Skip to content

Black Ship Scroll

    Black Ship Scroll

    Black Ship Scroll
    c. 1853-1917
    Artist Unknown
    Watercolor on paper, 10¾ x 168”
    William H. Hardy Collection
    Photo of William H. Hardy from the William H. Hardy Collection.

    From 1603 to 1868, the Japanese Tokugawa shogunate enacted the policy of sakoku (locked country). Visitors and trade from foreign countries were severely restricted and Japanese nationals were forbidden from leaving. On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy sailed four warships into Edo Bay using military might to force Japan into opening their borders to the West. Commodore Perry returned the following year with eight ships and successfully coerced the Japanese Shogun to sign the Treaty of Peace and Amity, effectively ending Japan’s policy of seclusion and opening the door for Japanese immigration to the U.S. 

    William H. Hardy was a young man who sailed with Commodore Perry on the first voyage to Japan. Nearly 70 years later, he became a media sensation as the last known surviving member of the crew, returning to Japan for a six-month goodwill tour. He was gifted many treasures, including this 16-foot scroll depicting the day Commodore Perry came to Japan. In all, Hardy transported 13 trunks full of goods back to his home in Portland, Oregon. 

    Shortly after returning from Japan in 1918, Captain Hardy was met by the police, accused of fabricating his ties to Commodore Perry and defrauding the public. Did he actually sail with Perry after all? The altercation ended in a shootout that left Captain Hardy with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died a year later after a brief illness.

    The family of William H. Hardy donated this scroll and many of the gifts he received while touring Japan to the Japanese American Museum of Oregon. It was featured in the 2017 exhibition Captain Hardy & the Black Ship Scroll.

    You can read a 1918 article in the Oshu Nippo paper about William Hardy here.