It's been 146 years since a Prince of Wales last visited our fair city. The royal in question was the slight, pale, 18-year-old son of Queen Victoria and heir to the throne of England -- known as Albert Edward, and called Baron Renfrew. Decades later, he would become King Edward VII. (For a naughtier connection between Edward and Charles, kindly click this link; looks like he had thing with Camilla's great grandmother.)
The Oct. 11, 1860 report ran down the left rail of the Philadelphia Inquirer's front page with, in the style of the period, a many-decked headline that tipped busy readers to the main events (sort of an Express of its day):
BARON RENFREW IN PHILADELPHIA
VISIT TO A BOWLING SALOON
PRESENTATION OF AN ENGRAVING
TRIP TO GIRARD COLLEGE
THE PRINCE IN THE COUNTY PRISON
GALA DAY AT POINT BREEZE
THE GRAND OPERA
Etc. Etc. Etc.
What's amazing to this modern reader - other than the fact his hosts would show the future King of England to a bowling saloon - is just how much etcetera they packed into their news back then.
A reporter trailed the prince as he toured America's second-largest city to produce a timely, atmospheric, rambling, and oddly detailed narrative of gifts received, engravings examined, dwellings admired, horse chestnuts planted, and hail fellows, well met.
In short, it reads like a 19th Century event blog.
The Inquirer article goes on for 2,972 words and nearly the only drama is the wind lifting the heir to the throne's hat, and sending it cascading into a nearby garden.
This moment is revisited near the bottom of the account, as the unnamed writer feels compelled to add more names and details and interrupt the narrative flow. (Remember that moving paragraphs required physical labor back then.)
Throughout, facts are gathered like a well-mannered mob.This, from some time spent at the Point Breeze race track:
There was a gentle breeze blowing, and the weather could not have been more desirable. A splendid band of music was upon the ground, and discoursed its strains of melody in the interim between the different heats.
The Prince whiled away the time in smoke a fragrant Havana and conversing with those around him. Among those within his immediate vicinity we noticed Mayor Henry, Hon. Wm. B. Reed, John Rice, Esq., Wm. D. Leis, and other citizens, besides the entire royal suite. The ladies who were represented to the number of about two thousand, seldom cast their glances in an opposite direction to the Prince. Some had opera glasses, which they used during most of the afternoon.
The first race came off at half-past two P.M., between the following horses: "Throgsneck," entered by C. S. LLoyd (F. Morris.). "Irona" five years old, sired by "Register," dam "Black Sal," by "Prince George," with 103 pounds and "Rosa Bonheur," three years old, weight 87 pounds. This was a handicap race of one mile. Entrance $100; forfeit $59; declaration $20. The "Bonheur" won the race - time, 1 minute 47 3/4 seconds.
There's even a classic display of Philadelphia attytood toward the end of the visit, although the reporting gets a little loose here.
"It appears that on the arrival of the Prince at the hotel, in consequence of some slight inadvertence, he was not recognized at the door, and was stopped by the person in attendance with the remark, "No intruders admitted" or something the same effect."
So, things haven't changed that much around here, give or take a few bowling saloons.
(Inquirer photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, www.hsp.org.)