December 9, 1871 issue of Harper’s Weekly recorded the
arrival of Grand Duke Alexis in the United States.
A front-page article
reception at New York Harbor prominently honored the memory of the
Russian fleet’s visit during the
middle of the American Civil War (1863):
“Americans will never forget that she [Russia] stood our
friend at a time when she might have joined hands with European
powers [i.e., Britain and France] that were eager for the
destruction of the republic, and by her firmness held the others
in check.” In the
corresponding illustration, Grand Duke Alexis is the third figure
in the left foreground. In
the right foreground facing the Russian delegation is General John
Dix, the ranking military officer at the Port of New York.
A few pages forward, an illustrated article
covered the grand duke’s transfer from a Russian vessel, Svetlana,
to an American one, Mary Powell, and the procession of his
entourage through the city streets.
The text informed readers that he was traveling with one of
Thomas Nast’s cartoon, Columbia hugged Grand
Duke Alexis tightly as a long-lost child returned home, reflecting
the zeal of his reception in America.
At the time, Nast was winding up an exhausting several
months of sketching dozens of cartoons aimed at the corrupt Tweed
Ring of Tammany Hall. The
arrival of the Russian nobleman must have been a welcome diversion
for the cartoonist.
George William Curtis argued that the enthusiastic
welcome for Grand Duke Alexis was simply a contagious popular
desire to celebrate an event that was well publicized and planned
in advance. The delay of the reception in respect for the Christian
Sabbath (Sunday) and storms on Monday added to public
rest was inevitable. It
was not snobbery, nor honor to our ally, nor interest in the
Prince [sic]: it was
the opportunity of a party that filled the streets…”
Curtis concluded, “It is not because we love a lord, but
because we like to enjoy ourselves, that we welcome the Russian
with such enthusiasm.” The
references in the editorial’s first paragraph were to the
Japanese diplomatic delegation (“Tommy” was the nickname of
its popular Japanese interpreter) and Edward, Prince of Wales, who
both toured the United States in 1860.
The discussion in the second paragraph concerned Jim Fisk,
a corrupt financier who was associated with the notorious Tweed