A programme printed on Commodore Perry’s frigate Powhatan, Hakodadi, Island of Yesso, Japan Expedition Press, 1854, May 29th, for an:
"Ethiopian Concert minstrel show on board this ship, weather favorable, to which the Officers invite your attendance."
On washi mulberry tissue paper with a lace-like decorative flower pattern in white,
approx. H. 19 x W. 26 cm
Second copy recorded of the printed programme and invitation to a show by the “Japanese Olio Minstrels”, on board Commodore Perry’s ship, comprising sailors from the ship’s crew, many performing in black face, but also a few African-Americans. Perry invited Japanese dignitaries to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa to attend the minstrel show on board his ship on 29 May 1854, at 7 pm. The first thing the Americans showed the Japanese were comedians and dancers in Blackface, immediately presenting them with racism. The words “Ethiopian Concert” are set in so-called Tuscan decorative capitals and the rest in roman, italic and a bold fat face. The programme lists the pieces performed and the names of the crew members for each act. Perry was fond of music and considered it important to keep up the spirits of the crew of his ships. The present show also served an important diplomatic function and therefore was dignified with a printed programme. The only other copy recorded in the literature belonged to the wife of Commodore Perry’s grandson and passed to the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. Programmes are known for three shows given on the ship, but only two were printed by the ship’s own press.
An extremely rare and remarkable document of a unique American musical genre, as performed for Japanese on Commodore Perry’s ship.
- Morrison, Commodore Perry’s Japan Expedition Press and shipboard theatre, 1967, pp. 40-41
- Yellin, Mrs. Belmont, Matthew Perry and the ‘Japanese Minstrels’, in: American Music, 14 (1996), pp. 267-269 (ill. 6)
- Lovett, 'The Japan Expedition Press' in: Harvard Library Bulletin, 12 (1958), pp. 242-252 (ill. a similar programme)