German Empire Passport 1892 Singapore

Germany Consulate Singapore 1892This German Empire Passport was issued in 1892 in Singapore

and is a rare collectible I never saw before. What an outstanding find and addition to my archive! Once again, I have to say “Thank you” to my fellow German collector who made it possible for me to acquire this outstanding, unusual and rare travel document.

Hans Hermann Eschke (10 November 1856 in Berlin – 19 July 1904 in Singapore) was the first German Consul General in Singapore. Eschke, a jurist, initially joined the Prussian Ministry of Justice. He served as an attaché at the German embassy in London, after which he was sent to Singapore in 1889 as consul – the first career diplomat in the German Foreign Office to hold this post in Singapore. The German Empire was interested in widening its influence in the region, particularly in Tsingtao, China.

At the end of 1898, Eschke was appointed the German Resident Minister in Bangkok, a temporary posting that lasted just over a year. During this period, his father-in-law Theodor, who had acted as the German honorary consul in Singapore before Eschke arrived, replaced him. In 1901, the German Consulate in Singapore was upgraded to a Consulate General, and Eschke became the first Imperial German Consul General. That same year, his administrative jurisdiction was extended to the Johor Sultanate.

In January 1902, Eschke, still based in Singapore, was concurrently appointed consul for the British-controlled part of Borneo, Brunei, Sarawak, Labuan, and the Federated Malay States. In addition, Eschke was in charge of the Austro-Hungarian Consulate General. In December 1903, he took charge of the Turkish Consulate General as well. He had previously performed the same function at the local Russian diplomatic mission. For much of his time in Singapore, Eschke was the doyen of the consular corps. He held the rank of Hauptmann (Captain) in the Landwehr.

Eschke was held in high esteem in Singapore

throughout his stay in the Straits, not only for representing German interests but also as an “adopted” Singaporean by the locals, having lived there so long. These sentiments were echoed and emphasized in the local press following his unexpected death after a sudden and nasty bout of dysentery in July 1904. He was 47.

Both the Straits Times and the now-defunct Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser carried detailed obituaries. The Singapore Free Press wrote:

“Amongst his people, he had earned by his devotion to German interests a striking popularity, and those members of the general community who were not brought into familiar relations with him by nationality and mother tongue had learned to recognize his sterling qualities and estimate his upright principles correctly.”


Eschke’s grave was initially located at the Bukit Timah Cemetery, which was cleared in 1971 and turned into a park. Twelve grave monuments, including that of Eschke, were relocated to Fort Canning Green.

FAQ Passport History
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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...