Free Hanseatic Republics Passport – London 1840

Free Hanseatic Republics Passport Issued At London 1840

This travel document is one of the rare passport types a collector can find. In fact, this document is the only I ever saw. But some history of the Hanseatic Republics first.

The Hanseatic Republics were composed of the three Free Hanseatic Cities that remained by the late eighteenth century: BremenLübeck, and Hamburg. When the United States announced its independence from Great Britain in 1776, these three Free Cities were sovereign, independent city-states within the Holy Roman Empire.

Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and in 1811 annexed Bremen, Lübeck, and Hamburg directly to the First French Empire. The three Hanseatic cities regained independence in 1813, and the 1815 Congress of Vienna reaffirmed that Bremen, Lübeck, and Hamburg were independent and sovereign city-states.

Historically major trading hubs for the northern German States and Baltic Sea, the three cities joined together to conduct one streamlined policy in their relations with the United States during the nineteenth century. Yet, each Hanseatic city remained independent of the others.

After initial recognition in the 1790s, relations were expanded in the following decades, driven by the increased trade and commercial ties between the Hanseatic Cities and the United States. By the late 1840s, Bremen was one of the main ports through which goods moved between the United States and the German States.

Direct diplomatic relations between the United States and the Hanseatic Republics were established in 1853 but were severed in 1868 when the three republics joined the North German Confederation. Three years later, after the process of German unification, the three republics entered into the German Empire.

From this point forward, foreign policy of the German Empire was made in Berlin, with the German Kaiser (who was also the King of Prussia) accrediting ambassadors of foreign nations. Relations with the German Empire were severed when the U.S. declared war upon Imperial Germany in 1917.

Mutual Acts of Recognition, 1790-1793

The first known act of recognition between the United States and Hamburg came in 1790 when the Free City of Hamburg accepted the credentials of U.S. Vice Consul John Parish, who was appointed to that position on June 17, 1790. Additionally, on February 19, 1793, the U.S. Congress resolved that John Parish was to be accredited as U.S. Consul in Hamburg.

Recognition between the U.S.A. and Bremen in 1794

The first known act of recognition between the United States and Bremen was in 1794 when Arnold Delius, who on May 28, 1794, was appointed as U.S. Consul at Bremen, arrived to open the first U.S. consulate in that city. The U.S. did not open a consulate in Lübeck until August 6, 1824.

Hanseatic Representation in the U.S.A., December 4, 1827

The first time that the Hanseatic Republics were represented in the United States Government as a joint delegation came on December 4, 1827, when the U.S. received Hanseatic Republic Minister Plenipotentiary near the United States of America Vincent Rumpff. Rumpff was sent to the United States to negotiate and sign the first treaty between the United States and the three Hanseatic Republics.

Consular Presence

The first U.S. Consulate to open in Bremen was on May 29, 1794, which closed in September 1985. Another U.S. consulate was opened in nearby Bremerhaven on June 27, 1882, which closed on May 1, 1949. (Bremerhaven became part of Bremen in 1947, after the Second World War). The first U.S. Consulate to open in Hamburg was on June 17, 1790. It closed on January 2, 1967. The U.S. Consulate in Lübeck opened on August 6, 1824, and closed on March 1, 1916. The U.S. Consulate to the Hanseatic and Free Cities opened on January 24, 1857, and closed on July 17, 1862.

Diplomatic Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with the Hanseatic Republics in October 1853 when it received Rudolph Schleiden as Minister Resident of the Hanseatic Legation in Washington D.C. On September 25, 1868, the Hanseatic Republic Acting Chargé d’Affaires A. Schumacker presented the letters of recall of Dr. Johannes Rosing, the Hanseatic Republic’s Chargé d’Affaires. The withdrawal of the Hanseatic mission was due to the three Republics (Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck) joining the North German Union.

The Passport

The document comes in a large folio format, is well traveled and was issued by the Agent and Consul for the Free Hanseatic Republics of Lübeck, Bremen & Hamburg in London 20 March 1840. Captain William Dunlop was the bearer of this fantastic travel document, who in another passport (July 1840) is described as carrying despatches from St. Petersburg to Hamburg. Dunlop was in the service of the Honourable East India Company of Great Britain (HEIC) traveling to Hamburg. One dozen endorsements, including a visa with a wax seal issued in Stockholm for travel to Russia, are showing his frequent travels between March and July 1840.

Unfortunately, I could not find reliable data on William Dunlop.

Free Hanseatic Republics Passport Issued At London 1840
Free Hanseatic Republics Passport Issued at London, 1840

Free Hanseatic Republics Passport Issued At London 1840


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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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