The ties between the Azores and the United States go back to the beginning of our country. The Continental Congress maintained contact with the islands to coordinate the travel of our emissaries seeking to gain European support for our Revolution, and in 1777 Thomas Truxtun and the Continental Navy sloop “Independence” took three British “prizes” off the coast.
President George Washington appointed John Street as the first vice-consul to the Azores in July 1790, when Thomas Jefferson was our Secretary of State. Letters between Thomas Jefferson and John Street tell us that the Government of Portugal didn’t initially accept Street’s appointment because he was born in Faial and was considered a citizen of Portugal, but Street was also a citizen of the United States. He was educated in the United States and naturalized there. The issue was only resolved when Street signed a declaration renouncing his Portuguese citizenship, delivering it to Portuguese Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Pinto de Souza.
Despite having a vice-consul in the Azores since 1790, the U.S. Consulate was formally established in Horta on July 7th, 1795, when John Street’s rank was elevated to Consul. Upon establishment of the Consulate, Thomas Hickling Sr. was appointed vice-consul in Sao Miguel Island. The U.S. has had representatives in the Azores ever since, and the U.S. Consulate is the oldest, continuously-operating U.S. Consulate in the world. Over the years, there were also consular agencies in Flores, Sao Jorge and Terceira. In April 1899, the Consulate transferred from Horta to Ponta Delgada. Horta then became a consular agency. In 1918, owing to war measures, the Consular Agencies in Horta and Terceira were closed.
Thanks to the efforts of former Consul William F. Doty (Principal Officer 1924-1928), the Consulate has a list of all Consuls and Vice Consuls (PDF 22 KB) who have served here since 1795. This is a small Consulate and always has been; the list spans 200 years, but is only a few pages. Nonetheless, the Azores and Azorean-Americans have figured prominently in American history, and stories and reports in Consulate files provide intriguing glimpses into the contributions they and the American diplomats posted here have made during great historical events.