1953 5¢ Opening of Japan Centennial
US #1021 pictures Perry’s ships in Tokyo Bay with Mount Fuji in the background.

Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry was born on April 10, 1794, in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

Born to a naval captain, Perry was the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry. Navy life was in his blood and Perry began his career at the age of 15 as a midshipman aboard the USS Revenge, under his older brother’s command.

2013 46¢ Battle of Lake Erie
US #4805 – Matthew’s older brother was the “Hero of Lake Erie,” an important War of 1812 battle.

In the coming years, Perry served on several other ships, including the USS President, aboard which he was an aide to the commodore. While on that ship, he took part in a battle against the British before the start of the War of 1812. He remained on that ship after the conflict started when the President fired the first shot of the war at the HMS Belvidera. Perry was later transferred to the USS United States, where he served under Stephen Decatur.

1953 5¢ Opening of Japan Centennial Plate Block First Day Cover
US #1021 – Plate Block First Day Cover

After the war, Perry served on several ships in the Mediterranean. He served under William Bainbridge in the Second Barbary War and took part in patrols off Liberia. He was even offered a commission in the Imperial Russian Navy, though he turned it down.

1991 Matthew Perry Proofcard
Item #47038A – Proof Card marking Perry’s 198th birthday

By 1821, Perry was in command of the USS Shark. The following year, he sailed the Shark to Key West, Florida, to claim the Keys as United States territory. Perry then took command of the USS Concord, served as the second officer of the New York Navy Yard, and was promoted to captain.

As a captain, Perry oversaw the construction of and then commanded the USS Fulton, the Navy’s second steam frigate. Perry recognized the importance of naval education and promoted an apprentice system to train new sailors. He helped create the course of study for the US Naval Academy, organized the first corps of naval engineers, led the first naval gunnery school, and pushed for the modernizing of the Navy. For his efforts, he was called the “Father of the Steam Navy.”

1937 5¢ Army and Navy: Seal of U.S. Naval Academy
US #794 – Perry gave the US Naval Academy the Gokoku-ju Bell he received in Japan. Since replaced with a replica, it rings for every football victory over the US Army team.

During the Mexican-American War, Perry was in command of the USS Mississippi. He captured Frontera and Tampico and fought at the First Battle of Tabasco. He also participated in the end stages of the siege of Veracruz before attacking other Mexican port cities, and he personally led a landing force in taking San Juan Bautista.

2009 44¢ Gulf Coast Lighthouses: Fort Jefferson, Florida
US #4413 – Perry recommended the building of this lighthouse while in the Florida Keys in the 1820s.

One of Perry’s most famous accomplishments came in the 1850s. Under the direction of President Millard Fillmore, he traveled to Japan to open relations. On July 8, 1853, Perry led four steamships into Tokyo Bay. The Japanese were impressed by the giant steamships, which they had never seen before and described as “giant dragons puffing smoke.”

When Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay (then called Uraga Harbor), he demanded to be allowed to present President Fillmore’s letter. His requests were rejected, so Perry fired blanks from the ships’ cannons. The Japanese, concerned about the threat to their capital, allowed Perry to come ashore.

1960 4¢ United States and Japan Treaty
US #1158 was issued for the 100th anniversary of Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the US and Japan.

Perry then presented the letter, requesting that Americans stranded in Japan be returned home and expressing interest in opening trade between the two nations. He also presented the emperor with a variety of gifts, including a working steam locomotive model, a telegraph, a telescope, and several wines and liquors, all intended to show the Japanese the American culture and benefits of trade.

The following year, both sides signed the Treaty of Kanagawa, establishing peace between the two nations. The treaty also called for the opening of two ports to American ships, assistance and protection for American ships stranded in the area, and permission for American ships to buy supplies, coal, water, and other provisions in the two Japanese ports.

Upon his return to the US, Perry received a reward of $20,000, which he used to compile a three-volume report on his time in Japan.  Perry finished his report just months before his death on March 4, 1858.

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10 Comments

  1. Another GREAT American Naval Commodore … AND … another great UPDATE in American history !! Thanks, Mystic !!

  2. Interesting! That must’ve started the rise of Japanese power into the 20th Century (e.g., Japanese defeat of Russia in 1905, Japanese invasion of China prior to WW2, and Japanese involvement in the war against the Allies, especially the USA.

  3. Interesting article but can’t celebrate the “blasting-away diplomacy” tactics and writer’s bias( or wast that Perry’s bias) using the term American “superiority.” Perhaps the phrase “military superiority” may have been better.

    1. Save your wokeness for your fellow woke idiots. America is and should be superior and if you don’t like that and can’t appreciate living in a superior country, go somewhere else. I suggest Venezuela as they certainly aren’t and never will be superior.

      1. I am so sick and tired of hearing the word “woke”. Those people need to crawl back into the sewer and take all who think like them. Your kind has put our great nation in jeopardy of its freedoms, the right to vote and our standing throughout the world.
        While I will agree about the political comments within these articles, it just proves what I’ve thought for years, most coin and stamp collectors are old bigots that have also ruin these wonderful hobbies.

  4. I am so tired of the political back-biting we see everywhere. Even a nice stamp collecting web site isn’t safe. I wish folks would refrain once in a while. Just because you can express your opinion, doesn’t mean you should.

  5. Curious about what this was supposed to say: “ His requests were rejected, so Perry opened fired blacks from the ships’ cannons.” Blanks?

    1. Shells without projectiles were used for signaling. In this case the signal was clearly that next time the shells could do more than make noise.

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