Queen Elizabeth II’s 1959 Chicago visit was only stop on Great Lakes tour

The queen was accompanied by her husband Prince Philip for a daylong stop in Chicago.

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Queen Elizabeth II rode in a parade along the lakefront of Grant Park with then Illinois Gov. William Stratton and Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1959.

Queen Elizabeth II rode in a parade along the lakefront of Grant Park with then Illinois Gov. William Stratton and Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1959.

Sun-Times File Photo

Chicago will forever have a special connection with Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away Thursday at the age of 96.

The longest-reigning British monarch visited Chicago in 1959 along with her husband Prince Philip, at the invitation of then Mayor Richard J. Daley. The royal couple was in the U.S. for an official tour of the Great Lakes region following the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It would be their only U.S. port of disembarkation on the tour.

According to news reports at the time, more than 1 million spectators lined the lakeshore and Michigan Avenue for a parade to welcome the couple after their arrival via the HMY Britannia, at the landing at Buckingham Fountain.

“A wild, noisy reception went off on the lakefront. Jets crisscrossed overhead. Fireboats shot plumes of water 100 feet in the air. Mortars bombarded the sunny blue sky with the Stars and Stripes and Union Jacks,” Chicago Daily News reporter Henry M. Hanson wrote of the festivities surrounding the royal arrival.

“My husband and I are very glad to be here today. We have looked forward for a very long time to coming here and meeting our American friends in the middle of the country,” the queen said in her remarks to the gathered crowd.

Among the places visited in a 14-hour whirlwind tour by the queen and her husband were Navy Pier where a 2,300-foot-long red carpet welcomed them for a look at the Chicago International Trade Fair, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago, lunch at the Ambassador Hotel, and a formal gala dinner at the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

According to a Sun-Times story the following day describing highlights of the gala dinner, the queen was greeted by hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and a 26-piece U.S. Army band from Washington.

Inside the grand ballroom, she sat between Mayor Richard J. Daley and Chicago first lady Eleanor “Sis” Daley.

The queen wore a tiara bearing and emerald surrounded by diamonds, a white dress and diamond necklace also studded with emeralds.

“Today history, unforgettable history, has been made in Chicago, and we have all been privileged to be a part of it,” the mayor gushed in his remarks at the dinner.

After Daley toasted the queen, she offered her own toast “to the President of the United States.” The room burst into applause when the mayor told the royal couple to “come back and see us again and bring your children with you.”

In an unexpected tour stop, the queen underwent an emergency tooth filling replacement by a local dentist at his downtown office just hours before the gala dinner.

“Queen Elizabeth II won Chicago’s heart Monday,” the Chicago Daily News reported of the visit on July 6, 1959. “Crowds went daffy in a daylong love affair with the Queen.”

Below are some images of the historic visit:

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive via royal barge near Monroe Harbor.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive via royal barge near Monroe Harbor.

Chicago Sun-Times Collection/Chicago History Museum

Mayor Richard Daley is among the entourage of dignitaries and troops greeting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip upon their 1959 arrival in Chicago. 

Mayor Richard Daley is among the entourage of dignitaries and troops greeting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip upon their 1959 arrival in Chicago.

Chicago Sun-Times collection/Chicago History Museum

Pomp and circumstance and a flourish by the Marine CorpsBand greet Queen Elizabeth II, on July 6, 1959, at the entrance to Chicago’s International Trade Fair. This was one of sites the Queen and her husband Prince Philip visited during all-day tour of city.

Pomp and circumstance and a flourish by the Marine Corps Band greet Queen Elizabeth II, on July 6, 1959, at the entrance to Chicago’s International Trade Fair. This was one of sites the Queen and her husband Prince Philip visited during all-day tour of city.

AP Photo/J. Walter Green

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Art Institute of Chicago in 1959.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit the Art Institute of Chicago in 1959.

Chicago Sun-Times Collection/Chicago History Museum

Queen Elizabeth is photographed at a banquet hosted by Mayor Richard Daley at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, 720 S. Michigan, in 1959. 

Queen Elizabeth II chats with Mayor Richard J. Daley at a banquet hosted by him in her honor at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, 720 S. Michigan, in 1959.

Chicago Sun-Times Collection/ Chicago History Museum

After a busy day in Chicago, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II offers toast during dinner given by Mayor Richard Daley at Hilton Hotel, July 6, 1959 at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The reception for the Queen was termed “the greatest she has ever experienced outside Britain.” 

After a busy day in Chicago, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II offers toast during dinner given by Mayor Richard J. Daley at the Hilton Hotel, July 6, 1959. The reception for the queen was termed “the greatest she has ever experienced outside Britain.”

AP Photo/Edward Kitch

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip attend a banquet hosted by Mayor Richard Daley at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The welcome banquet was attended by 1,200 people. 

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attend a banquet hosted by Mayor Richard J. Daley at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The welcome banquet was attended by 1,200 people.

Chicago Sun-Times Collection/Chicago History Museum

Sidewalks in the business district are jammed with people as Queen Elizabeth II waves from her car in Chicago during a tour of the city, July 6, 1959. Her Majesty in car normally used for tours by the president sits with Gov. William Stratton of Illinois and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley as the procession goes south of State St.

Sidewalks in the business district are jammed with people as Queen Elizabeth II waves from her car in Chicago during a tour of the city, July 6, 1959. Her Majesty in car normally used for tours by the president sits with Gov. William Stratton of Illinois and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley as the procession goes south of State St.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip board cars to travel into the city.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip board cars to travel into the city.

Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum

Crowds of people line the streets of Michigan Avenue, State Street and Oak Street to see the procession of Queen Elizabeth II

Crowds of people line the streets of Michigan Avenue, State Street and Oak Street to see the procession of Queen Elizabeth II.

Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum

Chicagoans lining the streets of downtown Chicago to see the Queen.

Chicagoans lining the streets of downtown Chicago to see the Queen.

Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum

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