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Overview // Anticipation // Arrival // Festivities

Almost seven weeks before the grand duke’s arrival, Harper’s Weekly ran his portrait on the cover of its postdated October 14, 1871 issue (published October 4).  The accompanying front-page article informed readers of the “lively stir” his departure from Britain was creating among New York’s “fashionable circles” and of the “extensive preparations” that were being made.  Most of the article described plans for his stay in New York City and highlights of his upcoming trip across the country.  (He was the fourth son of Czar Alexander II, not the third as stated in the article.)  In the postdated December 2 issue (published November 22), the journal sought to acquaint its readers with “Russian Characteristics” through sketches of people, conveyances, and prominent features, some of which were discussed in an accompanying article .

In the November 11, 1871 issue, Thomas Nast contributed a cartoon envisioning the arrival of Grand Duke Alexis.  Its publication occurred at the height of the cartoonist’s pictorial campaign against the corrupt Tweed Ring of Tammany Hall, the dominant Democratic political machine in New York City.  Mayor Oakey Hall, one of the key figures in the Ring, was being pressured to withhold the formal courtesies of his office from the grand duke as an expression of official disapproval of czarist oppression.  In the cartoon, the mayor stood with his arms crossed belligerently as he informed Alexis of his (fictional) decision not to meet the young Russian nobleman.  In response to the snub from such a disreputable politician, the grand duke doffed his cap in polite appreciation above the title taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:  “For This Relief, Much Thanks!”  The pun on the mayor’s name in the cartoon text—“Haul”—implied carting off either ill-gotten gain or evidence of Tammany wrongdoing.  In reality, the mayor did officially welcome Alexis to the city.

Sources Consulted

1)  October 14, 1871, p. 953
portrait and article, Grand Duke Alexis

2)  December 2, 1871, p. 1125
illustrations, “Sketches in Russia”

3)  December 2, 1871, p. 1127, c. 2-3
article, “Russian Characteristics”

4)  November 11, 1871, p. S1072, c. 3-4
cartoon, “For This Relief, Much Thanks”

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Overview // Anticipation // Arrival // Festivities





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