March 31, 1854 - Commodore Matthew C. Perry (right) signs the Treaty of Kanagawa. Matthew C. Perry joined the US Navy as a midshipman in 1809, and saw service throughout the War of 1812. A gifted officer, he rapidly rose through the ranks and became a leading proponent of steam engineering and officer education. During the Mexican-American War, Perry commanded the US Home Squadron and aided General Winfield Scott capture Vera Cruz. In 1852, Perry was tasked by President Millard Fillmore with securing a treaty that would open Japan to American trade. Arriving in Tokyo Bay with four modern warships, Perry was able to compel Japanese officials to accept a letter outlining Fillmore's desires. Returning in early 1854, Perry was able to conclude the Treaty of Kanagawa which opened Japan to foreign trade and protected American property and seamen. Retiring from sea service, Perry wrote a three-volume chronicle of the voyage before his death in 1858.
Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval Historical Center