- Historic Sites
The Making Of An American Lion
A Welsh waif adopted a new country and a new name and then became—thanks to a New York newspaper—the most famous African explorer of his time
February 1974 | Volume 25, Issue 2
Stanley returned to New York from his Livingstone trip aboard the Cuba from Liverpool on November ao, 1872, a year and ten days after his memorable encounter with Livingstone. As usual the Cuba ’s arrival was reported by one of the Herald ’s fast patrol boats that constantly cruised off the port, waiting to pick up advance shipping news ahead of the rival press. But as she entered the Narrows the Cuba was also greeted by the Fletcher , a steam vessel specially chartered by a group of Stanley’s friends and newspaper associates. From the Fletcher ’s mast streamed an enormous red pennant on which was written the words “welcome home Henry Stanley,” and from her decks a crowd of Stanley’s admirers and members of the American Geographical Society waved and cheered. Stanley was whisked away by carriage from the docks to the Herald ’s office, where he had an interview with his boss, Bennett, and was applauded by his colleagues.
The next day a Herald reporter was sent up to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where Stanley was staying, with particular instructions to take a closer look at Kalulu, the small black boy whom Stanley had brought back with him from Africa and who was already something of a showman. The Herald ’s reporter found Kalulu prancing about dressed up as Buttons in a page-boy suit, and there followed a hilariously garbled interview in alleged Swahili during which Kalulu cheerfully dropped on all fours to imitate a Moslem at prayer, sang a Swahili song, and only lost interest in the proceedings when he turned up some chestnuts to eat. Stanley himself was under siege from numerous callers who had come to offer their congratulations and were being rewarded with a glimpse of the trophies that the explorer had already picked up on his way through London. The chief of these prizes was a splendid gold snuffbox sent to him by Queen Victoria. The lid was decorated with a blue and white enamel background on which appeared the devices of rose, thistle, and shamrock worked in precious stones. In the center of this arrangement was set the Queen’s personal monogram, V.R., surrounded by an imperial crown. Both the crown and the initials were also picked out in diamonds. Opening the lid one read on the reverse side the inscription Presented by HER MAJESTY, QUEEN VICTORIA to HENRY MORTON STANLEY, ESQ. in recognition of the prudence and zeal displayed by him in opening communication with DOCTOR LIVINGSTONE and thus relieving the general anxiety felt in regard to the fate of that distinguished Traveller. London, August 17, 1872.
Two nights after his arrival Stanley attended a reception given in his honor by the Lotos Club. This club, which later changed its name to the more familiar spelling Lotus, was composed largely of newspapermen, merchants, and clerics, and their clubhouse at Irving Place was specially decorated for the occasion with, among other items, a large “welcome” wreath hung over the door. Stanley arrived punctually at eleven, a half hour after the main throng of guests had assembled to cheer him. As usual, Stanley thanked his hosts for their hospitality and stressed his delight on coming home to the United States. He raised a few laughs by recounting how he had discomfited the English. Whitelaw Reid, the president of the Lotos and editor of the rival Tribune , then eulogized at length on Stanley’s achievement as an American journalist; and, as the evening grew more convivial, various other speakers jumped up to add their own notions, usually with bad jokes and worse puns, one being on the fact that Livingstone had seen African natives eating lotus roots.
So the lionization of Stanley gathered speed, ably controlled by the Herald and greatly enjoyed by New York. Over the weekend he and Kalulu visited Gurney’s photographic galleries to have more than twenty portraits taken in various heroic poses, in African dress as well as in western clothing. Among the props Stanley kept by the fireplace at the Fifth Avenue Hotel was a breech-loading gun that, he claimed, Livingstone himself had used against hippopotamuses. Doctor Livingstone’s brother, John, who had emigrated to Canada, also came down to New York to congratulate and thank the explorer, an arrival that the Herald greeted with the headline LIVINGSTONE FINDS STANLEY .