In the mid-nineteenth century, Japan was largely a closed society, resistant to diplomatic and commercial contact with foreigners. Attempts by the United States and other nations to establish formal relations with Japan were repeatedly rebuffed. In response to this situation, in March 1852, President Millard Fillmore ordered Matthew C. Perry to command the U.S. Navy's East India Squadron and to establish diplomatic relations with Japan. Perry initially delivered President Fillmore's request for a treaty to a representative of the Japanese emperor in July 1853. Perry returned with a larger force in 1854, arriving in Edo (Tokyo) Bay, and obtained the signature of Japanese authorities to the Treaty of Kanagawa on 31 March 1854. As a result of this treaty of permanent friendship, a U.S. consul was stationed at Shimoda, U.S. vessels were allowed access to the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to obtain provisions, and shipwrecked seamen from U.S. vessels were to receive the assistance of Japanese authorities. This treaty led to significant commercial trade between the United States and Japan, contributed to opening Japan to other Western nations, and ultimately resulted in the modernization of the Japanese state.
Verso of medal:
"Presented to Com. M.C. Perry Special Minister from the U.S.A. by merchants of Boston in token of their appreciation of his services in negotiating the Treaty With Japan signed at Yoku-hama, March 31, and with Lew Chew at Napa July 11, 1854."
Naval History and Heritage Command Curator Branch Collection, item #60-274-2
List of Gifts Commodore Matthew C. Perry Took With Him To Japan
1 box of arms, containing:
5 Hall's rifles
3 Maynard's muskets
12 cavalry swords
6 artillery swords
20 army pistols
2 carbine, cartridge box and belts, containing 120 cartridges
10 Hall's rifles
11 cavalry swords
1 carbine, cartridge box & belts, and 60 cartridges
60 ball cartridges
1 box books, Emperor
1 box dressing-cases, Emperor
1 box perfumery, 2 packages, Emperor
1 barrel whiskey, Emperor
1 cask wine, Emperor
1 box distribution
1 box containing 11 pistols, for distribution
1 box perfumery, for distribution
A quantity of cherry cordials, distribution
A quantity of cherry cordials, Emperor
A number of baskets champaigne, Emperor
A number of baskets champaigne, commissioners
1 box chinaware, commissioners
A quantity of maraschino, commissioners
1 telescope, Emperor
Boxes of tea, Emperor
1 box of tea, commissioners
2 telegraph instruments
3 Francis's life-boats
1 locomotive & tender, passenger car and rails complete
4 volumes Audubon Birds of America
3 volumes Audubon Quadrupeds
10 ship's beakers, containing 100 gallons whiskey
8 baskets Irish potatoes
Boxes standard United States Balances
Boxes standard United States bushels
Boxes standard United States gallon measures
Boxes standard United States yards
1 box coast charts
4 bundles telegraph wires
1 box gutta percha wires
4 boxes batteries
1 box machine paper
1 box zinc plates
1 box insulators
1 box connecting apparatus
1 box machine weights
1 box acid
1 box seed
Large quantity of agricultural implements, etc. etc. etc..
Source: "List of Gifts Commodore Matthew C. Perry Took With Him to Japan." Unpublished, undated typescript located in Matthew C. Perry ZB file, box 176, Navy Department Library.
Contemporary Japanese print depicting two of the U.S. Marines with Commodore Perry's command, Naval Historical Center Photographic Branch #NH42759.
Ships of the Expedition to Japan
Steamer Mississippi, Commander H.A. Adams, flagship.
Steamer Powhatan, Captain McCluney.
Steamer Susquehanna, Commander Buchanan.
Sloop-of-war Macedonian, Captain Abbot.
Sloop-of-war Plymouth, Commander Kelly.
Sloop-of-war Saratoga, Commander Walker.
Sloop-of-war Vandalia, Commander Pope.
Storeship Supply, Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair.
Storeship Southampton, Lieutenant Boyle.
Storeship Lexington, Lieutenant Glasson.
Source: Navy Department, Library and Naval War Records. "Memorandum Concerning Matthew Calbraith Perry, U.S.N." Unpublished typescript, dated 30 January 1904, located in Matthew C. Perry ZB file, box 176, Navy Department Library.
Documents in the Navy Department Library
Documents from the Expedition:
- 17 page draft from Captain Henry A. Adams to Commodore Matthew C. Perry.
- 23 pages of "Notes of conferences at Simoda [Shimoda]," dated 1 February 1855.
- Memo dated 20 February 1855.
- List of presents for the Emperor.
- 2 Chinese "cards" of August 1873.
- Map of Kama Koura.
- ALS dated 7 April 1852 from Commodore Perry to Captain Adams.
- LS dated 12 July 1856 from Baynard Taylor to Captain Henry A. Adams.
- LS dated 9 January 1855 from Joel Abbot to Captain Adams.
- Japanese "letter with presents."
- Small sheet with various notes.
- Diamond Sutra - Japanese text of Buddhist Sacred Works or Sacred Teachings - inscribed with signature of John Rodgers, USN, USS Vincennes, Simona, Japan, May 20, 1855.
Documents concerning Matthew C. Perry, unrelated to the Expedition to Japan:
- ALS dated 9 January 1835, Navy Yard. To Congressman Charles G. Ferris. Regarding the Navy Bill, his three year cruise, etc. Denounces Congress for not allowing reimbursement of money he spent.
- ALS dated 4 April 1839, Washington, D.C. To Captain Thomas Stephens, USN, Philadelphia. Regarding Perry's efforts to establish a naval school of gunnery.
- ALS dated 8 July 1847, USS Mississippi. To his daughter, J. B. ("Belle") Perry.
Sailors unload boat howitzers for escort duty in Japan with Commodore Matthew C. Perry, U.S. special envoy and commander in chief of naval forces in the East Indian seas. This view appears on the front endpapers to John A. Dahlgren's Boat Armament of the U.S. Navy, 1856 edition.