|
#2 - 1853.6.5 - Townsend Harris to James Morrow - Hong Kong|
#3 - 1853.??.?? - Sarah (mother) and James Bull (stepfather) to James Morrow - Hong Kong|
#4 - 1853.12.15 - A.P. Happer to James Morrow M.D. - Macao|
#5 - 1854.3.7 - Harris (Saratoga) to Commodore M.C. Perry - Yedo Bay, Japan (letter only)|
#6 - 1854.3.8 - R.S. Maclay to James Morrow Esqr - Canton|
#7 - 1854.4.6 - W.S. Brewster to Dr. James Morrow - Japan|
#8 - 1854.4.20 - D(aniel) J(erome) Macgowan to James Morrow - Japan|
#9 - 1854.7.21 - A.P. Happer to Dr. James Morrow - Hong Kong|
#10 - 1854.8.1 - W.S. Brewster to James Morrow - Hong Kong (Southampton)|
-- 1861.12.19 - James Morrow, M.D. to Mr. President (Not Japan Expedition Related)|
Williams, Samuel Wells (Journal)
The presence of the Perry Squadron in Japanese waters can be viewed as the first American postal system to operate in Japan. Despite the unwelcome presence of the American Squadron in Japanese waters, United States mail/correspondence was moving to and from Japan and Okinawa as a result of the expedition.
Ryohei Ishikawa, an eminent Japanese philatelist, formed a collection which is know as The Forerunner Foreign Post Offices in Japan: British-US-French, Ryohei Ishikawa's Collection. In 1976 a catalogue of this collection was published. It is interesting to note that the first "forerunner" cover shown from the collection is a Japan Expedition cover. It is an "On Public Service" cover (unfranked) showing a return address of "U.S. Steam Frigate Susquehanna." The enclosed letter from Commodore Perry was dated May 28, 1853 and he directed the US Steamship Caprice to proceed to Naha, Loo Choo island. The letter indicated the Susquehanna was off the China coast when it was written.
It appears that expedition mail/correspondence could flow through several possible avenues.
The main operating base of the squadron was Hong Kong. For this reason, inbound correspondence was very often addressed in "care of" the United States / American Consul in Hong Kong.
* J.W. Spalding who served on the Expedition writes in his book, The Japan Expedition:
Letters: considering the rapid occurrences of events of moment now-a-days, and the lightening transmission of intelligence, it was with joy we got letters on our arrival at Hong Kong, having been for over half a year, so far as news was concerned, inhumed in a remote country. .... Many a poor fellow got letters that had been waiting for him in Hong Kong a long time, and at the same time letters from others of later date, that told that the writers of the former ones could never write again. (at page 345, The Japan Expedition)
** In his memoir of the Expedition, Wilhelm Heine commented:
We sailed the next day and returned to Loo Choo on June 21 (1853). Meanwhile the [American barque] Caprice [a collier chartered by Perry], one of our aviso ships, brought mail from Shanghai--a bag of it, carried to the Chinese port by the British overland postal service. (Heine Memior at page 55, see above)
** In his journal of the Expedition, S. Wells Williams stated:
Tuesday, August 2nd (1853). -- This evening, to the gratification of everyone, we met the "Vandalia" on her way to Napa, and obtained letters from her, among which I was happy to find one for me informing me that all at Macao and Canton were in good health a week ago. (Williams Journal at page 82, see above)
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