The First American Consul in Saigon, 1907

Denis Freres 1985 by Imre Villányi i

Opened in 1907, the first American Consulate in Saigon rented offices in the former Denis Frères building at 4 rue Catinat

Only Two Americans in Indochina: Our Consul and a Standard Oil man the only ones out of 29 million people
from The New York Times, 22 August 1909
Jacob E Conner, American Consul at Saigon, French Indochina, was a passenger on the American liner St Louis, which arrived last night. He is the first man to occupy the post of Consul at that post and has held it for two years. He stated that he and Miller Joblin, agent for the Standard Oil Company at that port, are the only Americans in French Indochina, although the country has twenty millions of people, of whom 6,000 are whites. Most of the whites are French.
“The country is one and a half times the size of France,” said Mr Conner, “and yet, when I went there, the only American in the place was the Standard Oil representative. During my stay, three vessels flying the American flag came into port. Each of them was one of the Filipino vessels, steamers of less than a thousand tons, which do a large business in carrying rice from Saigon to the Philippines.”
“Necessarily, there was little for me to do in looking after the American interests at the port, but one thing I was supposed particularly to do was to find out what opportunities there are in the country for American trade. There aren’t so very many, it is true, but I found some. For instance, there is the possibility of large purchases of machinery for use on the rice products which the country ships to the Philippines.”


The SS St Louis

Denis Freres 1985 by Imre Villányi ii

In 1985 the Denis Frères building at 4 Đồng Khởi was demolished and replaced by the Seaprodex building

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts Saigon and Chợ Lớn Heritage Tours.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

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