Very early US passport circular - 1808 - Our Passports
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  • 1808 State Department related passport circular
  • 1808 State Department related passport circular
  • 1808 State Department related passport circular
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Very early US passport circular – 1808

US diplomatic mission in Spain.


A lovely early Americana official State Department related circular.


The document was hand written and signed by US senior diplomat to Spain George W. Erving (1769-1850).

His posting to Madrid, as Chargי d’Affaires (the ‘ambassador’ was James Bowdoin III), started in 1804 and lasted to 1809. Later he would return as Minister Plenipotentiary from August 10th 1814 to May 15th 1819,

after completing his duty as special negotiator to Copenhagen in 1811. To this we can add his posting as Chargי d’Affaires to the Ottoman Empire before 1831.


George W. Erving

James Bowdoin III

Spain-United States relations


The letter is addressed to US consul John Leonard stationed at Barcelona.

(Around 1803 entering the State Department and passed away at the age of 64 in 1836)


The letters contents is very interesting and an important contribution to all who not only have the passion for early American history, but also to those who collect and study old US passports. Inside this rare circular the issue of passport issuing is the main focus: when and under what conditions an official can issue passports to seaman onboard United States vessels. Besides bringing up the issue of the fear of “mischief” in the issuing of improper passports, I shall not elaborate more on the document, but allow you, the reader, to reach one’s own conclusion on its content and importance.


Hope you enjoy the images.




Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.



Neil Kaplan
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