Marble Architecture

On June 17, 1872, the delegation boarded a train in Saratoga, New York headed towards Boston, Massachusetts. As the landscape passed through the train windows, the delegation could see marble and stone quarries in the near distance. At the time, hydraulic powered mining was a booming industry in Massachusetts, and marble and slate were popular […]

Cotton and Wool Mills

On August 3, 1872 the embassy delegation headed just north of Boston to visit the cotton-milling town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. With three large mills, all powered by the Merrimack River, Lawrence was a small but bustling center for cotton textile production. The mills relied on the popular Jacquard machine, invented by French textile artisan Joseph […]


On July 30, 1872, the delegation visited a Philadelphia prison. At the entrance gate houses overlooked large iron doors, and imposing stone walls created the perimeter. The main holding cells were located in a two-story stone building at the center of the prison yard. The delegates saw that the facility was not overly crowded, and […]

United States Mint

On July 29, 1872, the delegation visited the United States Mint, a building filled with coin-making. At the time, dimes and quarters were roughly 90% real silver, while pennies were 95% copper. The delegates watched as blocks of silver and copper were melted at extreme heat into thin sheets, then cut with circular punches into […]

Iron and Steel Manufacturing

During the delegation’s tour of Philadelphia, they learned about the city’s famous history of iron and steel manufacturing. Local plants were incredibly successful, due in large part to Pennsylvania’s natural abundance of high-quality coal and iron mines. The industries had transformed the economic and natural landscape of the area, and had also stimulated other forms […]

Printing Office

The delegates’ visit to the U.S Printing Office in Washington D.C struck a chord – the whole group was attracted by the calm and calculated atmosphere of the working environment. They witnessed synchronicity in action during a tour of the composing room on the top floor. From above, the delegates watched as mechanical typesetting, stereotyping, […]

Postal Service Headquarters

On April 30 1872, the Iwakura Mission group visited the Washington D.C headquarters of the United States Postal Service (USPS). They toured the dead letter office, piled high with undeliverable mail, and went through the sorting and delivery departments. The guide informed the delegates that while the USPS excelled at delivering letters and parcels, other […]

National Observatory in Georgetown

On April 23, 1872, the delegation was granted access to the United States Naval Observatory and its 10-foot-long equatorial telescope. Three stories high and overlooking the Potomac River, the telescope allowed the group to observe the movements of celestial objects such as the moon and stars in detail in addition to Mercury and the moons […]


During the delegates’ time in Washington D.C, they encountered streetcars passing through the bustle of the boulevards. Pulled by horses, the cars were used to transport freight, baggage, and as many as fifty people. The group marveled at the vehicle’s ability to carry so many passengers and cargo with ease. Kunitake Kume suspected that the […]

Ferries and Piers

In 1872 New York City was a major port, surrounded by water. As the delegates arrived into the famed metropolis, they marveled at the size and breadth of the city’s commercial ferry and freight vessels. There were so many people, horses, and goods in transit along the Hudson River! Nothing the men read about America […]