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Japan’s enduring reverence for CCNY founder Townsend Harris

Townsend Harris
Townsend Harris, CCNY's founder and the first US counsel general to Japan.

Nearly 170 years after he founded The City College of New York and went on to forge U.S.-Japan relations, the lure of Townsend Harris continues in the Far East. Since 1986, top civic officials from the Japanese city of Shimoda have been paying homage to Townsend with annual visits to City College.

“This year marks 160 years since Harris arrived in Shimoda on August 21, 1856 to open the first American consulate,” said City College archivist Sydney Van Nort. “As first consul general there, he negotiated the treaty that is credited for opening 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.”

Since July 1986, officials from Shimoda have been traveling to CCNY to honor Harris, a prominent New York merchant who founded the college as The Free Academy in 1847.

Seiji Takeuchi, vice chairman of the Shimoda City Assembly, marks the 30th anniversary of the pilgrimages when he leads a 12-member delegation from the port city to CCNY on July 13.

The visitors will attend a presentation by Van Nort on the life and career of Harris and view documents from the Townsend Harris Papers Collection in CCNY’s Morris Raphael Cohen Library.

For more information on the Shimoda delegation’s visit to The City College, please call the CCNY Archives at (212) 650-7609.

About The City College of New York
Since 1847 The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. More than 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; the School of Education; the Grove School of Engineering; the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.  U.S. News, Princeton Review and Forbes all rank City College among the best colleges and universities in the United States.



Jay Mwamba