Commodore Perry's Japan Expedition Press and Shipboard Theatre

Provided by the State Department for Commodore Matthew C. Perry's Japan expedition, a printing press, with type and ink, arrived too late for inclusion on the flagship 'Mississippi' sailing in December 1852, but finally (December 1853) reached Hong Kong and Perry's squadron between his two visits to Japan. The press served three purposes: 1) printing the first accurate sailing directions for harbors and coasts of Japan and Okinawa surveyed by Perry's officers; 2) acquainting Perry's men with the purposes and degree of accomplishment of their mission; and 3) printing playbills for theatrical performances on board his ships. Resulting from Perry's effort to keep up morale among his men, the performances produced by the sailors were attended by British guests in Hong Kong and reported on enthusiastically by the Hong Kong papers. Okinawan and Japanese audiences were highly amused over the dancing and acting in a black-faced minstrel show, despite inability to understand the dialogue. 9 notes, biblio.


Morison, S. E.

Date of publication: 

Apr. 1967





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