The American Concession at Tientsin
Foreign Treaty Ports within Chinese Imperial Cities
For a number of years in the late 19th Century the United States maintained an informal defacto concession at Tientsin. Although the records are unclear, it appears that this was a local arrangement between the American Consul at Tientsin and the local Chinese Governor or taotai. Extracts from a letter by Consul Ragsdale in 1901 indicate that there is no evidence that a concession was formally recognized by the United States government or the U.S. State Department.
The 23 acre concession was measured off in 1860 along with the initial British and French Concessions. It was administered after a fashion by the local American Consul. Since no official funds were available for improvement of the concession, and there were few Americans involved in mercantile endeavors in Tientsin, there were no civic improvements made and district failed to prosper.
In the Autumn of 1880 the consul contacted the local taotai and informed him that the plot commonly referred to as the American Concession was reverting to Chinese control. There was a provision that the district might be re-established as a concession at some future date should the United States government wish to. This was never done. Local usage and habit caused this district to continue to be referred to as the American Concession.
In 1896 there was some activity suggesting that the plot of land be assigned to Germany. This came to naught because it was discovered that the land was no longer under the jurisdiction of the United States.
Following the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 there was considerable discussion among State Department officials on the ground in China regarding re-establishing an American Concession or creating an International Settlement at Tientsin. Mr. Conger, the American Minister to China, resisted the notion of an American Concession and the proposed International Settlement didn't materialize. Following much diplomatic effort, the former American district, now wedged between the British and German Concessions and not administered by any government, was absorbed by the British municipality in 1902.
Provision was made in the British Concession's 1919 Land Regulations for one American to be elected or appointed to serve with the British Municipal Council but this is not known to have happened. When the British reorganized their local municipality in 1928 this provision was withdrawn at the request of the United States Government.
In 1917, following the termination of Germany's Concession, American military forces took over the leasehold on the former German Barracks. The concession itself became the First Special Area. Special Areas had special rules. They were Chinese territory but administered to a higher standard than a Chinese city with a separate governing committee. Usually a Special Area was administered by the local Chinese officials dealing with foreigners with some input from the local residents.
The U.S. Army's 15th Infantry Regiment and attached supporting elements were garrisoned in Tientsin from January, 1912 until March 1938. The U.S. Marine Corps furnished a small detachment (40-50 Marines) of the Legation Guard from 1938 until surrendering to Japanese forces on December 8, 1941.
On January 11, 1943 the United States terminated its unequal treaties with China and the ghost of the nearly mythical American Concession passed into history.
Note: If you cannot find the answer to your question. Please post questions on Forum. We check the forum page almost daily. We would try to answer all questions and expand existing pages.