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Joseph Hardy Neesima (AC 1870) Collection

Identifier: MA.00355

Scope and Contents

The material in the Joseph Hardy Neesima Collection consists mostly of secondary source material created about Neesima in the twentieth century. Examples of this material include: correspondence about portraits of Neesima; examples of his legacy in Japan and continued collaboration between Doshisha University and Amherst College; contemporary and twentieth century newspaper clippings documenting Neesima's activities or other items related to him. The small amount of primary source material in this collection includes: two letters written by Neesima; photographs; ephemera from graduation and ordination ceremonies, and a watercolor sketch.


  • Creation: 1870


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Joseph Hardy Neesima Collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Joseph Hardy Neesima Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Shimeta Niijima (see note on names) was born February 15, 1843 in Edo, Japan. His father, Niijima Tamiji was recording secretary to Itakura Katsukiyo.

In 1861, Neesima entered the Tokugawa Naval School. In 1864 a ship's captain, William T. Savory, smuggled Neesima from Japan to China and helped to secure his passage on the Wild Rover, a schooner en route to Boston, Massachusetts. The Wild Rover was owned by Alpheus Hardy and the family sponsored Neesima upon his arrival.

Neesima entered Amherst College in 1868 and graduated as a member of the class of 1870. He was awarded an LLD by the Andover Theological Seminary in 1874. The next year, Neesima returned to Japan and founded a school in Kyoto which grew to be Doshisha University. He married Yamamoto Yaeko in 1876. Amherst College awarded Neesima an honorary doctorate in 1889. Neesima died in 1890.

A Note on Names

The most common form of this name in the United States appears to be Joseph Hardy Neesima. His childhood name was Niijima Shimeta and on occasion one can find this alternative spelling of the surname. He appears to have changed his name to Joseph Hardy Neesima in the mid-1860s. It is important to note that the Library of Congress subject heading for Neesima is:

  1. Niijima, Jō, 1843-1890


1.8 Linear feet (1 records carton box, 1 half archives box, 1 quarter archives box, 1 volume)

Language of Materials





The material in the Joseph Hardy Neesima Collection consists mostly of secondary source material created about Neesima in the twentieth century.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series 1: Material Concerning Joseph Hardy Neesima
  2. Series 2: Material Created by Joseph Hardy Neesima

Series 1 is divided into four sub-series. See series scope and content note for a detailed description.

Related Materials

The Julius Hawley Seelye Papers (see separate finding aid) contains correspondence written by Neesima and addressed to either Julius Hawley Seelye or his wife, Elizabeth Tillman James Seelye.

The Amherst Student contains information on Neesima (see 1870 issues). Amherst and Springfield newspapers also contained accounts of the 1870 commencement ceremonies.

The Doshisha University Collection (see separate finding aid) contains information related to Doshisha University, the school founded by Neesima, and its connections to Amherst College.

Separated Materials

Correspondence regarding the exhibition of an image of the Wild Rover and the loan of a Neesima portrait was moved to the control file. Photocopies of unidentified 19th century photographs and a photocopy of Neesima's handwriting is in the control file. (Oct 2017)

2017 Finding Aid Revision

The finding aid was revised in 2017. The Neesima Collection had originally been part of a collection titled the Neesima and Uchimura Collection. The collections were separated to preserve the integrity of the material. A new arrangement was imposed to separate primary and secondary source material. Every attempt was made to make note of reproductions and other non-original materials.

Rachel Jirka, college archivist (2017 revision)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • October 2017: This collection was originally paired with the collection of another Japanese Amherst College student, Uchimura. The collections were not related to one another and were separated. The Neesima Collection was also give sub-series structure to distinguish primary and secondary source material.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299