The name Townsend Harris is associated with two major projects. He originated the idea of a free college and then made it a reality, and he paved the way, singlehanded, for U. S. trade relations with Japan. behind the Silken Curtain pertains primarily to the latter of these accomplishments. As a youngster Harris' education was sparse and sporadic. When he later became a merchant in New York City and he had the opportunity of witnessing the plight of immigrant children, he decided that the establishment of free education for the intellectually gifted was the responsibility of the state. Through his efforts City College was born. After having travelled to the Orient, Harris requested an appointment as the first American Consul to Japan. His efforts to convince this totally different culture of the benefits of trade with an equally different culture were finally successful, and agreements were devised which brought Japan out of isolation. This is an adequate but unadorned historical account for those interested in the era or the man.