|Albert Edward, Prince of Wales|
Prince Edward was on tour in Canada when Chicago Mayor, "Long John" Wentworth met him in Montreal with an invitation to come to Chicago. The prince liked the idea. He said he would come, but only unofficially, as “Baron Renfrew.” Nobody was fooled by that dodge. When the prince’s train chugged into the city, on September 21, 1860, he was greeted by a crowd of nearly 5,000, many of them wearing special medallions or waving banners.
|Chicago Mayor, "Long John" Wentworth|
Rising late the next morning, the prince received formal greetings from Wentworth and a committee of distinguished Chicagoans. Then he was taken on a tour of the city. Though the prince wanted to keep his visit low-key, his itinerary had gotten into the papers, and over 50,000 people lined the streets to watch him pass. That was about half the population of the city.
During his three day stay, the Prince saw one entire house being transported along the street, visited the Chicago Historical Society, and a large theatre-like building called a "Wigwam," — a kind of "political machine" where conventions are held. He saw the Courthouse, the Chicago Historical Society, and all the other points of interest that might have been found in an 1860 guide book. The party made a special detour so that the prince could inspect one of the grain elevators on the outskirts of town. The royal visitor appeared suitably impressed and made appropriate comments.
One evening, Mayor John Wentworth took Prince Edward to one of his favorite saloons. It was crowded as usual, and Wentworth made an announcement: “Boys, this here is the Prince!” he shouted. “Prince, these are the boys!” That is the legend. It may or may not be fact. but it's the kind of thing that Long John would have said.
There was no formal ball. Chicago society matrons, who had hoped to parade their marriageable daughters before the bachelor prince, were deeply disappointed.
When the stress of the trip caused Prince Edward to suffer from headaches, it was arranged for him to spend a few days hunting at a rural lodge in nearby Dwight, Illinois. After a luncheon on September 24th, the Prince left for the Prairies of Illinois and traveled eighty miles by rail to a country estate in Dwight. Then on to Springfield, Alton, and on to St. Louis, Missouri.
A reporter asked Wentworth how it felt to sit next to a future king. “I didn’t sit next to the prince,” Long John said. “The prince sat next to me.”
The Prince of Wales became King Edward VII of Great Britain in 1901. Long John was dead by then, but he would have taken the news in stride.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.