Expansion and Empire (1815-1898)

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  • Story of Diplomacy

    The Declaration Heard ‘Round the World

    The 1776 Declaration of Independence is one of the most universally well-known historical documents. American diplomats continue to promote the democratic values enshrined in its…

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    Engraving of Secretary of State Van Buren

    Martin Van Buren is depicted in this stone engraving created during his tenure as Secretary of State, from 1829-1831. Van Buren would go on to serve as President of the United States from 1837 until 1841.

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    John Y. Mason's Diplomatic Uniform

    This Diplomatic uniform was worn by John Y. Mason, U.S. Minister to France from 1854-1859. For many years, there was debate over the appropriate attire for U.S. diplomats serving abroad in countries where formal diplomatic uniforms were often the norm. This uniform, which Mason had custom made for himself and is based…

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    Great Seal Hand Press

    This hand-operated seal press was used by diplomats to emboss official documents and passports with the Great Seal. The exterior is decorated with a stylized illustration of the U.S. coat of arms, which includes a banner in the eagle’s beak with the Latin motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out…

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    1860 Japanese Embassy Medal

    In the 1850s, after more than 200 years of self-imposed isolation, Japan opened up to trade dialogues with the United States and western Europe. The first Japanese delegation to the United States arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1860. They delivered a trade agreement, negotiated by Commodore Matthew Perry, which opened select Japanese…

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    Samuel Waller’s 1859 Passport

    1859 U.S. passport used by businessman Samuel Mills Waller of Connecticut. The unusual symbol at the top – an eagle with a lyre – was added to the U.S. passport design by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who served from 1817-1825. Adams developed the seal himself, which symbolizes the civilizing effect…

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    Martin Van Buren's Secretary of State Commission

    Martin Van Buren served as the 10th U.S. Secretary of State from 1829-1831. Following his tenure as Secretary, Van Buren was elected Vice President under Jackson (1833-1837) and then was elected President, serving until 1841. His accomplishments as Secretary of State include a settlement with Great Britain to allow trade with the…