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July 9, 2012

Japanese Delegation Honors CCNY Founder With July 18 Visit

Townsend Harris
Townsend Harris founded CCNY in 1847 as The Free Academy in 1847 and later opened the first U.S. consulate in Japan, where he is a revered figure.



Tradition, a Tribute to Townsend Harris, Dates to 1986

Continuing a tradition began more than a quarter of a century ago, Takayuki Ohguro, chair of the Shimoda City Assembly, will lead a 10-member delegation on a pilgrimage to The City College of New York July 18 to honor its founder Townsend Harris.

This will be the 26th delegation from Shimoda, a city 60 miles southwest of Tokyo, to visit CCNY to pay homage to Mr. Harris, who founded what was then known as The Free Academy in 1847. He later opened the first U.S. consulate in Japan, where he is a revered figure.

Mr. Ohguro’s party will include civic officials and citizens of Shimoda. They will be joined at CCNY by several other distinguished visitors, among them Sallie Rush Tayfour, the great-great-grandniece of Townsend Harris and Hirohito Saigusa, from the Consulate General of Japan.  

On its tour of CCNY’s campus, the group will visit the Cohen Library Archives in the North Academic Center building to examine its collection of Townsend Harris memorabilia. Among the items on display in the archives are the American flag that Harris flew in Japan, his diplomatic pouch, a volume from his journals and his diplomatic passport.  

A luncheon with students and faculty will follow, after which CCNY Archivist Sydney Van Nort will deliver a presentation on the life and career of Mr. Harris.

Mr. Harris, a prominent New York merchant who became Consul General to Japan in 1856, negotiated the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with that country in 1858 and is credited with opening the Japanese Empire to foreign trade and culture. Owing to his goodwill, openness and honesty, he 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.

From CCNY, the delegation will travel to Newport, R.I., to attend the Black Ships 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 Shimoda delegation’s visit to The City College, please call the CCNY Archives at (212) 650-7609.

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