Henry Tegner’s Lecture on Stuart Eldridge
Delivered at the Yokohama Archives of History meeting, 12.11.2001

Ladies and gentlemen, may I say how honoured I am to be here to talk to you today about the life and work of my great grandfather, Dr Stuart Eldridge, as he recorded it in the journals he kept during the first year of the thirty years of his life that he spent in Japan. And I would like to share with you the excitement and pleasure of the renewal of the relationship with Japan started by my great grandfather one hundred and thirty years ago, which has been brought about by the marriage of my son, John, to Kyoko Hayashi. Their wedding was celebrated on the 10th of November at the Meiji Shrine, and I, my wife and out two daughters are delighted to have been able to travel to Japan for the first time to join our new family and many new friends and colleagues.

A few years before she died, early in 1996, my late father’s cousin, Karin Warming, gave to me the two volumes of the journals of Stuart Eldridge. He had written these in the early years of his life and work as a doctor in Japan. Karin’s mother Frances was the daughter of Stuart Eldridge and Frances’ sister Beatrix was my father’s mother. Both were born to Stuart and Frances Eldridge in the 1870’s in Japan. It would seem likely that Stuart Eldridge’s wife had handed the volumes on to her daughter after they came to live in Surrey following their evacuation from Yokohama in the wake of the disastrous earthquake of 1923 (the family home was destroyed by the tsunami that compounded the awful destruction that was witnessed by Karin and her mother).

Although referred to as "journals" it quickly became apparent during my transcription of them that the fine script was in fact not in pencil, but carbon copy: Eldridge wrote frequently and at length to his wife, Frances, whom he had left behind in the United States and who did not join him in Japan until 1872.. So these records are in fact not true diaries, but copies of letters written by a young man (he was 28 years old when he first arrived in Japan) who was clearly home sick and missing his family and friends he had left at home, at a separation of some 8000 miles . They are perhaps all the more interesting for that.

Eldridge was in every sense a remarkable man, as may be gathered from his obituary, and his biography. In addition to his achievements in the fields of medicine and administration, his journals contain a series of charming drawings and water colours, skilfully made. He had an eye for strange and beautiful things and was painstaking in his descriptions of them. Transcribing the journals in the last year of the second millennium has been a fascinating and absorbing task. The probability is that I, his great grandson, have been the first to have read them in depth since his wife, Frances, opened the original letters in Philadelphia some one hundred and thirty years ago. I am mindful, too, of the privilege afforded to me by my cousin when she handed the two volumes to me for safe keeping, in the knowledge, perhaps, that she might not have very long to live. 

Stuart Eldridge did not live in to old age, but in his lifetime achievements were truly impressive. In presenting you with a brief biography of his life, may I acknowledge the major source of this information which is in the book of his published letters, and I would like to thank Rokkaku-san for permitting me to quote from it.

Stuart Eldridge was born on the 2nd January 1843 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States of America, the son of Levi and Martha Eldridge He entered the United States Army at the age of 17. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he acted on the staff of General Thomas, being later appointed to the staff of General Howard in the Bureau of Emancipation of Slavery, at Washington DC. He went on to become the second librarian-in-chief of the Agricultural Department of the United States Government.

During his residence in Washington DC, and while still on the staff of General Howard, Eldridge entered the Faculty of Medicine at Georgetown University and graduated MD in 1868. There followed an appointment as Demonstrator of Anatomy. He later became a lecturer at his college and held this appointment until he left for Japan.

In August 1871 he arrived in Yokohama as Secretary and Physician to the Scientific Mission to Japan under General Horace Capron. The party consisted of General Horace Capron, T. Antisell (chemical engineer), A G Warfield (civil and land survey engineer) and Stuart Eldridge. They were honoured by being received by the Emperor Meiji in Momiji Detatched Palace, Tokyo, Their arrival had occurred soon after the Meiji Restoration through which Japan opened her gates to the rest of the world after 300 years of isolation.

The Japanese Government appointed Dr Eldridge Surgeon-General of the Kaitakushi (Commissioner of Development Projects) and was stationed at Hakodate from May 1872. From this time he began to use "chf. Srg. Kaitakushi" after his name in his official letters to the Japanese Government. At Hakodate he established a medical school in August 1872, and trained Japanese students, both government sponsored and private. Among these was Kenkichi Rokkaku, the father of Masana and Takao Rokkaku who later took responsibility for the translation of Dr Eldridge’s official letters that were discovered by Mr Yasuhisa Ohnishi, at the library of Sapporo College, Hokkaido in 1973 and 1976.

