Sale 1248 — The Magnolia Collection of U.S. Mail in China and Japan: Part 1

Sale Date — Thursday, 16 December, 2021

Category — United States Diplomatic Mail in Japan

Cat./Est. Value
Sale 1248, Lot 2100, United States Diplomatic Mail in JapanU.S. Legation, Japan. Imprint on circa 1860 envelope addressed in the hand of Townsend Harris to "E. M. Van Reed Esq. No 93, Yokohama", no other markings or content, a sample of Harris's writing and signature is shown here to validate the claim that the address on the envelope is, indeed, in his hand.

This cover was thoroughly researched by Richard C. Frajola, and his analysis is available in an online article at We will summarize his findings.

Townsend Harris was the first United States Consul General to Japan and opened the first U.S. embassy there after negotiating the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the U.S. and Japan. Signed in July 1858, it became popularly known as the Harris Treaty. He and a small number of Americans in the U.S. Legation lived in Edo (Tokyo), while most other alien residents in Japan lived at Yokohama or the few other port cities designated as open to foreigners. Harris left Japan in 1861.

This official "U.S. Legation, Japan" imprint envelope is addressed to another well-known American living in Japan, Eugene M. Van Reed. A Pennsylvanian by birth, Reed traveled to Japan and settled in Yokohama in 1859, living for a time at the "No. 93" address on the envelope, located in the sector allocated for foreign residents.

Reed clerked at the U.S. Consulate in Kanagawa (Yokohama) and worked for the large trading house of Augustine Heard & Co. He was involved in some rogue efforts to secure a treaty, which angered Harris. Frajola speculates that the letter once enclosed in this envelope might have related to the incident. Frajola also conjectures that the envelope was actually transported from Edo to Yokohama by a courier onboard a Japanese vessel, since there were few other means to convey mail in this period.

E. 2,000-3,000