Selected Masterpieces from Thailand's Royal Gifts to the United States of America

Photo of H.M. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, on his Second Coronation, 16 October, 1873

Gift of King Chulalongkorn, 1876
Centennial Exposition, Siam Exhibit
National Anthropological Archives Inventory no: 041031.00

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Royal Funeral Chariot

Phra Maha Pichai Raja Rot

Detail of busabuk throne
Gift of King Chulalongkorn to President
Ulysses S. Grant, 1876
Centennial Exposition, Siam Exhibit
Department of Anthropology, cat. no: E27367

Northern Thai Lacquerware Bowl

Gift of King Chulalongkorn, 1904
Siam Exhibit, Louisiana Purchase Exposition
Bamboo, lacquer, and paint
Department of Anthropology, cat. no: E234040
19.7 cm height x 19 cm diameter

Detail Monk’s Alms Bowl Cover, Lid with Emblem of State

Gift of King Chulalongkorn, 1876
CentennialExposition, Siam Exhibit
Wood, lacquer and mother-of-pearl
Department of Anthropology, cat. no: E27266
26.5 cm diameter x 7 cm height


Gallery 1

Explores the formative years of Thailand-U.S. relations by highlighting the historical treaties that bound these two nations together and by examining the exchange of gifts between Thai Kings and the Presidents of the United States.

Gallery 2

Explores a new focus on the Thai Royal Gift Exchange by examining His Majesty King Chulalongkorn’s Gifts to the United States for Thailand’s participation in US World expositions.

Gallery 3

Explores a small sample of recent gifts from the Thai Monarchs to the United States and puts this lasting friendship into its historical perspective.

Treasures of Two Nations
Thai Royal Gifts To The United States Of America

By Lisa McQuail

The Thai Royal Gifts described and illustrated in this volume are deeply symbolic of the long and evolving friendship between Thailand and the United States of America. This beautifully illustrated book documents for the first time a group of artifacts whose meaning and significance have, until now, been inadequately understood by scholars, and sometimes even misunderstood by the recipients of the gifts themselves—the presidents and people of the United States. Yet for both Thais and Americans these gifts truly are historic, artistic, and scientific treasures, through which the Kings of Thailand represented their nation, and its alliances with America through time.

Treasures of Two Nations: Thai Royal Gifts to the Untied States of America will interest art-, social-, and diplomatic-historians; anthropologists, linguists, and ethnomusicologists; students of Thai theater and culture; and all those who will appreciate the aesthetic quality of the gift objects or the stories those objects were meant to tell.

Lisa McQuail is an archeologist, anthropologist, and writer who has conducted fieldwork at archeological sites in Central Thailand.

Hardbound (ISBN #: 1-891739-01-8) and softcover (ISBN #: 1-891739-02-6)

Published 1997 by the Asian Cultural History Program, Smithsonian Institution; 182 pages; 253 illustrations (233 in full color).

Note: The book is now out of print, but you can download a copy here (82MB) or lower resolution version here (28MB).

Photo of H.M. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, on his Second Coronation, 16 October, 1873

H.M. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, is seen resplendent in his gold robes on the day of his Second Coronation. He is wearing the Great Crown of Victory and is surrounded by his other regalia. His father N.M. King Mongkut, Rama IV, had died of malaria contracted on an expedition to the Gulf of Siam to observe a solar eclipse (King Mongkut had predicted the solar eclipse precisely) in August, 1868. King Chulalongkorn wrote a touching letter, bordered in black, informing President Andrew Johnson of King Mongkut’s death (U.S. National Archives, Ceremonial Letters). King Chulalongkorn also sent these mourning letters to all other Western heads of state at the time of King Mongkut’s death. Somdet Chao Phraya Sri Suriyawongse served as regent until King Chulalongkorn’s second coronation in 1873 (Chakrabongse 1967; Moffat 1961; Griswold 1960). This photograph was sent along with the Siam Exhibit items for the 1876 Centennial Exposition.


IBM Thailand Company, Limited

This virtual exhibition was generously supported by IBM Asia-Pacific.

Thai Airways International

The organizers wish to thank Thai Airways International for its generous support of the Smithsonian’s “Heritage of Thailand” efforts since 1993.

Heritage of Thailand Fund – Asian Cultural History Program

The Smithsonian thanks the many donors to the “Heritage of Thailand Fund,” founded in 1982. This exhibition is one of many projects it has supported. Publication of the book Treasures of Two Nations: Thai Royal Gifts to the United States of America, truly a collaborative project, was also made possible by a generous donation from the Royal Thai Government to this fund. The book’s preparation was undertaken in celebration of two events in the year 1996: the Smithsonian Institution’s 150th anniversary, and the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX.


This updated revision of of the virtual exhibition, Royal Gifts from Thailand: Selected Masterpieces from Thailand’s Royal Gifts to the United States of America, was designed and produced by Peter Laverick and Chris Baker for The Siam Society Under Royal Patronage, and was adapted from the website jointly produced in 2000 by:

Asian Cultural History Program, Department of Anthropology

Smithsonian Institution
(Washington, D.C., USA)

The Siam Society Under Royal Patronage

(Bangkok, Thailand)
In cooperation with Vajiravudh College

Virtual exhibition design and production (2000 edition) by: Mr. Randy Scott Tims
Thai version layout and production (2000 edition) by: Dr. Nyle Spoelstra
English version adapted for Siam Society website by: Mr. Peter Laverick

Text by Paul Michael Taylor, based on the book by Lisa McQuail, “Treasures of Two Nations: Thai Royal Gifts to the United States of America” (Asian Cultural History Program, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA, 1997)


The Siam Society Under Royal Patronage

President (1998-2002):
Mrs. Bilaibhan Sampatisiri

Project Manager and Organizer:
Mrs. Monita Singhakowin

“Royal Gifts” Working Committee, Council of 2000-2002:
Mrs. Monita Singhakowin
Dr. Woraphat Arthayukti
Mr. Vora-Poj Snidvongs
Mr. Michael Wright expertly reconciled the English and Thai versions of the text.

Special thanks to Siam Society Staff:
Mr. Euayporn Kerdchouay, General Manager
Ms. Kanitha Kasina-Ubol, Assistant General Manager

Asian Cultural History Program

National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution

Director, Asian Cultural History Program:
Dr. Paul Taylor

Virtual Exhibition Design and Production (2000):
Mr. Randy Tims

Vajiravudh College

Director (2000):
Professor Dr. Chai-Anan Samudavanija

Project Manager and Virtual Exhibition Production:
Dr. Nyle Spoelstra
Special thanks to the students, instructors and resource persons in the Thawi Panya Program at Vajiravudh College for their assistance in preparing the Thai text and in producing the Thai web site layout.