Thursday, July 30, 2009
What was the worst social snub of the season during the Columbian Exposition of 1893? My vote would be the following:
The greatest formal event was the welcoming of the representative of the Queen of Spain, the sponsoring country of Columbus' voyage: the young lady called Infanta Eulalia.
On June 7, Infanta Eulalia after graciously visiting the Spanish section of the fair and enduring 6,000 spectators who watched her every move, needed a break. The next day she dressed down and wandered incognito throughout the randy Midway. She loved to smoke cigars.
The next day, Mrs. Bertha Palmer (the social queen of Chicago) went the full nine yards to impress the royal personage with a top drawer reception banquet at her husband's Palmer House. All the hot dogs of the city turned out. Bertha even displayed a throne-like dais for her guest of honor.
Since the visitor resided at the Palmer House she noticed the identical names. Informed by her staff that the Hostess Bertha Palmer was Potter's wife she reportedly complained, she could not be received by "an inn-keeper's wife."
Well, now. Of course word of the putdown swept the banquet hall and the whole city. After she refused to attend the banquet, her red-faced diplomats pleaded with her to reconsider. Instead she went sight-seeing. However a downpour cut short her enjoyment of being a tourist. Deciding to return to the hotel she arrived late for the banquet held in her honor her soaked satin slippers matched her foul temper. She pouted throughout the reception. She also ignored Bertha Palmer, and left early.
Later, Bertha wrote a letter to Mr. Gresham, a state department official reporting on the incident. His response, no doubt, gratified her: "To be frank, I did not give you the real impressions as to the Infanta's character. I did not wish to prejudice you against her... She is insincere...is not above playing small tricks...The Infanta treated you and the other Chicago people with gross impoliteness, and I feel indignant about it. You have done your whole duty and more, and have nothing to regret."
Infanta Eulalia was not invited to return.