Yes, a queen really did land there.
And the occasion was marked by rockets exploding in the skies, military aircraft zooming overhead, “welcoming geysers” of water shooting into the air – and, yes, the rolling out of the red carpet.
It was July 6, 1959, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip came to Chicago, becoming the first reigning British monarch ever to visit the city.
“This is magnificent. What wonderful people!” the queen said.
They were here to celebrate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which made the city a world seaport. The royal couple sailed in aboard the blue-hulled royal yacht Britannia, before transferring to a royal barge in Monroe Street Harbor.
A crowd of 50,000 stood at the foot of Congress Street to watch them arrive on mildly choppy Lake Michigan waters, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“The barge headed for shore surrounded by pleasure craft and led by a police boat with wailing siren,” the newspaper reported. “Aerial bombs exploded in the bright, cloudless sky and three flights of military aircraft zoomed overhead. Fireboats sent up tall, welcoming geysers.”
“It was ‘queen’s weather,’ with a cooling northeast wind and the harbor sparkling like crown jewels.”
As U.S. Army trumpeters played “Rule Britannia,” the queen walked up a red carpet to be greeted by Mayor Richard J. Daley and Gov. William Stratton and other dignitaries.
Eleanor “Sis” Daley and Mrs. Stratton each gave the queen a bouquet of red roses. Special guests in a receiving stand applauded the queen, the newspaper reported, and “a number of admiring ladies in the stand greeted Prince Philip’s passage with sighs.”
“The chestnut-haired Queen wore a full-skirted white lace dress with a brimmed white lace hat,” according to the Chicago Daily News account.
“Bands played. Rockets exploded. The Queen’s dress was re-embroidered in dark and light brown. She wore a brown lace belt and matching white accessories.”
Addressing the crowd, the queen said: “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.”
Apparently, it was mutual.
“Queen Elizabeth II won Chicago’s heart Monday,” the Daily News reported. “Crowds went daffy in a day-long love affair with the Queen.”