A Royal Visit to the Sesquicentennial


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In an effort to draw additional visitors to the Sesquicentennial Exposition, special days were set aside to celebrate and honor various countries, states, cities, and groups. These celebration days included Missouri Day, Finnish Day, National Puzzlers’ Day, Pittsburgh Day, and University of Michigan Alumni Day. Activities on each day often included special programs, luncheons, banquets, and visits from dignitaries and honorees.[1]

Swedish Day on June 6 was one of the first celebration days to occur during the Sesquicentennial, taking place even before all of the landscaping and building on the grounds was completed. As part of the festivities, Crown Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and his wife princess Louise had visited the Exposition four days earlier on June 2, 1926. During their visit, the Crown Prince and Princess took part in two ceremonies- the dedication of the reproduction of the Wicaco Block House and the laying of the cornerstone for the John Morton Memorial Building.[2] They also reviewed an infantry battalion and visited the Navy Yard.


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Now known as the American Swedish Historical Museum, the John Morton Memorial Building is one of the few structures remaining from the Sesquicentennial. Although the cornerstone for the building was laid on June 2, 1926 and construction was almost completed by October 1927, the Great Depression and subsequent lack of funding prevented the exhibit halls from being completed until the mid-1930s. On June 28, 1938, an exhibition in honor of the tercentenary of the arrival of Swedes in the area was opened by Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, who had also laid the cornerstone for the building back in 1926. This event effectively served as the public dedication of the building.[3] Located at 1900 Pattison Avenue in FDR Park in the original building, the Museum remains open to the public and provides exhibits and educational programs that focus on Swedish heritage and the contributions of Swedish-Americans to the United States.

A stop at the Sesquicentennial to lay the cornerstone for the Morton Memorial Building was just one of many excursions planned for the Crown Prince and Princess during their trip to America. The Prince and Princess, along with a large entourage, arrived in New York City on Thursday, May 27, 1926. After greeting Mayor Walker at City Hall and providing reporters with an interview, the group traveled to Washington D.C. where they met with President Calvin Coolidge. During their time in Washington, the Crown Prince spoke at the unveiling of a monument to John Ericsson, the designer of the Union warship Monitor; attended Memorial Day services at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; and toured sights in the city.[4] From Washington D.C., the group travelled back to New York and then to Philadelphia where they took part in the Sesquicentennial celebrations. After their visit to Philadelphia, the royal couple toured America until August 1, including visits to Boston, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Minneapolis, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and San Francisco. The trip through the United States was just part of a world tour; from San Francisco, the Crown Prince and Princess set sail for Asia.[5]


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While the Sesquicentennial did not have as much international participation as previous world’s fairs in Chicago and St. Louis, foreign dignitaries such as the delegation from Sweden did take part in activities on specific celebration days. Often, though, these dignitaries were the ministers or ambassadors from their country to the United States rather than the actual foreign leader. For example, Polish Day on September 5 included a visit from Jan Ciechanowski, Minister of Poland, and Peruvian Day on July 28 saw a visit from Dr. Hernan Velarde, the Peruvian Ambassador to the United States.[6] Despite their efforts to encourage attendance, the Sesquicentennial Exposition did not attract foreign leaders in large numbers.

 


[1] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 376-379.

[2] Ibid., 193.

[3] American Swedish Historical Museum. “History of the Museum.” http://www.americanswedish.org/frames.htm

[4]New York Times. “Swedish Royalty Due Here Thursday.” May 25, 1926.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Austin and Hauser. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition, p. 382-388.

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