US Passport issued in 1919 – Embassy in Tokyo

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US Passport 1919 Tokyo

Roland S. (Sletor) Morris (March 11, 1874 – November 23, 1945) was a leader of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania and was the ambassador to Japan from 1917-1921.  A Non-career appointee, State of Residence: Pennsylvania. Appointed: August 1, 1917, Presentation of Credentials: October 30, 1917, Termination of Mission: Left Japan May 15, 1920.

Finding a US passport from Tokyo/Japan from this period is very rare. In fact, this is the first one I saw in 15+ years. Unfortunately, I missed this fantastic travel document at an auction.

The United States and Japan granted each other formal recognition on March 31, 1854, when Special Ambassador of the United States to Japan Matthew C. Perry and Japanese representatives signed a Treaty of Peace and Amity at Kanagawa, Japan. On July 8, 1853, Commodore Perry had sailed into the harbor of Japan’s capital of Edo (now Tokyo) and delivered a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan announcing that the United States sought to open relations with Japan and that Perry would return later to do so. However, this letter did not carry the force of formal recognition, which had to wait until the treaty of 1854.

The United States established consular relations with Japan when Townsend Harris accepted an appointment as Consul to Shimoda on August 4, 1855. The Consulate was established in Shimoda soon thereafter. US Passport 1919 Tokyo

The United States established additional Consulates in Japan:

  • Kanagawa (1862);
  • Nagasaki (1862);
  • Hakodate (1865);
  • Osaka (1868);
  • Tokyo (1869);
  • Yokohama (1897);
  • Kobe (1902);
  • Shimonoseki (1918);
  • Yokkaichi (1918);
  • Fukuoka (1950);
  • Sapporo (1950).

These dates reflect the earliest date at which a consul or consul-general (as opposed to a vice-consul, consular agent, or commercial agent) was either appointed to or arrived at each post. Full diplomatic relations were established on July 29, 1858, with the signing of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce by U.S. Consul General Townsend Harris and Japanese representatives at the Japanese capital of Edo (Tokyo).

US Passport 1919 Tokyo

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...