U.S. Begins Trade with Japan
FDR creates the CCC

U.S. #1021 pictures Commodore Perry’s ships in Tokyo Bay with Mount Fuji in the background.

Commodore Perry Opens Trade with Japan

On March 31, 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry signed a peace and trade agreement with Japan.

Following continuing attempts by Europeans to convert the Japanese to Catholicism, Japan cut off nearly all outside contact in 1639. For more than 200 years, Japan permitted trade only with Dutch and Chinese ships bearing special charters.

Item #47038A –Commodore Perry Proof Card cancelled on his 198th birthday.

On July 8, 1853, under the direction of President Millard Fillmore, Commodore Matthew Perry led four steamships into Tokyo Bay to open relations between Japan and the United States. The Japanese were impressed by the giant steamships, which they had never seen before and described as “giant dragons puffing smoke.”

Perry carried with him a letter for the Emperor from President Fillmore, 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 superiority of American culture and benefits of trade.

U.S. #1158 – Perry’s meeting led to Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which this stamp commemorates.

The following year, Perry returned on February 13 with 10 ships and 1,600 men. Though the Japanese resisted at first, they allowed him to land at Kanagawa (near present-day Yokohama). The two sides negotiated for several weeks before signing the Convention of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854.

The 12-article treaty established peace between the two nations, opened the Japanese ports of Shimoda and Hakodate, permitted assistance to shipwrecked American sailors (and stated they wouldn’t be imprisoned or mistreated), allowed for a currency exchange, forbid America from using any other Japanese ports, and opened an American consulate in Shimoda. The governments of both nations ratified the treaty nearly a year later, on February 21, 1855. The treaty was significant in that it led to several similar agreements between Japan and other nations.

Click here to read the full treaty and here to see a Japanese woodblock print of the meeting.

Also on This Day in History… March 31, 1933

Birth of Civilian Conservation Corps 

U.S. #2037 was issued for the CCC’s 50th anniversary.

On March 31, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to decrease unemployment in America.

U.S. #3185e – The CCC was one of FDR’s New Deal policies.

In the presidential election of 1932, Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a “new deal” for the “forgotten man.” Reacting to the ineffectiveness of the Hoover administration in meeting people’s needs during the Great Depression, Americans overwhelmingly voted in favor of this promise.

Much of the New Deal legislation was put into effect during President Roosevelt’s first three months in office. To revive business activity, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) was established. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured bank deposits, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) protected the public from fraudulent stock market practices. In order to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were created.

U.S. #1950 was issued for Roosevelt’s 100th birthday.

Having run a similar, smaller program as governor of New York, Roosevelt knew how the CCC would be run. On March 21, 1933, he address Congress, “I propose to create to be used in complex work, not interfering with abnormal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth.”

The Emergency Conservation Work Act was submitted to Congress the same day and then approved on March 31, 1933. President Roosevelt then issued his executive order on April 5 and appointed the first CCC director.

The CCC employed young men for hard physical labor – planting trees, building dams, fighting forest fires, and in other activities. The Corps campers were given jobs, room and board, and were also enrolled in classes during off hours. More than 40,000 individuals were taught to read and write during this program. The work of the CCC did a great deal to develop and protect the nation’s natural resources. Over two million men served in the CCC before it was disbanded in 1942.

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
5/5 - (1 vote)
Share this Article


  1. The work of the CCC is still evident today, and many consider it the beginning of the conservation or “green” movement that has contributed so much to the nation’s health.

  2. My Uncle served in the C.C.C.. It was a blessing for the unemployed and some of his paycheck helped his siblings back home. As for our opening Japan, we see how THAT turned out some 90 years later.

  3. My dad was in the CCC in when he was about 17. He said that the work was hard, but he enjoyed it, especially because it was in the mountains and forests of Kern County, California. His family lived in the oil fields of western Kern County…flat and dry. The camps were run by the U.S. Army, and after revile and breakfast, the boys were turned over to the U.S. Forest Service who supervised the work. He had some interesting stories about his experiences. He said that many of the boys complained about the food as they gobbled it up. My dad said that there was an “older” guy among the boys…he was 25! The boys were paid, but some of the money was sent home to their families. After a few years, my dad was able to get a job, so he left the CCC and moved on with his life.

  4. My Father and my neighbor both recalled their days in the CCC and proudly stated how it was beneficial for their growth as young men. They were very proud of the hard work they performed. Would it work today? Probably not.

  5. Why not open them back up? Our prisons are full of young men who might have benefited from working outdoors to selling drugs and going to jail. A job gives a man pride in his ability to earn his way and take care of his family.

  6. Instead of just a handout, you are doing something productive for your country. My father was a part of this shortly after high school. It was soon after the great depression and many families were larger back then. Jobs and food were scarce. My father could not afford to go to college and had hoped to save up enough after his service to go but WW2 changed plans.

  7. TVA? Being from Canada I am not sure, but I think that stands for Tennessee Valley Authority. It wasn’t brought up in the article. Any comments?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *