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Overview // Anticipation // Arrival // Festivities

The December 9, 1871 issue of Harper’s Weekly recorded the arrival of Grand Duke Alexis in the United States.  A front-page article  reporting his 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 his sisters.

In 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.

Editor 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 anticipation:  “the 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 Ring.

Harper's Weekly References

1)  December 9, 1871, p. 1145
illustrated article, “The Grand Duke Alexis”

2)  December 9, 1871, pp. 1149-1150
illustrated article, “Landing of the Grand Duke”

3)  December 9, 1871, p. 1151, c. 3-4
cartoon, “The Grand Duke’s Reception”

4)  December 9, 1871, p. 1146, c. 2-3
editorial, “Alexis and His Welcome”

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Overview // Anticipation // Arrival // Festivities





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