Independence Hall

On July 30, 1872, the delegation visited Independence Hall. The building was the site of the first national Congress, and where the Declaration of Independence had been signed nearly one hundred years earlier in 1776. While the Declaration was stored in the building at the time of their visit, the delegates were not allowed to view the hallowed document in person. They did view the Liberty Bell, learn the history of its famous crack, and tour a hall filled with portraits of famous historical figures and presidents.

Philadelphia Libraries

In Philadelphia the delegation was most impressed by the size and variety of libraries spread throughout the city. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731, the public library was a democratic and quintessentially American institution. Kunitake Kume noted that the Philadelphia library, coupled with the Loganian Library, housed 180,000 volumes! The group also learned about the Philadelphia Mercantile Library, a branch that catered their catalog to the city’s merchants and held nearly 30,000 volumes. The delegates carried the importance of libraries back home with them. Japan’s first public library, the Imperial Library, opened in 1872. Twenty years later, the Japan Library Association (JLA) was created to promote nation-wide library services, much […]

Prisons

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 inmates were all housed in individual cells measuring roughly six by nine feet. The prisoners spent their days working on many tasks, including creating shoes and weaving straw mats. Upon reflection, once back in Japan, Kunitake Kume noted that the prison systems in Britain, France, and the United States were very similar.

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 the correct denomination. Crafting coins was an intricate process, with skilled human labor and machines working under thin margins for error. The group marveled at the careful system of large flat trays, scales with indented holes, and funnels, that allowed freshly minted coins to be sorted into cloth bags. Back in Japan, changes in the […]

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 of production in the city. Kunitake Kume noted that the spinning industry had stimulated the production of cotton, wool, and linen across the state.