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

Sale Date — Thursday, 16 December, 2021

Category — Pre-Consulate Mail in Japan

Lot
Symbol
Photo/Description
Cat./Est. Value
Realized
2065
c
Sale 1248, Lot 2065, Pre-Consulate Mail in JapanU.S. STEAM FRIGATE/SUSQUEHANNA. Two-line woodcut handstamp with matching "ON/PUBLIC SERVICE" two-line handstamp on 9.75 by 4-inch blue linen-lined envelope addressed to "Lieut Comd. Maury", pencil "Orders 'Caprice'" below the "On Public Service" handstamp, with original letter signed "M. C. Perry" as Commander of East India Squadron, datelined "U.S. Steam Frigate Susquehanna off the river Yang tse Keang May 23d 1853" to "Lieutenant Commandant Wm. L. Maury, Commg U.S. Storeship Caprice, China Sea", with orders to "Proceed with all despatch with the U.S. Storeship 'Caprice' under your command to the port of Napa Keang, Island of Loo Choo"

VERY FINE. THE ONLY RECORDED EXAMPLE OF ANY OFFICIAL HANDSTAMPED MARKING ASSOCIATED WITH THE 1853-54 PERRY EXPEDITION TO JAPAN, WHICH LED TO THE TREATY OF KANAGAWA AND OPENING OF JAPAN TO RELATIONS WITH WESTERN NATIONS. APART FROM THE POSTAL HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COVER, THE LETTER SIGNED BY COMMODORE PERRY DURING THE EXPEDITION HAS ENORMOUS IMPORTANCE AS A HISTORICAL MANUSCRIPT. WITHOUT QUESTION THE PREMIER POSTAL ARTIFACT RELATED TO THE OPENING OF JAPAN.

Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, the renowned Father of the Steam Navy and younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, was 59 years old and suffering from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol-induced liver disease when he sailed into Edo Bay in July 1853 and successfully pressured the Tokugawa shogunate government to allow him and his military entourage to land on Japan's shores and present a letter from President Fillmore to Emperor Komei.

At first reluctant to take on what he considered to be a nearly impossible mission, Commodore Perry embarked from Hampton Roads on November 24, 1852, in command of the steam-powered U.S.S. Mississippi. After coal stops at Madeira, St. Helena, Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius, Ceylon and Singapore, the Mississippi arrived at Hong Kong on April 7, 1853, where she was joined by two sloops of war, the U.S.S. Plymouth and Saratoga. The expedition's designated flagship, the U.S.S. Susquehanna, had already left Hong Kong to transport three diplomats to Shanghai. Perry ordered the Plymouth to Shanghai to instruct the Susquehanna's commander to wait for the rest of the squadron to arrive.

After stopping at Macau and visiting Canton, Perry traveled up the Yangtze River to Shanghai, arriving on May 4. For the next two weeks, preparations were made and the commander's flag was transferred to the Susquehanna. On May 16 and 17 the Mississippi, Susquehanna, Supply and Caprice embarked from Shanghai and anchored at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The Plymouth remained at Shanghai to guard American interests, and the Saratoga awaited the arrival of the expedition's interpreter. The entire squadron planned to meet at "Loo Choo," the American name for the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa).

On May 23 Perry ordered Lieutenant Commander William L. Maury to take the supply ship Caprice to Napha on "Loo Choo," which is documented in the letter offered here. The squadron landed there on May 26. After a mid-June visit to Ogasawara Island, they left for Japan on July 2 and arrived in Edo Bay on July 8. For the next five days, Perry and what the Japanese called his four "Black Ships" engaged in gunboat diplomacy to force the government to grant permission for a landing party to present President Fillmore's letter to the Emperor. On July 14 Perry was received at Kurihama Hall amid a display of American pomp and circumstance, and he presented the presidential letter, as well as three missives of his own and, according to some historians, a fourth message accompanied by two white flags, with instructions for how to use them in the event it became necessary.

Illustrated in Frajola-Perlman-Scamp book (p. 26).

Ex Ryohei Ishikawa and Floyd E. Risvold.

Sale 1248, Lot 2065, Pre-Consulate Mail in Japan
Image 2
E. 50,000-75,000
47,500