Eldridge published a magazine called "Kinsei-I-Setsu", said to be the first medical journal ever published in Japan in Japanese (being translated by K. Honda, another of his medical students). Some 500 copies were distributed among medical students, practitioners and foreign residents in the employment of the Japanese Government, living in Tokyo, Yokohama and elsewhere.

Upon the expiration of his contract with the Japanese Government, Eldridge settled in Yokohama where he remained in active work until his death.

He held many offices, including that of the director of the General Hospital of Yokohama (later called the Bluff (Dutch) Hospital. He was appointed a Member of the Central Sanitary Board by the Japanese Government in 1883, an Advisor to the Kanagawa Prefectural Sanitary Board. And in 1900 he was appointed the Vice-President of the Sei-I-Kwai - the Society for the Advancement of Medical Science in Japan.

His services to the cause of the medical and sanitary progress in Japan were recognised by the Emperor Meiji, who conferred on him the Fourth Order of Merit with the Sacred Treasure in 1897, and the Third Order of Merit with the Sacred Treasure not long before his death. Ladies and gentlemen, may I mention at this point in my lecture that the celebration of the marriage of my son John to Kyoko took place on Saturday the 10th of November, which is one hundred years to the day after John’s great great grandfather received this most prestigious award.

Stuart Eldridge died on November 16th 1901 at the age of 58 in Yokohama. He was cremated and his ashes buried at the Yokohama Foreign Residents’ Cemetery, which is still located on the bluff

I would like to quote now a short passage from the obituary of Dr Stuart Eldridge that appeared in the Sei-I-Kwai medical journal in the issue dated the 30th November 1901:

"A very large assemblage of foreign residents and Japanese was present during the service and the chief officials of the Prefecture also attended. The ceremony which was most solemn and impressive, being brought to a close, the urn containing his ashes was conveyed to the last resting place, Yokohama Cemetery. Mr. F. M. Tegner, son-in-law of the deceased, walked behind as chief mourner. The decorations worn by Dr. Eldridge during his lifetime were carried on cushion by Dr. Rokkaku, an old and attached colleague of the deceased Gentleman"

My brother, William Tegner, will have given some details about the family of Stuart Eldridge. He and his wife Frances (Frank) had four children. One child, a girl, died in infancy before Eldridge left Philadelphia for Japan. His son, Chauncy Weber, who was much referred to in his journals, died at the age of fifteen at school in America. His two surviving daughters both lived into old age, and emigrated to England after leaving Japan. My brother and I have clear memories of them as elderly ladies in the 1950s. Both married Danes. My own surname is Danish, my grandfather Frederick May Tegner, who married Eldridge’s elder daughter Beatrix (Trixie), being a silk merchant. My father, of course, was born in Yokohama in 1906. He certainly had memories of his life as a small child in Japan. His eldest brother, Henry, would have been about twelve years old when the family left for England. In a letter he sent me in 1977 he told me that he remembered Doctor Kenkichi Rokkaku, and of this gentleman he wrote ‘After your great grand father died, he was a great consolation to my beloved grandmother’ His grand mother was, of course, the widow of Stuart Eldridge. Eldridge’s younger daughter, Frances (Fan) married Sophus Warming, a Danish diplomat. It was she who inherited his journals that I show you here today, passing them on to her own daughter Karin, to whom I and my family became very close in the last twenty years of her life. In addition, many of the documents we have brought to show to you as well were previously in the possession of Karin and her mother, Francis.

Although the period of time covered by the journals is only two years, they are nevertheless of great significance, particularly in view of the fact that they report upon the earliest days of his life and work in Japan, when he was still a young man in his late twenties, and well before the major achievements of his life for which he was to become famous. We must remember that he wrote them before the days of instant communication and rapid travel. Photography was still in relative infancy, and the only cameras were owned by professionals and enthusiasts. To illustrate his journals he drew and painted what he saw, although within the pages are a few faded photographs of people and places which he does not name.

In the time available to me I can give you but a brief idea of the whole content of his records, for he could be a prolific writer, completing in the region of 55,000 words in the two years. This would be equivalent in length to a short novel. But the whole of the text is available on the Internet, on a web site I have built for that purpose, and I would invite you to look at it (Please see the web site link at the end of this lecture). The web site includes many of his illustrations. However, it is to be hoped that a translation into Japanese will be published in due course.

