October 12, 1924
An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Foster Place.
(Part One may be found here.)
Once upon a time, there was a tycoon and a dazzling future king. Back then, invitations were embossed on heavy cardstock. Thank you notes were thoughtful, written on personal stationery, and crafted with a treasured fountain pen; a gift, perhaps, when a child’s hands matured.
In business and academia, correspondence was conducted via the telegraph, messenger, or on the rotary dial telephone that was hardwired to a plaster wall.
When Louis F. Swift sent word to Edward, Prince of Wales, Tommy Lascelles was the private secretary to respond. Interested in all things American, particularly industry, David Windsor was happy to tour the midwestern states. His Canadian vacation was cut short. Boarding a private train, stopping off in Duluth, the Prince and his party were en route to Chicago and a wealthy northern enclave.
Once the heir’s visit was confirmed, a flurry of activity followed. There were travel arrangements and accommodations, perhaps, depending on the royal itinerary and time allowed. First and foremost was a luncheon to be given in the Prince’s honor at the University of Chicago.
Harold Swift, Louis’ brother, was an alum and on the university board. There was royalty to parade and $27,000,000 to be asked for at a later date.
There was the luncheon guest list to prepare. That extensive roster was typed on onion skin paper by secretaries working for the Oxford of America as the prestigious university was dubbed. Last-minute notes and guest changes were handwritten in the margins, as were bold checkmarks when nearly two hundred acceptances were received.
Names that were omitted were added so that no one was overlooked. Declinations, although rare, came from the Rockefellers as well as the Secretary of State. He was unable to leave Washington in time for the gathering.
The Prince’s private party included David Windsor (of course), Captain Lascelles, Major Metcalfe, Sir Walter Peacock, General Trotter, and Inspector Burt.
The exhaustive list of industry leaders, hotel magnates, and banking moguls included John. B. Drake and his brother, Tracy, Stanley and J.A. Field, Cyrus H. McCormick, John G. Shedd, William Wrigley, Jr., Mayor Dever, J. Ogden Armour, Potter Palmer, Ernest D. Burton Thomas E. Donnelley, and A.B. Dick.
Accepting, too, were the Swifts beside Louis and Harold: Charles, Edward, Theodore, William, Gustavus, and Alden. Louis’ daughter, Countess Minotto, would serve as hostess when the Prince visited the Lake Forest Westleigh estate.
There was entertainment to finalize and a menu to prepare. The University of Chicago’s student newspaper, The Daily Maroon, interviewed Miss Mildred West who said after her recent visit to London:
If anyone here thinks that the American people go to extremes in their mad ecstasy to see the Prince of Wales, I should suggest that that person see him in England where he is literally worshipped. The English people do not regard him with that mob curiosity that American display on his arrival in a city, but rather they look upon him as a great personage worthy of their highest respect.
“When he comes on campus, I shall try to see him, though,” Miss West shyly admitted.
Miss Verna Koepping, also interviewed, said, ” Of course, the women here will turn out in numbers to see the Prince. They would on any campus, and I dare say that the women at other schools envy the opportunity that the girls here will have. ”
Thirteen University of Chicago men were chosen to lead the yells, the boisterous cheer written by Bill Kerr.
Yea, Wales! Yea, Wales!
Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah.
Who? Wales! Who? Wlaes!
Yes, Wales! Yes, Wales!
The Prince of Wales would arrive in five days. The clocks and wristwatches were ticking.
Local radio station WMAQ, The Daily News Radio, would be disappointed to learn that a reply or speech given by the Prince would be “out of the question,” according to a letter written by Harold Swift.