Lecture: «Alexis in America»
Join us for a book talk with Dr. Lee Farrow, Professor of History at Auburn University at Montgomery. She will join us via Skype.
Dr. Farrow grew up in Louisiana and received a Ph.D. in History from Tulane University, with a specialty in Russian History. Her newest book is entitled, «ALEXIS IN AMERICA: A RUSSIAN GRAND DUKE’S TOUR, 1871-1872.» In the winter of 1871-1872, Alexis Romanov, the fourth son of Tsar Alexander II, set out on a grand tour of the United States and Canada that would take him to major cities of the northeast and midwest as well as national wonders, such as Niagara Falls and Mammoth Cave. Along the way Alexis met celebrated historical figures, such as Samuel Morse, Henry W. Longfellow, Buffalo Bill Cody and George Custer.
Tsar Alexander II chose to send his son at that particular moment to the U.S. for several reasons. Alexis, only twenty-one years old, was in love with the daughter of a famous poet, but a commoner and an unsuitable choice for a royal duke. Thus, the Tsar sent his son abroad to squelch this troublesome relationship.
The trip also had a larger importance, however, as a good-will tour to strengthen and secure good relations between the United States and Russia. During the Civil War, Russia had supported the North; now that the country was reunited, Alexander understood the need for a newly-defined relationship.
It was also the first visit to America by a member of the Russian royal family, an occasion rife with possibilities and peril. Not surprisingly, many viewed the success of Alexis’s trip as a barometer of Russian-American relations. In many cities, officials balked at spending public funds on his reception, while in other places, German and Polish Americans opposed Alexis’s visit on political grounds. In New York, a rumored assassination plot by Polish nationals led government officials to hire Pinkerton’s Detective Agency to investigate.
Despite these challenges, the visit of Tsar Alexander II’s son was hailed a great success by everyone involved. Alexis was hosted and toasted in every city he visited, the honored guest at dinners, balls and special theatre performances. He participated in a buffalo hunt out west with Buffalo Bill Cody and George Custer and witnessed the first daytime Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. The public came out in droves to see him along rail lines, at train depots and at events in the cities and the press followed his every move. He was one of America’s first celebrities and the fact that he was Russian made him all the more interesting and exotic. His visit stimulated interest in Russia then, and in subsequent years; it has been commemorated in a variety of ways over the past century, and has become a part of the popular history of Mardi Gras.
Everywhere Farrow has presented the story of Alexis in America, she has received overwhelmingly positive feedback. She has given presentations at academic conferences, to college classes and to public groups about Alexis and his adventures, and she has written one article for «New Orleans Magazine» about the Russian visit to that city, as well as several scholarly articles.
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