FROM CARD: "PRESENTED TO PRES. JAMES BUCHANAN OF U. S. 1860 BY TYCOON [SIC] OF JAPAN. SADDLE OF WOOD, LACQUERED IN GOLD SPECKLED RUSSET COLOR, WITH DESIGNS OF FLOWERS IN RAISED GOLD LACQUER, AND SOME BLACK EDGINGS. STIRRUPS THE SAME. THE LARGE LEATHER SKIRTS OF THE SADDLE ARE WHITE IN GROUND WITH OUTLINED DIAMOND DESIGNS ON THEM, IN GOLD, AND THREE LARGE WHITE BIRD FIGURES IN WHITE IN RELIEF AS THE DOMINANT DESIGN. PART OF THE TRAPPING ARE OF HEAVY RUSSET COLORED NETTINGS. AS A PART OF THE TRAPPINGS IS A STICK QUIRT, 39"., MADE OF LACQUERED WOOD INLAYED WITH SECTIONS OF SMALL PIECES OF PEARL SHELL. HAS LEATHER BOUND HANDLE AND LOOP. 5/17/63 THERE WAS FOUND IN THE ... [ASIAN] TEXTILE CASES, A PAIR OF BLANKETS, 134 CM. SQUARE, MOSTLY OF RED FELT, BUT WITH BLUE, WHITE AND YELLOW BORDERS IN TWO OF WHICH WERE APPLIQUED FLORAL DESIGNS IN OTHER COLOR. WORK DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE [JAPANESE]. - R. ELDER. REF: JAPANESE LANGUAGE BOOK: "THE FIRST JAPANESE EMBASSY TO AMERICA" (MAN'EN GANNEN KEMBEI SHISETSU ZUR0KU), TOKYO, 1920. IN A PLATE ABOUT 2/3 FROM THE FRONT OF THE BOOK THIS IS SHOWN IN THE TWO UPPER PLATES, ONE A PHOTO AND ONE A DRAWING, THE FORMER SHOWS DR. WALTER HOUGH ON THE RIGHT WITH A JAPANESE OFFICIAL, THEY ARE STANDING IN FRONT OF AN EXHIBIT CASE. JAPANESE SAMURAI TEMPORARY EXHIBIT, APRIL - JULY, 1971."
Note: The records indicate that this object was presented to President James Buchanan by the "Tycoon" of Japan, through the members of the First Japanese Mission to the U.S. in 1860. The catalogue card interprets this to mean the Emperor of Japan. However, in the Edo Period of Japan, the word Taikun was used as a diplomatic title designating the Shogun of Japan in relations with foreign countries, as an attempt to convey that the shogun was more important than the Japanese Emperor. A modified version of this word appears in English as "tycoon".
This saddle appears to be the one in engraving shown on p. 252, top, in Norton, Frank H., and Frank Leslie. 1877. Frank Leslie's historical register of the United States Centennial Exposition, 1876. Embellished with nearly eight hundred illustrations drawn expressly for this work by the most eminent artists in America. Including illustrations and descriptions of all previous International exhibitions. New York: Frank Leslie's Pub. House.
The note on the card from Mr. Elder, dated 5/17/63, regarding the accompanying blankets seems to indicate some doubt that the blankets were originally part of this saddle. In 2018, visitors from Japan (including descendants of the Shogun and the 1st Japanese Mission) agreed that the blankets do not appear to be Japanese. The back of the blankets have the catalog number hastily written in pencil (in 1963? or earlier?), which suggests that the numbers were possibly added after the rest of the collection was cataloged. It would be useful to see older (pre-1960) photographs of the saddle to see if the blankets were included (were they added later as an exhibit prop? Were they originally part of a different catalog number?) The blankets are made of slightly-felted wool fabric (stroud?), appliqued and embroidered with floral motifs, possibly central Asian?