The opening pages are as dramatic as any that follow, describing his arrival off the coast of Japan by steamship in the midst of a typhoon. This was in August 1871. Let me quote to you a paragraph from the second page of the first volume:

‘The bay was so rough on our arrival and only one or two boats containing the agent of the Steamboat company and one or two Japanese officials came off. We were advised not to land till morning. About nine o'clock that evening I noticed my barometer falling very rapidly and as I suspected then, what I afterward learned was the case, that the ruffled water outside was the premonition of something worse coming. I looked out for trouble. Sure enough it came, about five o'clock. I was awakened by the roaring of the wind and rose to find that a typhoon was upon us. Now you may think at anchor, in a harbour, 20 miles inland our ship was safe from any storm, but not a bit was she safe from a typhoon. The storm increased, of the many vessels around us at least one half were dragging their anchors. Several seemed about to drift against us and crush us. The US store ship Idaho, although an immense vessel, formerly one of finest in the Navy, rolled and pitched so that we thought, she must fill and go to the bottom, as it was she lost all her boats and spars. The waves were tremendous and broke over many of the largest ships. Our noble vessel rode it out bravely however, her anchor holding firmly and had it not been for the danger of collision we should have thought ourselves safer than on shore.’

Needless to say, Eldridge and his companions made it safely to shore, and there follows an intriguing account of his early days in Yokohama and Tokyo, with details descriptions of the various officials he met, the welcome they received and the sightseeing they did. On the 8th September they were received by various dignitaries at a dinner given in their honour, and again Eldridge gives a meticulous description of the event, and lists the names of all of the Japanese gentlemen present

On the 16th September 1871, Eldridge and his party were received into the presence of the Emperor, and illustrated his description with a sketch of the layout of the room where the audience took place. The Emperor gave an address to the party which Eldridge noted down word for word.

Eldridge by no means confined himself to describing grand occasions. A visit to a public bath house on the 4th October makes both fascinating and amusing reading, and he clearly enjoyed the attentions of the young girl who administered a vigorous scrubbing to him. I have to say that I wondered, on reading his account, what his wife must have thought about his adventures, since it seems that he sent it back to her in Philadelphia.

A couple of weeks later he describes a method of manufacturing candles that he saw. Here is how he describes it:

‘(The candles) are made of a singular material and in a singular manner. The fat from which they are made is extracted from the fruit of the Rhus Succedanea, a tree of the same family as our sumack, by gentle heat. This vegetable fat closely resembles tallow in appearance, but is more glutinous. The wick is prepared of long threads of the pith of a rush which are wrapped spirally around a stick about as big as a lead pencil, and brought to a point over its end. A workman seated in front of an earthen bowl of the fat, which is heated enough to make it soft and sticky, takes one of the sticks with a wick on it with his right hand and with the left gives it a coat of fat, sets it one side to harden and repeats the operation till the candle has attained the desired size. Then the stick is withdrawn leaving an air passage through the centre of the wick which secures a more perfect combustion than would otherwise happen. In their usual inverted style of doing things, the upper end of the candle is the largest.’

In his entry dated the 5th November 1871, Eldridge describes his first meeting with the eldest son of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poet, as you will know, is one of the best known writers in the English language, perhaps his best known work being the epic "Song of Hiawatha". It seems that Eldridge struck up a firm friendship with Longfellow's son, and he refers to him on several occasions in his record.

The threat of fire was a constant anxiety in Tokyo in that era. In his entry for November 10th 1871, he gives a fascinating description of one such event. This is what he says:

‘Before dinner we walked down town to see the ruins of a great fire which occurred early this morning. It burnt a thousand houses. Approaching the burnt district, we first noticed the invocations to the fire god. These are large cards of pasteboard hung upon the ends of bamboo poles which are placed in the upper stones of houses when in danger, projecting into the street and which are moved from house to house before the advance of the raging element in hope that eventually the god may arrest the progress of the fire. The houses along the limit of the burnt district literally bristled with these invocations and no doubt to their efficacy many of the people attribute the stoppage of the fire. It is said by others, however, that the effective in its extinguishment was a foreign fire engine recently brought here for sale to the Govt. The Japs have many fire engines such as they are. In fact nearly every home has one, but although they are superior to those in use by our ancestors 200 years ago, they hardly compare with our modern ones. In the mercantile portion of Yedo each house consists of a front portion upon the street in which the family live and transact their business, and which is lightly built of the most combustible materials; and a warehouse in the rear with solid clay walls and shutters a foot thick which in such short heat as are generated by the burning of the shops are practically fireproof. These are used for the storage of goods and valuables, and in the burnt district we visited, could be seen standing tall and black among the ruins in every direction. Although the fire took place at two o’clock to four o’clock this morning, everyone had already begun to rebuild and some houses had their outside shell completed! Jondon assures me that he has seen buildings going up rapidly at one end of a burnt district while the fire was in progress at the other!

