Leander J. McCormick

Queen Victoria's 74th Birthday Celebration

On Wednesday November 6, 2013, the museum will present a lecture entitled “The World’s Columbian Exposition – a 120 Year Perspective.”  The speaker is Diane Dillon, director of scholarly and undergraduate programs at the Newberry Library and a frequent lecturer on Chicago’s two World’s Fairs.  Tickets are $10 and reservations may be made by calling Glessner House Museum at 312.326.1480.

Among the grouping of items in the museum collection relating to the World’s Columbian Exposition are several pieces for a banquet celebrating Queen Victoria’s 74th birthday on May 24, 1893.  The invitation, menu card, program, and place card will be on display along with other Glessner items from the Fair during the November 6th lecture.

The banquet was attended British citizens and leading Chicago businessmen, including John J. Glessner, invited by the Commissioners for the British Colonies at the World’s Columbian Exposition.   The Chicago Tribune gave the following report of the site of the event:

“One loyal subject for each year of her reign celebrated the seventy-fourth anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria of England by banqueting at the Virginia Hotel last night.  Under the auspices of the British Royal Commissioners and the Commissioners for the British Colonies at the World’s Columbian Exposition the banquet was given.  From facades to the pillared entrances the Virginia was decked in the ensigns of Britain.  Over the main entrance to the hotel were looped two Union Jacks.  Inside the hall music and perfumed floated on a sea of color.  All the perfumed buds and blossoms that summer holds were woven in graceful designs about the lighted hall.  Back of the main table and overlooking the entire hall was placed a life sized portrait of the honored Queen.  Above it hung a silken canopy decked with white blossoms and illumined with waxen tapers tinted and hooded in harmonizing color.  Silken ensigns interwoven formed the frame of this picture, which was the centerpiece of all the decorations.  Upon the main table, on either side of the presiding toastmaster, Walter H. Harris, was a floral picture.  American beauty roses made the red for the national design and violets for the blue background, where great stars of white narcissus were set with a star for every State.
The tables were formed in a hollow square, and here the simplicity of decoration was marked.  At intervals of a few feet Sevres vases were filled with great bunches of American beauty roses.  No other flower held a place in the table decorations.”

The menu consisted of the following courses:
Caviar
Little Neck Clams, Olives, and Radishes (with Haut Sauternes)
Clear Green Turtle
Boiled Kennebec Salmon, Hollandaise Sauce, Cucumbers
Roast Saddle of Spring Lamb, Green Peas (with Moet & Chandon, Dry Imperial)
Braised Sweetbreads, Asparagus
Maraschino Punch
Broiled Golden Plover, Mushrooms (with Chateau Grand Puy Lacoaste)
Assorted Cakes, Fruits, Strawberry Ice Cream, Camembert and Roquefort
Coffee, Cigars, and Liquers
The feasting concluded at 10:10pm at which point the British Royal Commissioner, Walter H. Harris began the “post prandial exercises” with a toast to The Queen.   “God Save the Queen” was then played three times, each time followed by “cheers given with a hearty will.”  This was followed by toasts to President Cleveland and the World’s Columbian Exposition after which Lyman J. Gage gave a short address focusing on the close alliance between the United States and Great Britain.  Additional toasts were given to the foreign commissioners, Chicago, the press, and finally the host before the assemblage dispersed for the evening.


NOTE:  The site of the banquet, the Virginia Hotel, was located at the northwest corner of Rush and Ohio streets.  Completed in 1891, the brick building was 10 stories in height and had been designed by architect Clinton J. Warren.  Leander J. McCormick had lived on the site since 1863, and was also the builder and owner of the hotel, where he died in 1900.  It was demolished in May 1932 to make way for a parking lot.  In 1999, the firm of Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates designed the current multi-level parking garage on the site.