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Townsend Harris     $15.00
Townsend Harris
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Townsend Harris was the first US Consul General to Japan.  Harris negotiated the treaty (the "Harris Treaty of 1858") that opened the Empire of Japan to foreign trade. He also founded what is today the City College of New York. The document is a request by George Barrow, President of the Northern Dispensary, to the Treasury of the Dispensary, for $500 to be used for charitable purposes. The request is made on Barrow's behalf by Harris as one of the Trustees of the Northern Dispensary. Harris was born in upstate New York and moved to New York City early in life where he became a successful merchant and importer from China. From 1846-48 he was president of the New York City Board of Education. A self-taught multi-linguist he founded the Free Academy of the City of New York, which is today the City College of New York. From 1848-54 he lived in California making trading voyages to China and the Dutch and English Indies. During this time period he acted as American vice-consul at Ningpo. In early 1856 he updated an 1833 Treaty (the "Roberts Treaty") with Siam, convincing the ruler that the U.S. did not want any colonies in the East, but only trade. The new treaty with Siam granted Americans extraterritorial rights in addition to those in the Roberts Treaty. In July 1856 President Pierce named Harris the first Consul General to the Empire of Japan, where he opened the first US Consulate in the city of Shimoda. Although Commodore Perry had first opened trade between the US and Japan in 1853, this treaty was very limited (i.e., it opened two ports to US ships allowing them to buy supplies for the ships, and to help out US seaman shipwrecked, etc. It did NOT open up Japan to general trade). The Japanese Shogun avoided Harris for 18 months, but finally agreed to an interview and in 1858, Harris negotiated the "Treaty of Amity and Commerce (aka "Harris Treaty of 1858") securing trade between the US and Japan and paving the way for greater Western influence in Japan's economy and politics. Harris returned to the US in 1861. Upon his departure, the senior Japanese diplomat Moriyama told him that he was more than a friend to Japan and that "his spirit and memory will live forever in the history of Japan." When back in New York Harris continued the restrictive lifestyle he was forced to adopt in Japan, living as a hermit for the rest of his life. Harris is portrayed by John Wayne in the 1958 movie The Barbarian and the Geisha, directed by John Huston. Although the primary plot, dealing with Harris's attempt diplomatically to achieve détente between the U.S. and Japan, is essentially accurate, the subplot dealing with the love affair between Harris and his housemaid Okichi is substantially fictional. He did have a housemaid named Okichi who Harris fired after three days and she committed suicide. Harris is also portrayed in other U.S. films and productions involving the opening of Japan. According to the N.Y. Post, the # 1 ranked High School in New York City in 2011 is named in his honor. The Northern Dispensary building was built in 1831 to serve the poor and sick of N.Y. City... and a deed restriction on the property requires this use even today. Edgar Allan Poe was treated there in 1827. The building is still standing, empty, in the heart of Greenwich Village. It is the only building in NYC with one side on two streets and two sides on one street. A difficult autograph to find.  This Townsend Harris autograph check reproduction would look great in an album or display.


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