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July 6, 2011

Pilgrimage From Japan Honors CCNY Founder July 13

 Townsend Harris by James Bogle

James Bogle portrait of Townsend Harris, founder of The City College of New York and first U.S. consul general to Japan.

The Hon. Naoki Ishii, mayor of Shimoda, Japan, will lead an eight-member delegation on a pilgrimage to The City College of New York July 13 to honor CCNY’s founder, Townsend Harris, who also opened the first U.S. consulate in Japan.  The party will be the 25th from Shimoda to visit CCNY to pay homage to Harris, who founded The College as The Free Academy in 1847.   

Mr. Harris, a prominent New York merchant who became consul general to Japan in 1856, negotiated that treaty and is credited as the diplomat who opened the Japanese Empire to foreign trade and culture.  Owing to his goodwill, openness and honesty, Harris quickly gained the respect and affection of the Japanese people, and is revered there to this day.

The Shimoda visitations to CCNY date to 1986.  That year, officials of that city and CCNY held a ceremony in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, where Mr. Harris is buried, to dedicate a refurbished gravesite that was a gift from the Japanese people.  

The visiting delegation includes civic officials and citizens of Shimoda.  During its visit, it will tour the CCNY campus, attend a luncheon with alumni and students from the City College Honors Program, and hear a presentation on the life and career of Mr. Harris by City College Archivist Sydney Van Nort.

Two memorial tributes will take place during the luncheon.  Mayor Ishii will be presented with a plaque and framed photograph honoring the memory of Rev. Yodo Murakami, the 26th priest of Gyokusenji Temple, who presided at the 1986 dedication ceremony of the Harris gravesite and died in October 2010.  Mr. Harris established the consulate and his residence on the temple grounds, which were provided to him for that purpose.

A plaque and framed picture will also be presented to Julia Rush, widow of Dr. Richard B. Rush.  Dr. Rush, a grand nephew of Mr. Harris who passed away in May 2011, regularly attended the Shimoda visitations in recent years accompanied by other members of his family.

The City College Archives, located in Cohen Library, houses a collection of Townsend Harris memorabilia.  Among the items on display are the American flag that Harris flew in Japan, his diplomatic pouch, a volume from his journals and his diplomatic passport.

From CCNY, the delegation will travel to Newport, R.I., to attend the Black Ship Festival.  The festival is named for the kurofune, or black ships, that Commodore Matthew C. Perry anchored in Yedo Bay (now Tokyo Bay) in July 1853.

Commodore Perry’s fleet went to Japan to press a U.S. demand that Japan end its two centuries of self-imposed isolation and open its ports to trade.  When the United States was granted the right to open a consulate at what was then the remote outpost of Shimoda, President Franklin Pierce named Mr. Harris consul general to the Empire of Japan.  

For more information on the visit to the City College led by Mayor Ishii, please call the CCNY Archives at (212) 650-7609.

On the Internet:

City College Libraries
http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/library/index.cfm

Wikipedia Article on Townsend Harris
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Townsend_Harris

City of Shimoda
http://www.city.shimoda.shizuoka.jp/index4.php?cid=0-0-0

Mayor Naoki Ishii
http://www.city.shimoda.shizuoka.jp/form1.php?lang=1&pid=1431

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