Monday, August 31, 2009

Wilhelm of Sweden visits Coney Island

August 31, 1907

Prince Wilhelm of Sweden put in a "strenuous" day today as his hand was "nearly shaken off at Dreamland." "Enormous crowds of patriotic Swedes and curious Americans" prevented the prince from "doing anything but shake hands and bow." He never had an opportunity to "shoot the chutes" at Dreamland, but, "on the contrary spent the evening very much as politicians spent their time during a campaign."
Before going to Dreamland, Prince Wilhelm stopped at the Kellman Swedish Orphan Asylum in Bay Ridge. He was due to arrive at 5 p.m., but he arrived at 6:30. He gave a "brief speech" to the waiting people and then "hurried to Atlantic Yacht club," where he had dinner as the guest of Melville Stone. After dinner, the prince boarded Pliny D. Fisk's yacht fro the trip to the Dreamland pier, where more than 10,000 people were waiting to greet him.
Unfortunately, Fisk's yacht, the Rambler, was too big to land at the pier, so the party had to go back to the Yacht club, where they all got into automobiles and were driven to the Surf Avenue and the main entrance to Dreamland.
One policemen were at the pier, but only one policeman was at the park's main entrance. By the time, Prince Wilhelm entered the park, a crowd of about 5,000 people, "started toward him, yelling in Swedish, cheering, jumping up and down, upsetting barkers' stands, and practically putting the whole Dreamland in confusion."
Lines were formed, and the prince "began to shake hands with the crowds" and the band played the Swedish national anthems and American patriotic medleys.
There seemed no end of people who wanted to shake Prince Wilhelm, but after an hour, the prince signaled that he was done, and he wanted to leave.
Earlier in the day, Prince Wilhelm had a chance to visit the Claremont and Grant's tomb. He also traveled to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he "inspected one of the German Lloyd ships."
Prince Wilhelm also consented to an interview. He smoked cigarettes throughout the entire interview. He laughed at some of the questions put toward him,
"America is very fascinating; very, very fine indeed. I came here at the desire of my grandfather, the King, to represent Sweden at the Jamestown Exposition. Never had I thought that I would find so much smartness, so much go, so much life as I have found here. I have been so busy ever since I came here, and everyone I have met has been very busy, too.
"It is a really wonderful country. Every one takes a pride in what he is doing and tries to do his best, and every one seems so happy and bright. No, I have not seen your slums yet, but if your working people are your poor people, then I can say that I have found your poor people more happy than any other poor people I have ever seen."
Prince Wilhelm gave a guarded response to a question about American women.
"American women," he said smiling, "are more or less good looking and they dress charmingly, better than the women of any other country I have visited, and I have seen almost every country in Europe. Nowhere else have I seen people dressed so well. Newport was a revelation to me. There I saw the wealthy people as well as the working people, and both are happy and contented. It is far superior in many ways to the European resorts."
He described New York City's tall buildings as "very clever," and he described the Brooklyn Bridge as "an architectural marvel."
He was glad "to find so many of my countryman helping to put up the large buildings. It has been a great satisfaction to me to find that Swedes in America area satisfied , and that the Americans are satisfied with the Swedes."
He was also asked about American newspapers. "Visibly embarrassed for a moment," he then laughed. "That is one of the hardest questions that has been put to me," he said. "What can I say? They are very clever, the American newspapers, and every enterprising. I have bee photographed very often. It is great fun. What stories I will have to tell."
Prince Wilhelm refused, however, to compare the American navy with others, "but said he had seen a fine squadron at Jamestown." He also spoke fondly of "the reception that he had been accorded to him wherever he had been in this country, and said he would sincerely regret going away."
The prince will sail from Boston to Sweden on September 5.

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