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The Titans of Commerce and Industry

The History Channel recently aired “The Men Who Built America,” a docu-series about the titans of the early industrial age featuring Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. As a self-described history junkie, I was immediately hooked. So imagine my delight when I came across a poster of Hosts & Guests at a banquet tendered for HRH Prince Henry of Prussia, New York, dated 1902 Feb 26 (reprinted 1905) while processing the photographs in the Doris Duke collection.

The portraits in the poster represent a veritable “Who’s-who” of the movers and shakers of the early 20th century, including Vanderbilt’s son William, Rockefeller (and son), Morgan, Nikola Tesla (with his wavy hair and dreamy eyes), his arch-nemeses Thomas A. Edison, Adolphus Busch and Frederick Pabst (for our beer lovers), Marshall Field (perhaps the most well-dressed?), and our very own James B. Duke.

So what brought these men together?

In 1902 Germany made a concerted effort to improve its relationship with the United States. One of the warmest displays of this diplomatic effort was a visit by the younger brother of German Emperor William II, His Royal Highness (HRR) Prince Henry of Prussia (1862-1929). The two week tour (February 22-March 11) was specifically designed to allay misgivings arising from a conflict between the United States and German fleets in Manila in 1898.

On February 25th, HRH Prince Henry made a brief stop in New York City. The next day he attended a formal luncheon with the “representatives of commerce and industry” at 12:30 p.m. after which he continued sightseeing in New York. The banquet was commemorated by the poster now housed in the soon to be available Doris Duke Photograph Collection.

Want to learn more about Prince Henry’s visit? The Internet Archive has made available the “Tour of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia in the United States of America: Under the Personally-Conducted System of the Pennsylvania Railroad,” a floridly detailed itinerary or “General Programme” of his visit to the United States.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist.