Handwritten Passport – US-Consul Robert Monroe Harrison, Jamaica 1835

Handwritten Passport – US-Consul Robert Monroe Harrison, Jamaica 1835

Here comes an early passport of the United States of America, issued at the Consulate in Kingston, Jamaica in 1835. The passport is completely handwritten. US Consul in Jamaica was Robert Monroe Harrison, who signed the document and served at this post for 24 years The travel document was issued to 29 years old Edward Joy, who had according the physical description a “long” nose. A great piece of US passport history from a

Handwritten Passport - US-Consul Robert Monroe Harrison, Jamaica 1835

Handwritten Passport - US-Consul Robert Monroe Harrison, Jamaica 1835


Robert Munro/Monroe Harrison (1770-1858) US consul in Jamaica from 1831-1858. Parentage, uncertain; father was likely Robert Hanson Harrison, aide de camp to George Washington. Sent to England when to study navigation; was impressed as a midshipman in the Royal Navy when his ship was captured in the English Channel. Seven years in the Royal Navy. 1799-1801,master in the US Navy , see USS Constellation. He returned to Europe in some diplomatic role, apparently to Russia. 1807 -1811, in France and London. Married, 1811,Margaret (?), ward of Count Axel von Fersen, at St Leonard’s ,Shoreditch . First 2 children born in Sweden (RMH captain in the British merchant marine): Robert M jr (1811),Caroline(1813) (married Sage); RMH was imprisoned at Cowes by the British during the 1812 War. He then took up various US consular posts in the West indies. E.g. Consul of St.Thomas from 1816-1821. 5/6 more children born in West Indies/USA.

Assignment TitleLocationYears
ConsulAntigua Island1823 – 1827
ConsulSt. Kitts Island1823 – 1827
ConsulSt. Bartholomew Island1821 – 1823
ConsulSt. Thomas1816 – 1821

Based on the public and private writings of Southern political leaders and the diplomatic correspondence of Robert Monroe Harrison, consul to Kingston, Jamaica, from 1831 until 1855, the article argues that Southern Anglophobia was a dominant factor in the movement to annex Texas to the United States. Britain’s abolition of colonial slavery in her West Indian colonies was a seminal event for the American South. This was especially true for Harrison, a ‘native born Virginian’, who had a fearful personal experience with the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. Harrison came to believe that British abolitionism would be turned against American slavery and he shared his views with the State Department. He even feared that the British would use the West Indies as a staging ground for an attack on America with an emancipated black army that would sow insurrection in the South. Moreover, when several American ships involved in the coastal slave trade wrecked in the Bahamas, British colonial authorities freed the slaves, validating Harrison’s central accusation. In 1842, on the slave ship Creole, a group of young men to be sold in New Orleans rebelled, seized control of the ship and made their way to the Bahamas. They had heard through the grapevine of the freedom to be gained there. The white South was outraged. From their perspective, Britain had not only expropriated American property, but now had also instigated violent rebellion. Southern political leaders within the Tyler Administration, especially the Secretaries of State Abel Upshur and then John Calhoun, were deeply concerned with British intentions. They believed that the Republic of Texas was the next target of British abolitionism, and in order to defend civilisation as they knew it, they launched the movement to annex Texas to the United States to protect and expand American slavery. They succeeded in 1845.

B. Rugemer, Edward. (2007). Robert Monroe Harrison, British Abolition, Southern Anglophobia and Texas Annexation. Slavery & Abolition. 28. 169-191. 10.1080/01440390701428006.



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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...