|The "Gondola Party" (1905)|
Standing with the dignitaries on the launching platform, Alice Roosevelt, the president’s daughter and debutant of the season, did the honors, christening the new schooner Meteor, using a bottle of Kessler’s White Star Extra Dry Champagne.
|President Roosevelt with Alice at the Launching (1902)|
Sitting on the dais for a few minutes, the president and the prince exchanged toasts with glasses of Champagne, amidst the cheers of the large crowd, before leaving to attend a smaller luncheon on board the Hohenzollern, the German ship that sailed into New York Harbor three days earlier, bringing the prince to the United States. As reflected by the admission ticket shown below, this was a more exclusive gathering. It was here that Prince Henry presented “Princess” Alice, as the president’s daughter was called by the press, with a gift from the Kaiser—a gold bracelet mounted with a portrait of the German Emperor surrounded in diamonds.
President Roosevelt returned to Washington after lunch, while the prince proceeded to New York City to attend a dinner in his honor at the Metropolitan Club. The banquet menu shown below includes terrapin à la Baltimore and Canvasback duck, the great American delicacies served at the White House the night before.
This menu also had two cards tucked inside—a note with instructions for the diners and the small seating chart shown below. The place marked in red pencil was reserved for businessman James Jewett Stillman, still considered one of the hundred richest Americans who ever lived. Other wealthy financiers in attendance included Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor, and J. Pierpont Morgan. Notably absent at this banquet was Moët & Chandon Champagne, suggesting that it was more difficult to bribe your way onto the menu at the Metropolitan Club, than it was at the White House. Indeed, the scandal must have been distasteful for President Roosevelt, a reform-minded politician who fought corruption. It is interesting that two months later, the president sent a memorandum to Henry Pinckey, the White House steward, instructing him to serve only Ruinart Champagne at an upcoming state dinner.
Prince Henry’s trip to the United States in 1902 was one of the most momentous royal visits in the nation’s history. During his two-week tour, he was greeted by a frenzy of enthusiasm, particularly in the cities with large German-American populations. Unfortunately, the warm feelings of his goodwill tour soon faded, as the details of George Kessler’s shenanigans began coming to light. For one thing, it was confirmed that he had supplied free Champagne for the White House dinner and the luncheon on Shooter’s Island. It was also discovered in testimony that Kessler gave the shipbuilder $5000 to substitute a bottle of his Champagne for the Rheingold wine that the German Embassy provided for the launching. This was a big problem, for it turned out that the schooner was a German imperial vessel, and as such, it could only be christened with German wine, as mandated by law.