- Historic Sites
Innocents At Home
February 1965 | Volume 16, Issue 2
Aboard the steamship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse , on April 10, Maxim Gorky rose before dawn to see America. The captain had told him the night before that he would be able to see land in the morning, and Gorky didn’t want to miss a bit of it. When, at last, he saw the slight blue rise of the Shinnecock Hills above Hampton Bays, he exclaimed that he had waited years for that sight. For a good ten minutes he stood on the wet deck, silent and gazing, his arms folded, his back turned to the other passengers who had gathered to watch Gorky watch America. Later that day he passed safely through quarantine, answering satisfactorily the one question New York papers thought—and the Czar’s ambassador in Washington fervently hoped—might bar him from the country: Did he believe in law and order? Gorky smiled ami replied: “I am not an anarchist; I am a socialist. I believe in law and order, and for that reason am opposed to the Russian government, which at this particular time is organized anarchy.”
After quarantine and before the ship proceeded to her pier, friends and reporters swarmed aboard from boats that had come alongside. One of the boats was a revenue cutter that had taken along a greeting party unused to such government hospitality; it included Abraham Cahan, editor of the Socialist paper Vorwacrts; Morris Hillquit, a Socialist lawyer; Joseph Mandelkern, an unusual real-estate agent who, the year before, had visited Tolstoy and Gorky in Russia; Ivan Narodny, who lived at Club A and spent his time raising money for the insurgent cause; Dr. Maxim Romm, another revolutionist active in New York; and Zinovy Peshkov, Gorky’s twenty-two-year old adopted son, who, after tramping through Scandinavia, taking ship for Canada, and wandering America’s eastern seaboard, had settled down to live at Club A and work in the mailroom of Wilshire’s Magazine , a fiery monthly whose motto was: “Let the Nation Own the Trusts.” Mr. H. Gaylord Wilshire, owner and editor of the magazine, was also aboard the cutter. A fox-faced man with a finely shaped beard and mustache, Wilshire had the flamboyantly jarring manners of an independently rich Socialist. He had volunteered to play host to Gorky and his wife.
On deck, as the ship’s band played Sousa’s “Hands Across the Sea,” the greeting party made its way through the crowds toward the Gorky suite. The door was jammed with reporters. Gorky’s personal secretary, Nicholas Burenin, was shoving the reporters back into the corridor, asking them to please be quiet, to please wait a moment, while, inside the room, the Russian couple looked out through the porthole at the Statue of Liberty. One of the more lyric newsmen, pressed in at the door, reported later in tranquillity: “It had been raining just before, and the sun, which peeped out a moment behind the clouds before setting, broke oddly on the wet, bronze robes of the Goddess until little violet shadows flitted all over her giant limbs and the folds of her draperies.” After ga/ing at the Goddess, the Russian couple turned to face the reporters and meet their friends.
At the pier in Hoboken, thousands of Russian Americans had been waiting in the rain for hours, and when Gorky stepped off the boat at last, the crowd roared and rushed forward. Tchaykoffsky struggled up to ask Gorky, “Do you bring us hope or tears?” but scarcely had time to hear the reassuring reply before a bunch of young men, laughing and shouting, hoisted Gorky onto their shoulders and bore him away in triumph. Others ran to hoist the lady as well. Young Peshkov kept them olf. The police, meanwhile, were having a hard time controlling the exuberant crowd, some of whom were unharnessing the carriage horses that were to draw the visitors to the ferry slip—they wanted to pull Gorky through the streets of Hoboken themselves. A squad of police moved in and got the horses back in the shafts. It was some time before Gorky and his party could step into the carriage and be driven away. After crossing the Hudson by ferry, they proceeded up Broadway to the Hotel Belleclaire at Broadway and Seventy-seventh Street, where Mr. Wilshire had booked rooms for them.