He gives a description of another fire that occurred in Tokyo on the 3rd of April in the following year. He remarks that an official report stated that some 30,000 people were made homeless in that disaster, and a dozen killed. He attached two maps showing the extent of the damage. Here is one of them

Eldridge was suitably impressed by the skill of his Japanese hosts in the art and science of gardening. This is how he describes a visit to some gardens about seven miles outside of Tokyo, on the 12th November 1871, exactly one hundred and thirty years ago:

‘I was totally unprepared for such beauty as they exhibited. To be sure there were but few flowers in season, but what few there were were in such wonderful variety of color and form that one hardly missed the wide range of our collections. Camellias are just beginning to blossom, but the glory of the Japanese florists now are their chrysanthemums. These, you know, are close relatives of our China asters, but they have been so developed by cultivation here that they have become as large as peonies and more double than any rose. As for color, they are of all colors and combinations. They are generally cultivated in beds, but these gardens exhibited groups of life size figures of men and women (generally scenes from plays) of which while the heads and hands were of plaster and papier maché, the gorgeous robes they wore were of flowers, and these were not set pieces of cut flowers, but living plants, arranged so that their roots were bedded in the interior of the figures, while their blossoms and foliage formed the dress in which even delicate embroidery was admirably imitated. There were innumerable dwarf trees, too, in which these people excel. Little pines and cedars, as well as fruit trees, only six inches high, but looking as if centuries old, and many of them really thirty or forty years of age.’

It seems that Eldridge’s health was not always robust. He describes his experience of severe toothache in December 1871, and a visit to the dentist:

Exhausted all my skills last night to get relief from toothache but did not succeed till I gave myself a strong hypodermic injection of morphine. Consequently I am sick today and have done nothing ... Have been quite sick since last entry. Fever, neuralgia, headache of a dull, stupid kind. Have been abed or in my armchair all the time. I managed to get well enough by the 10th to go to Yokohama, intending to have my teeth out, though I could ill spare them. Reached Yokohama too late to have anything done that night, so I had another night of misery. The morning of the 11th I went down to the dentist who assured me that he could kill the nerves and fill my teeth so that I could make them serviceable. He began by putting some strong carbolic which at once entirely relieved, although the teeth remained so tender that after waiting in Yokohama four days it was still impossible to put in the arsenic to kill the nerve. I returned to Yedo to wait until a future time.

Eldridge, unlike his daughter Fan and grand daughter Karin, never appears to have experienced the effects of a serious earth tremor during his time in Japan. On more than one occasion he describes modest earthquakes, however. This is what he said about one such event that occurred on the 6th of January 1872: ‘Had an earthquake last evening, the most severe we have yet had. I was sitting in an easy chair when we heard a loud rumbling sound, and then it seemed as though some immensely heavy body was suddenly raised forcibly against the floors, jarring everything. The noise seemed to approach from the west, and after the shock, to pass away to the east. I think there was less undulation of the earth than we have before experienced, and much more of a direct lift as the timbers of the house creaked much less than in many milder shocks before’

Later in that month, Eldridge had his first experience of an exhibition of sumo wrestling. His description of it is lengthy and meticulously detailed, too long for me to read out to you now. For those of you who are interested, it is described in his entry dated the 19th of January 1872, and it should be easy to locate on my web site.

I now come to a piece of Eldridge’s writing that has something of a mystery about it. The writing is in black ink, on a little scrap of paper that I found between the leaves of the second on the two volumes of his journals. It bears the date of the 22nd of March, but without reference to the year. It reads: ‘Today noticed a slight one sidedness to my face, and on projecting tongue found rather to my disgust that it went away over to one side. I stop smoking at once and forever, for I believe that the disturbance is purely functional and the result of tobacco. Still, it may be but the beginning of the end’.

What Eldridge is describing is a Transient Ischaemic Attack - a form of stroke but on a small scale and which resolves often within minutes. It is usually associated with a cardiac irregularity, atrial fibrillation, and is indeed commoner in smokers. If it did occur in 1872 when he was only 29 years old, then he was remarkably young for such an event. The rather ominous final sentence to this addition might not, then, have been without justification. But he lived for almost 30 more years - and the cause of his death was recorded as having been heart disease. I have further reason to believe that there was, and is, a genetic predisposition to this form of heart irregularity in that line of our family. At that time the risks associated with smoking were not as well known as they are now, and so this reference is of considerable historical interest.

