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Did You Know that a Japanese Delegation Visited the U.S. Mint This Month in 1860?

In spring 1860, the Japanese government sent its first official diplomatic delegation to Washington, D.C.; on its itinerary was a stop at the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia on June 13. The visit was part of Japan’s efforts to establish diplomatic and economic relations with the United States under the shadow of U.S. military force beginning in the early-to-mid 1850s. Coin sets and medals were exchanged as part of the diplomatic process.

Among the Japanese delegation’s goals for the visit was to study the U.S. monetary system  and iron out some currency policy issues after the ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce Between the United States and Japan.

An April 1941 article in The Pacific Northwest Quarterly offers this account of the delegation’s visit to the Mint: “On June 13 and 14, Shinmi, Muragaki, and Oguri, with their chief interpreter and secretaries, spent part of their time at the mint. Director James Ross Snowden explained the operation of machinery and instruments. Japanese coins supplied by the Treasury Department had already been assayed, but the envoys insisted that the process be repeated, using each coin entirely rather than samples. A mounted set of United States coins was presented with a written account of the tests. Snowden urged that the usual Western standard of fineness be adopted by the Japanese government. The ambassadors informed Secretary Cass that their findings would be report to the Yedo government as a suggested basis for negotiation with Townsend Harris concerning exchange.”

Medals were produced by the U.S. Mint and Baily & Co., a Philadelphia jeweler marking the Japanese delegation’s visit and the establishment of a Japanese embassy.

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