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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yatsuhashi Harumichi's Legacy

Mr. and Mrs. Yatsuhashi in Washington DC, ca.1930

The Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family papers document the career of a manager in Yamanaka & Company, one of the largest Asian art dealers in the first half of the 20th century. Yamanaka was instrumental in the development of many of America’s major public and private collections, including the Freer.

Born in Japan in 1886, Harumichi arrived in the US in 1907 as a clerk at the Yamanaka Boston branch.  Six years later he married Shigeki.  Together they raised 5 children in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston, just up the street from the Joseph Kennedy home.  By the 1930s, Harumichi was vice-president of the Boston branch.  He also served as president of the Japan America Society Boston chapter.

In addition to papers and photographs that document the commerce of Asian art in the 20th century, the collection contains a number of photo albums of the Yatsuhashis, a thriving Japanese American family.  Notable in the albums are the many photographs of their trips to Washington DC.  Visiting the nation’s capital must have been an important regular event, taking in the monuments, the cherry blossoms, and naturally, the Freer gallery. 

In 1944 the federal government seized all of the Yamanaka shops through the Alien Property Custodian and auctioned off their holdings.  After the war, Harumichi and his oldest son opened a small shop of their own and did appraisal services.  He occasionally corresponded with Freer staff into the 1950s, but as far as I can tell the Freer never did direct business with him, as we had when he was with Yamanaka & Company.  Shigeki passed away in 1961 and Harumichi in 1982. 

I hope that by preserving these albums we honor an old friend who in his quiet way contributed much to us and to his adopted country.

--David Hogge, Head, Archives and Visual Resources, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives


  1. Off topic, but I just wanted to say that I'm appalled that the Smithsonian let the Christian Right Wing bully them into altering their show at the National Portrait Gallery. Shame on you.

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  3. Dear Readers,

    Whether pro or con, we hold and make accessible the volumetric records & public comments from the controversies surrounding challenging moments in Smithsonian history that are forever useful to historians, journalists, educators, museum professionals & students.

    Please forward comments on Hide/Seek to: National Portrait Gallery PO Box 37012 MRC 973 Washington, D.C. 20013 or

  4. Thank you for preserving some precious mementos from our family history that we thought were lost. Our family (Harumichi was my grandfather) truly appreciates all you have done. Perhaps in the future you might welcome more material from my father's photos and correspondence.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    I am delighted that you found your grandfather's collection! We would welcome the opportunity to learn more about him, and if you are ever in the area you are always invited to come visit the Archives. You can reach us at or 202-633-0533.

    All the best,