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Crawford, Hanford
Autograph Letter Signed. Berlin, Germany, June 15, 1879To his sister, Mrs. J.E. Leaycroft, New York City.

Octavo, 4 pp. with stamped mailing envelope., in very good clean and legible condition

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“…in honor of the emperor’s golden wedding…there was a concert on a square near here, from a chorus of 1500 male voices and 400 instruments (among them 100 drums); the execution was very fine, the selections good, the silence among the thousands of spectators singularly impressive. Not only was the entire square covered…but the windows, balconies and roofs of the encircling houses were filled with people…the air was thick enough to cut, a man ought to be at least seven feet high to be really above the influence which a crowd of ordinary Germans has upon the atmosphere ‘meme en plein air’. From here we went with all due speed to the neighborhood of the palaces to see the procession of carriages to the Schloss where the ceremony took place and where the receptions follow one another for several hours. No one was admitted except on special invitation, the whole effort was to make it quite a family affair; hence I stood on the street with the rest of the common herd and gazed at the embroidered coachmen and footmen and at the finely caparisoned…horses. After the ceremony was completed, 101 guns were fired and the ambassadors opened the line of visitors; later the emperor and some of the ‘great ones’ returned to the royal palace to dinner and the 150,000 strangers dispersed to pick up their more frugal meal at places to suit the tastes. In the afternoon, we had visits from four students from Leipzig, for two of whom we had to help hunt up lodgings. When the number of strangers is remembered, you will not wonder that we hunted quite a while before finding places for them. In the evening we went out to see the illumination and enjoy the various sensations produced by mingling with a great crowd on a popular holiday. The street Unter den Linden was very brilliantly illuminated with gas jets in the form of eagles, wreaths… stars, monograms and every small window was lighted with from 6-20 candles. The facades of several buildings were illuminated in outline, which produced a thrilling effect; at the same time there was a gala-opera in the royal opera house to which only invited guests were allowed admission…You have no reason to regret, I hope, that I have been in Europe these two years…”

When he wrote this letter, Hanford Crawford (1854-1930) was a 25-year-old graduate of the City College of New York who, after working as a schoolteacher to raise money for travel, sailed for England and spent three years studying at the Universities of Leipzig, Berlin, Geneva and Paris, while travelling throughout the continent.  Returning to New York in 1877 to begin a business career, he became Superintendent of a large New York City department store until moving to St. Louis to manage a Dry Goods Company which became one of the largest commercial corporations west of the Mississippi. Active in all phases of St. Louis business and civic affairs, he was the principal benefactor of the St. Louis Symphony and a director of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. His daughter would become a social worker and economist who played an important part in bringing immigrant American students to the University of Pittsburgh. His sister Caroline, to whom this letter was written, was the wife of J. Edgar Leaycroft, a wealthy New York City real estate man and later New York State Tax Commissioner. Some of Leaycroft’s papers are held by Indiana University, but apparently nothing of this early a date.