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New Book Showcases Vintage Photographs from Singapore’s Early Days of Nationhood

Never before published photos of Singapore from the early days of nationhood by an American diplomat based here from 1965-1970. The collection commemorates SG50 and offers a startling contrast to the modern metropolis that is Singapore today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 12:00 am EDT
"This collection offers a startling contrast to the bustling modern metropolis that is Singapore today"

John Wiley & Sons Singapore Pte Ltd is delighted to commemorate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee with the publication of Singapore Sixties: An Age of Discovery, a collection of never-before published photographs of Singapore from the early days of nationhood by an American diplomat.

George W. Porter was Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore from 1965 to 1970. A former journalist and amateur photographer, Porter captured thousands of images during his five-year diplomatic tour in Singapore.

“Through his camera’s lens, we see Singapore in its infancy: a nation still unsure of its identity, unaware of the heights it would achieve. The street scenes depicting store signs in English, Chinese, and Malay display the vibrant ethnic diversity of Singapore that is still celebrated today,” said Kirk Wagar, U.S. Ambassador to Singapore in the book’s Foreword.

“The energy and promise on display is due in no small part to one man: Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first and founding Prime Minister. His philosophy of transparent and pragmatic governance transformed a tiny city-state without natural resources into one of the great nation-building success stories in history,” he wrote.

The photographs, most in black and white, feature Singaporeans young and old, street scenes of a bygone era and a strong maritime theme, when the Singapore River was the country’s main trade artery.

For the Porter family, this book has been a labor of love. “George was and is a student of humanity,” the Porters said in the book’s acknowledgment. “It was the people of Singapore, with all their vibrancy and cultural diversity that he strived to capture through his lens. Fifty years ago, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and the citizens of Singapore took the first steps to transform a tiny new country into a model city-state and global economic powerhouse. Their energy and passion sparked George’s creative desire to document their first steps into independence.”

According to Eric Chin, Director of the National Archives of Singapore, “A newly found National Day Rally speech from 1968 in the Archives shows Mr. Lee Kuan Yew speaking in glowing terms during that period:  ‘It’s been a splendid year. The figures sparkle and speak for themselves. But even more important than the economic and material progress, is the blossoming, the burgeoning of our younger generation, as we see our plans being matched in the performance and the promise of the generation to come.'”

Prescient words and 50 years on, a promise fulfilled.

“A lot can happen in 50 years,” said Ambassador Wagar. “These photos inspire us to wonder what we should expect from Singapore on its 100th anniversary. As we have learned from its history, when talking about Singapore, the future possibilities are limitless.”

“This collection offers a startling contrast to the bustling modern metropolis that is Singapore today,” said Erik Thrasher, Wiley's General Manager, Knowledge Services, Asia. “It captures an emerging nation on the cusp of its promise and on its way to realizing the remarkable vision of its founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.”

Limited copies of Singapore Sixties: An Age of Discovery (August 2015; ISBN: 978-1-119-186830; 152 pages; Hardcover; S$29.91 with GST) will be for sale at all major bookstores from September 2015. Pre-ordering is available from John Wiley & Sons Singapore Pte. LtdEmail: or call +65 6643-8333.

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For more information, please contact:

Sharifah Sharomsah
(+65) 6643-8099

About Wiley:

Wiley is a global provider of content and content-enabled workflow solutions in areas of scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly research; professional development; and education. Our core businesses produce scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising; professional books, subscription products, certification and training services and online applications; and education content and services including integrated online teaching and learning resources for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. The Company's Web site can be accessed at The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols JWa and JWb.

Additional Information

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George Porter (Maryland, US) was a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1960. After serving in the Philippines and in Penang, Malaysia, he was assigned to Singapore in 1965. Shortly afterwards, Singapore left Malaysia and became an independent nation. Porter had a home in Singapore until 1972. He served as the Information Officer at the American Embassy between 1965 and 1970. In 1971, when he served in Saigon, his family continued to live in Singapore and he visited often. Porter was fascinated by the sights of South East Asia and took photographs everywhere he lived. He was particularly captivated by the newly independent Singapore. These pictures are a sample of his views of Singapore during its early days as an independent nation. George Porter currently lives in Maryland, USA.

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