- 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
At no time, however, did he forget those early days in America that first launched him on his phenomenally successful life. In 1890, as the most successful African explorer of his day and the friend of kings, prime ministers, and millionaires, he came back to America to make a lengthy lecture tour. This time it was a great success. He travelled from one end of the country to the other in a special private Pullman car named the Henry M. Stanley, complete with its own kitchen and cook, a dining section that converted at night into a dormitory, a drawing room with a piano, three state bedrooms, and a bathroom.
The tour was also a pilgrimage for Stanley. Everywhere he went, he looked again for the places that he remembered from his youth. He paid a visit to New Orleans, strolled nostalgically up Tchapitoulas Street, and took his aristocratic English wife to the French market to treat her to what he claimed was a “cup of the best coffee in the world” from Monsieur Morel’s coffee stand there. Stanley also examined the Civil War battlefields and called at some of the towns he had originally described in the Missouri Democrat .
Stanley remained a fervent romantic about America. After his death, when the time came to make an inventory of the great explorer’s be- longings, the researchers found boxes and trunks neatly labelled and organized in a manner typical of his tidy mind. In one trunk they found a small collection of Civil War mementos, including several Confederate notes, eagle buttons, three belt clasps, and eleven minié balls. But most extraordinary of all, among the heaps of African shields and spears, the Pygmy poisoned arrows, and all the paraphernalia of his great African trips on which he had found tribes previously unknown to the white man, Stanley had carefully preserved a broken stone peace pipe of the sort so commonly found in the American West. According to its label, it was believed to have once belonged to Chief Sitting Bull.