Joseph Pitcairn US Consular Passport Hamburg

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Joseph Pitcairn US Passport
Pitcairn went to America and became a diplomat. In 1794, George Washington nominated Pitcairn to be the American Vice-Consul in Paris. He was then appointed full Consul in Hamburg, where he remained until 1802.

He was also a merchant and carried a respectable business in Hamburg helping needy American soldiers. At the time, there were nearly one hundred American ships arriving in Hamburg every year. In 1801, Pitcairn spent approximately ten dollars per sailor on medicine, board, clothing, and when necessary, burial expenses.

Hamburg was a free port, meeting point, and spy capital for revolutionaries and French Royalists and it was there that he met and married Lady Pamela Fitzgerald in 1800. She was the widow of the Irish Republican, Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763–1798), who had been suffering from septicemia while in hiding from the British Government, then shot and captured before dying of his wounds in Newgate Prison. Lady Fitzgerald had three children by him. At the time of her marriage to Pitcairn, her eldest and youngest children were left behind in England, while her middle child, Pamela (1796-1869) was with her in Hamburg. Joseph Pitcairn US Passport

A fantastic and early consular passport of THE FIRST US CONSULATE established in Germany in 1790. A significant document of American/German diplomacy and passport history!

Joseph Pitcairn US Passport
US passport issued in Hamburg (Germany) July 5, 1799. Single sheet (8” x 9”- 20 x 23.5 cm)

A Fine Portrait Miniature of Pitcairn Joseph Pitcairn US Passport

It is likely that the Pitcairns met at Mattison’s home. The Mattisons were wealthy bankers and Pamela’s cousin had married into their family. Joseph and Pamela had one child in 1803, a daughter, named Helen but shortly after her birth, the couple divorced. Pamela returned to England, later marrying an American of Scottish descent in Brooklyn, while Helen remained with Joseph. He returned to America with her where he used the money he had amassed in Hamburg to buy and develop land in St. Lawrence County, New York.

Two small villages there named Pitcairn and East Pitcairn was named after him. He also purchased land in Edward’s Township and paid for settlers from his home county of Fifeshire to immigrate and settle there. In 1819, Pitcairn was funding families and individuals from Fife to work on his land for three years, having paid their passage and helped them to obtain homes, land, and the means for income. When the three years were up, they were given the opportunity to buy their homes and land from him. Pitcairn never forgot his roots and left a thousand dollars to his father’s parish of Carnbee in his will. Joseph Pitcairn US Passport

Joseph Pitcairn US Passport
Joseph Pitcairn (1764-1844), wearing a grey coat, pale yellow waistcoat, white chemise, stock, and cravat, his powdered wig tied with a fine black ribbon bow.

Hamburg-American Relations Before the Establishment of a Consulate

The first trading route between Hamburg and the New World already existed in 1625. Coincidently, the first German immigration to North America was documented in the same year. At that time, Hamburg already had one of the largest seaports in Europe and therefore played a key role in the development of European-American trade. Commerce and emigration of Germans to Northern America would remain the characteristic feature of German-American relations until the late 19th century.

First U.S. Diplomatic Representations

Hamburg was one of the first states in the world, where the United States established a diplomatic mission after the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Consulate in Hamburg was established on June 17, 1790. On the same day, the United States also opened its diplomatic representations in Bilbao, Cowes, Marseilles, Le Havre, London, Fayal, and Surinam.

The First Consul Joseph Pitcairn US Passport

On July 1, 1790, the U.S. Senate passed an act “providing the means for intercourse between the United States and foreign nations.” The United States endeavors to intensify commercial relations with Hamburg by establishing diplomatic relations with the Free and Hanseatic city fell into the same time period. In 1790, President George Washington appointed John Parish, a naturalized Hamburg citizen of Scottish birth, to the position of “vice-consul for the port of Hamburgh.” The U.S. Consulate in Hamburg was opened on June 17, 1790, as the eleventh American Consulate worldwide.


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...