Hall (1822 - 1902) was an upstate New York book dealer who went to
Japan in 1859 to collect material for a book (his diary would run to nearly 900 pages),
and serve as correspondent for Horace Greeley's
New York Tribune, which published close to seventy of
Hall's articles. Hall probably only intended to stay for one or two years,
but successful ventures extended his stay. A business pioneer who saw the
opportunities for commerce in Yokohama, he helped found Walsh, Hall and Co., which became
the leading American trading house in Japan. Ethnographer, demographer,
sportswriter, social observer, economist, diplomat, and participant in
the turbulent affairs of the treaty port, he left an unmatched portrait
of Japan in a time of rapid change.
It is also known that he was active as an amateur photographer between May 1860 and April 1861, but only a single piece of his work is currently known of. That image -- of Jobutsuji Temple, the home of American missionary Dr. James Hepburn -- was provided by Hall to William Elliot Griffis when the latter was looking for photographs from the period.
| Japan Through
[Saturday, January 28, 1860] 'In my room a dwarf cherry full of blossoms diffuses a fragrance like that of a hyacinth. These blooming dwarfs are a substitute for our winter blossoming bulbs at home.
[Wednesday, April 4, 1860] ...I bought of [Honda Sadajiro, Dr. Hepburn's teacher] today several dwarfed specimens of flowering trees, camellias, cherry, orange, and two unknown varieties.
[Monday, May 7, 1860] ...In the street I saw a Hydrangea today and little dwarf pines three or four inches high. Flowers, flowering plants, and shrubs are daily brought for sale and appear to find a ready market.
[Monday, May 28, 1860] ...I have two specimens of Japanese miniature gardening. One is a box of earth 4 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches. It contains two cedar trees growing out of a bank of moss, a maple tree, wisteria vine, two box trees, a clump of ferns, one of cilas, and one of grass and weeds. Under the maple is a miniature rockwork and under the vine is a miniature arbor. A fence of bamboo partially encloses it. The design is to represent the pleasure grounds attached to temples, tea houses, or the better private dwellings. The little dwarf trees are all healthy, well rooted and growing. Then I have another box 8 x 15 inches very similar except on a little more enlarged plan. It contains two fir trees, two cedars, two climbing vines, a maple, and two varieties of plants unknown. One of the pines is growing out of a rocken mossy bank and has been trained and treated with a great deal of pains [sic]. It is probably two or three years old and is just now putting out its young shoots of the present year's growth. The Japanese offer a great variety of these for sale. Some are smaller even than the smaller one I have described, while others not more than two feet long by one wide will have the whole arrangement of a Japanese niwa, or yard. There will be the house itself and all the outhouses and sheds belonging to it, a garden with a great variety of trees and plants, a miniature lake with tiny goldfish, artificial rock work, and hedgerows with all the variety of dwarf trees and plants in a healthy state of growth. The cost of such a toy which must have required a large outlay of time and patience may cost a dollar.
[Thursday, February 7, 1861] ...The wild [full-size] plums are blossoming and the Japanese are selling dwarf cherry trees in bloom and crocuses.
June 17, 1862] ...We ride across the city till we come to the
Somee [Somei] suburbs noted for their extensive gardens and nurseries and
we find these indeed of great extent, for they bordered the road on both
sides for at least a mile on one street and half a mile on the other.
A very considerable portion of the northernmost suburbs, as we found by
this and other excursions, is devoted to growing trees and plants for sale.
We dismount and visit several of these gardens. They are quite unlike
the Chinese gardens such as the Fati or Pontinqua gardens at Canton, there
is an absence of that grotesque gardening which delights in all sorts of
fantastic shapes. The Japanese gardener, though he is fond of training
his tree to look like a boat or an elephant, is more fond of imitating
objects of more grace and more in harmony with plant life. In the
gardens of Somee we see very little of the fantastic gardening but a great
deal of skillful cultivation and a variety and vigor of growth very interesting.
No inconsiderable portion of the trees and plants are of foreign birth,
though the love and proper pride of the Japanese gardener, and worthy of
imitation in all lands, appears to be to make the most of the best of what
is native to the country, so that by far the most interesting portion of
all these gardens were the native growths.
1 Hall, Francis
Japan Through American Eyes, the Journal of Francis Hall, Kanagawa and Yokohama
1859-1866 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. Edited
and annotated by F.G. Notehelfer), dust jacket notes and pp. xii, 60-61,
In my room quote from pg. 114; I bought of quote from pg. 47.
James Curtis Hepburn was the physician and missionary scholar who created
the system of romanizing Japanese that still bears his name (caption of
portrait, pg. 30); In the street quote from pg. 166;
I have two specimens quote from pp.176-177. We do not know how long he had
these box gardens or if he attempted to bring them back to the States with
him when he finally left Japan in July 1866. Note that Hall
mentions the health and growth of the plants. Were the "tiny goldfish"
in the niwa arrangement living or artificial?
The wild plums
quote from pg. 300 and We ride across quote from pg. 430.
The gardens of "Somei" are those of "Su-mae-yah"
mentioned by Robert Fortune. The Fati gardens are mentioned by both
John Livingstone and
did associate with both Fortune and Philipp Franz