The Prince of Wales at University of Chicago

The Prince of Wales at University of Chicago

October 13, 1924

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Foster Place. Read the introduction here.

The Prince of Wales, insistent he was traveling as David Windsor — Lord Renfrew — and a private citizen, was displeased. Departing the Westleigh estate grounds, he saw the American and British flags adorning the awaiting the Pierce-Arrow limousine. Louis F. Swift had them removed and immediately. A future monarch’s displeasure was not on the menu that day. 

No flags would be needed. The thousands of people lining the streets recognized the limousine as  the black car wound down Sheridan Road toward the city. Trailing behind were the Chicago detectives, cameramen, and photographers. Residents of Highland Park, Glencoe, Hubbard Woods, Wilmette, and Evanston waved handkerchiefs, tipped their hats, clapped, cheered, and called out to the heir as he drove passed them all. 

Fascinated by Chicago’s architecture, the Prince of Wales’ first stop was the Marshall & Fox Studio, the architectural firm responsible for The Blackstone and The Drake hotels. The Prince shook hands with Mr. Benjamin Fox, one of two principals, and received a brief tour. En route to their next stop, David Windsor remarked at one building, The Sovereign Hotel. Mr. Swift instructed the driver to pull over and stop for an impromptu visit. 

The thousands of onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of a prince grew to hundreds of thousands lining Michigan Avenue. The Prince looked through a window and down at them all. 

“My word,” he remarked, standing with William Wrigley, Jr. in the Wrigley Building, an architectural gem situated next to the Chicago River, Midway Airport in the distance. “These Americans are enthusiastic and vigorous.” 

The photo of that quiet moment can be seen here. Both men held their Fedoras, the Prince looking contemplative, sporty with a white carnation tucked into the buttonhole of his left lapel. 

His private visit with the chewing gum magnate and owner of The Chicago Cubs was brief. The Prince and his entourage made their way down the stockyards. There, David Windsor mounted a sorrel horse. Riding through the animal pens with cattle buyer Wellington Leavitt, the Prince was able to witness the slaughter of steer, hogs, and pigs, the coolers, and the meat packing processes.  The latest pride of Swift & Co. was the oleomargarine plant, where Harold and Charles Swift, Louis’ brothers, waited. 

Harold Higgins Swift, an alum of The University of Chicago, served as President of the Board of Trustees until 1949. A bachelor until his death in 1962, he devoted his time not only to business but to ensuring family members, friends, and acquaintances donated to his alma mater on a regular — and annual — basis. One year later, in February 1925, Harold Higgins Swift wrote the Prince requesting a message while the university sought to raise $27,500,000, a campaign to compete with other research institutions after John D. Rockefeller’s final endowment.

The University of Chicago was expecting the Prince next. After departing the stockyards, the motorcars traveled through Washington Park and down Woodlawn Avenue. There, the party would rendezvous with Major Frederick M. Barrows, head of Military Tactics, and twenty-four members of the cavalry who would guide the limousine along 58th Street and onto University Avenue. The Prince would exit the vehicle to attend a luncheon given by University of Chicago President Ernest DeWitt Burton in the Prince’s honor. 

Nearly 5,000 people waited for him to exit the limo near Harper Quadrangle. At 1:25 in the afternoon, Wales stepped out, tipped his hat, and shook hands with President Burton in a formal introduction. Following suit, university heads and masters, in full cap and gown, escorted Wales to the President’s office, where he signed the official guest book. 

University of Chicago. Office of the President. Harper, Judson and Burton Administrations. Records, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

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