USS Powhatan

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The Powhatan as rendered in stained glass at the Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall

The USS Powhatan was a United States Navy frigate. It was one of the so-called "black ships" that entered Edo Bay in 1854, and the site of the signing of the Harris Treaty in 1858; in 1860, it carried the first Japanese embassy to the United States from Yokohama to Panama, where the embassy crossed the isthmus by rail, and continued on to Washington DC onboard the USS Roanoke.

The Powhatan was a 2400-ton steam sidewheel frigate armed with 44 guns. It was one of eight ships which accompanied Commodore Matthew Perry on his second visit to Japan.

The 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed onboard the Powhatan, which then carried the Treaty back to the US in 1860 to be ratified by Congress. The ship carried as well the three lead ambassadors of the first Japanese mission to the US, and their entourage, while the Dutch-built Kanrin Maru carried the remainder of the more than 170 members of the embassy. The ships departed Yokohama on 1860/1/19 (Feb 10), and the Powhatan stopped for supplies in Honolulu before continuing on to San Francisco, and then to Panama. While in Hawai'i, the Japanese ambassadors met with King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. The Kanrin Maru was damaged in a storm during the journey, however, and returned to Japan after repairs in San Francisco, its passengers joining the ambassadors in traveling to Panama onboard the Powhatan.


  • Gallery labels and pamphlet from exhibition "Samurai in New York." Museum of the City of New York. 25 June - 7 Nov. 2010.