Piry, Théophile

The Frenchman Alexandre Théophile PIRY (1851-1918) followed his father, Pierre Piry, in joining the Imperial Maritime Customs Service (IMCS) in 1874. He was a protégé of Sir Robert Hart, serving in various capacities in the IMCS. By 1896, he was appointed Commissioner of Customs at Lappa, returning to Beijing in 1900 as Chinese Secretary. In 1901 he was appointed Postal Secretary and went on to become the first Postmaster General of the Imperial Chinese Post Office in May 1911, a position he held until his retirement in 1917. He was a productive and ‘keen’ amateur photographer. He shared the photographs below, taken with his new Kodak kit, with fellow amateur J.C. Oswald (who was known as ‘Mr Camera’). Note that photographs taken at the Yuanmingyuan ruins in the 1870s, which have been previously attributed to Piry, are now known to have been taken by Moore (see 'Charles Frederick Moore’s photographs of the ruins of the European-style palaces (西洋楼) at the Yuanmingyuan (圆明园'). See the Piry Collection MS19, at Queen’s University Belfast.