Eldridge’s entries into his journals became infrequent and often more curtailed after April 1872. And there would seem to be a good reason for this: His wife, Frances (Frank) and son Weber, arrived in Yokohama on the 1st of May by steamship. Of his first meeting with them he wrote: ‘I was among the first on board, and entering the cabin saw a figure which I recognised, hastily making for a state room. I called her, and Frank turned and showed me, instead of a face pale and ghastly with continued seasickness as I had often feared I should see it, a physiognomy of robust health and a clear, bright complexion that said plainly that the trip had been of benefit rather than otherwise. Just then Webb came trotting in, with a sailor cap much too big for him on his head, and grown so that I hardly realised that it was he’.

The departure of Eldridge and his family for Hakodate followed soon after. They arrived by steamer on the 2nd June 1872. His entries for that month concern the setting up of his family home, and the setting in order of the hospital where he was to work. In other respects his journal keeping became ever more erratic, but for a fascinating description of the island of Hokkaido and the Ainu - the indigenous people of that country. I would urge you to read for yourselves his entry for the 24th July 1872, which gives a detailed description of these people and their way of life at that time.

I am now nearing the end of my talk to you. In doing so I would like to share with your what was, for me, one of the most fascinating of Eldridge's records: his ascent of the volcano Komagatake near to Mori on Hokkaido. Again, time does not permit me to read the entire account he gives, but his every word is riveting. It was clearly a hazardous expedition to undertake one hundred and thirty years ago. And Eldridge claimed to have been the first westerner ever to have made the ascent. He made a fine sketch Eldridge made of the mountain as seen from Mori, with one side of the crater blown away. Those of you who know the mountain will be impressed by the accuracy of his drawing. It is instantly recognisable.

At the time of Eldridge’s arrival in Hokkaido, Sapporo was being established as the capital of that island. I was interested to read on a Japanese Web site, "Global City Sapporo" a reference made to General Capron’s expedition of which Eldridge was a member. You can find the reference on www.global.city.sapporo.jp . This is what it says:In 1870, the Vice-Governor of the Kaitakushi, Kiyotaka Kuroda looked to the West for help with colonisation. He felt that by inviting experts who had experience in climates similar to that of Hokkaido, he could speed up the island's development. In l871, Kuroda went to America to study its development techniques and to observe related facilities. As a result, he was successful in inviting Horace Capron, Secretary of Agriculture under President Ulysses S. Grant, to be an adviser to the Kaitakushi. At the same time, he began to import into Hokkaido, machinery, technology, and seeds from the United States to Hokkaido.

Eldridge makes frequent references to Kiyotaka Kuroda throughout his journals and it is clear that he liked and admired hem. He could be less than complementary about his own countryman, General Capron, whom he seemed to regard as pompous and sometimes incompetent. He seemed to like the General’s wife no better, referring to her as being ‘prudish and a fool’

Eldridge did not share his Japanese hosts’ enthusiasm for the new capital. He wrote on the 27th July 1872: ‘Now for a first impression of Sapporo. It is situated in a clearing of the forest, partly natural and partly artificial, bears the distinctive marks of a new town, stumps in the streets etc. Work on the streets and houses is going on in every direction, with an activity that is wonderful in the East. Altogether the town reminds me of a new settlement in one of our Western states. Several small streams run through the town, which are tributary to the Ishcari, the largest river in the island. It is proposed to convert one of these into a canal, tapping the Ishcari, which will allow of boat navigation to the town. The country around is rich but utterly wild - I see nothing to make a town but that which is now doing it - viz a lavish expenditure of Govt. money. Why they did not locate the town upon the coast no-one but a Japanese can say. Without a harbour nearer than 20 miles, and that only a summer harbour without railroads in a country where snow falls eight feet deep. It is hard to understand the location of the new capital. It has now about 2000 people’.

The last brief entries in his journals were made by Eldridge in August 1872. But they were enthusiastic and optimistic for his life with his family and his work. This is how the second volume draws to its close: ‘Today at ½ past 3 o’clock arrived at Hakodate, much to Frank’s surprise. F. and W. both well and a huge mail just arrived ....

The water being delightfully warm and the beach good near us, I have borrowed a tent, put it up for a bath house and F., Webb and self are hugely enjoying surf bathing. Plenty of surgery on hand. Am undertaking any and every operation that offers.

Ladies and gentlemen, this brings me to the close of my presentation to you this evening. It has been a pleasure and a great honour for me to return to the land where my illustrious ancestor was made so welcome and live for over half of his life. I am grateful to you for inviting me today, and for showing such generosity and kindness to me and to my family. Finally, I would like to share with you the excitement and pleasure of the renewal of the relationship with Japan started by my great grandfather one hundred and thirty years ago, which has been brought about by the marriage of my son, John, to Kyoko Hayashi

Click here to access the Stuart Eldridge Journals web pages

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