Showing Roofs & Flag Staff U.S. Legation Yedo

1862 Date:
Attributed to John Thomas Gulick (1832-1923) Photographer
Albumen photographic print on card Medium
3 1/4 H x 3 3/4 W. 4 11/16 H x 5 3/8 W (With card) Dimensions
Inscribed in ink on card front: Showing Roofs & Flag Staff U.S. Legation / Yedo / Larger Building Temple Semphufugee
Inscription
Albany Institute of History & Art Library Credit
DI 466 Digital ID

The 1859 Treaty of Amity and Commerce established the first American legation in Japan at the Zenpuku-ji Temple (Pruyn's designation: Semphufugee). Townsend Harris (1804-1878) was the first American consul-general. Albanian, Robert Hewson Pruyn (1815-1882), the second U.S. representative to Japan, and his son, Robert (Bertie) C. Pruyn (1837-1934), were in residence at the temple from their arrival in April of 1862 until it was destroyed in a May 1863 fire. Taken on a calm day, the photograph shows the U.S. flag hanging unfurled against the pole amidst the steep roofs of the temple complex buildings. The morning after the fire, on May 26, Pruyn wrote to his wife, Jane Ann Lansing Pruyn: "You would be surprised to see what ridiculous things were saved + compared with what was destroyed. Each Yakonin (the Samurai who guarded Pruyn) seized something strange to him + therefore supposed to be valuable - my old stove pipe hat, Berties spectacles A map of the United States hanging in the office - an oil painting of Franklin Pierce which Mr. Harris had, some of the books were thrown in the Pond for preservation as was also a box containing $2,600" The safe stood the fire but must have admitted the water like a sieve. The books + papers which were in the wooden case are in much better condition than those which were in the safe".No persons had been kinder than my guards or more vigilant. While I was dressing even my room was filled with them"Had I understood them more may have been saved. While they were talking Japanese to me which I supposed was asking directions as to what to save + they were dodging after me from room to room the difficulty was they were anxious for me and wished to get me out of the building. I had no idea of the velocity with which fire travels here. Almost lights light."

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