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Following the greeting at the Battery, the participants divided into a long procession of limousines and embarked on their journey to "The World of Tomorrow." The Brooklyn Eagle had suggested planners allow the young couple to shed their majestic manner in New York and just be themselves. And, what better opportunity could offer itself than the ride which so many famous persons of all nations undertook – a tickertape parade down Broadway. However, in one communication, FDR warned George to avoid a drive through New York's narrow, crowded streets. The British embassy in Washington, citing security concerns over the unrestrained enthusiasm of New Yorker celebrity – worshipping millions, agreed, thus denying the royal couple and New Yorkers the grand reception. Mayor LaGuardia complained later the crowds would have tripled in size if the welcome had been done properly and blamed the British foreign office and the United States state department for the lack of tickertape.

King George and Queen Elizabeth arrive at the '39 NY World's Fair
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive at the Fairgrounds:
Photo courtesy of the NY Public Library (image 1674929)

Most commentators complained that the subsequent, unattractive route chosen excluded the sights and sounds people the world over sought out and admired in the famed metropolis. Still massive crowds, including large contingents of school children, lined the thoroughfares. Scotland Yard demanded the motorcade proceed at 50 MPH. However, the genuinely enthusiastic, heart – felt welcome of three and a half million New Yorkers touched the king. He insisted on slowing the cars to 25 MPH. Through one of the most elaborate two – way radio hook–ups ever used in the city, the police department kept a minute – by – minute record of every move of the British royal party. Twice New York Police Commissioner Lewis Valentine radioed the entourage the road was clear only to receive word their majesties requested the motorcade's slower pace


The motorcade approached the fair on the newly - constructed Grand Central Parkway. Sightseers lined the fence overlooking the roadway, as wives dragged their husband from the endless, snake – like lines waiting to enter General Motors' Futurama for a few seconds glimpse of the royal couple. At 12:38, half an hour behind schedule due to the procession's slower pace, the King and Queen entered the fairgrounds through the World's Fair Boulevard Gate. Lieut. F. B. Reybold telephoned an officer at Camp George Washington, across Fountain Lake, who instituted a twenty – one gun salute. The guns' roar ironically shattered the glass case holding George Washington's signet ring in nearby Washington Hall. And in the excitement of the moment, WOR's Jerry Lawrence informed listeners "There goes the 21 – son – galoot."

The motorcade stopped at Perylon Hall where Walter Derrak, an extremely nervous uniformed receptionist, opened the door and the queen descended. The fair's president, Grover Whalen, stepped forward, welcomed them, and whisked the couple into the Hall's private elevator. As they ascended the king turned and inquired of Whalen, "When do we eat?" Whalen's grandiose arrangements included a luncheon at the Federal Building, but only following an extensive welcoming ceremony. (Later, Eleanor Roosevelt confessed to Lorena Hickock, an old friend and employee at the fair's administrative offices, that the King and Queen did not "fall for Grover.")


Whalen escorted the King and Queen into Perylon Hall's main reception room, refurbished with Louis XIV and Louis XVI antiques and tapestries loaned by French & Co. and valued at $685,000. The couple crossed the burnished black linoleum floor and sat on a raised dais, signed the guestbook – George R. I. and Elizabeth R., received a Cartier gold and crystal Trylon and Perisphere, and began the arduous task of greeting hundreds of fair officials, city and state administrators, and New York's social elite.

Girl marshals, in blue uniforms, wearing round, flat straw hats surmounted with a Trylon and Perisphere, ushered the privileged few to the dais in groups of ten. The first guests introduced to the King and Queen bowed or curtsied but Elizabeth graciously stated, "Don't you think we should just shake hands?" The Brooklyn Eagle certainly agreed, labeling the distinguished visitors better democrats than the official hosts.

The reception line also provided the most awkward moment of the U.S. tour when Italy's Commissioner General Giuseppe Cantu refused to shake hands, raising his arm in a Nazi salute instead. The usually unflappable Queen could not control her surprised expression for a brief moment. Cantu's abrupt action sent murmurs throughout the assembly.

George, glancing at the interminable line of officials and socialites, informed Prime Minister King he could not possibly shake hands with everyone and wished to wash up for lunch. British Ambassador Lindsay informed Whalen of the itinerary change. Social notables Mrs. Vincent Astor, resplendent in a purple and black print gown, and Edward Roosevelt, the First Lady's cousin and, also, a fair employee, stared in disbelief as the royal couple started to leave. Mayor LaGuardia questioned the fair president, "What the hell are you doing?" Whalen, on the run after the royal party, replied: "Don't ask me, Fiorello. Ask him?".


Over one hundred thousand fair visitors, second only to Charlie McCarthy's visit, began pouring into the grounds when the gates opened at 9:00 am. Each paying guest received a souvenir card certifying their attendance at the fair to see the King and Queen. (This idea proved so popular that the fair eventually sold attendance certificates at booths placed about the fairgrounds on normal days.)

Primary vantage points filled quickly: the doorways and roofs of the foreign pavilions surrounding the Court of Peace (with the exception of Mexico which was draped in mourning crape) and the deck of the New England exhibit's Yankee. The best spot along the parade route lay between the statues of The Four Freedoms. However, the police kept the area free from pedestrians, telling one young man his vantage point was too good to be true. The Perisphere show closed two hours prior to the royal arrival and only a few with the proper credentials where allowed on the Helicline. Some visitors, who arrived especially early, grew tired and hired rolling chairs at $2.25 an hour to sit and be reasonably comfortable.

By noon the temperature reached 83 degrees and an old lady joked with an orange drink attendant, "Yeah, this is what you call a warm reception for the King and Queen." At Perylon Hall, the participants reassembled in another motorcade under a slight drizzle. However, the Queen refused to have the open cars covered and within a few yards the light rain stopped. The procession wound its way at 3½ to 4 MPH to the Federal Building for lunch. 3,376 uniformed policemen and 400 to 500 additional security men kept the public twenty feet from their majesties. Even at this, the throng gave an impressive, heart - warming welcome and George and Elizabeth responded. The Sun's Dave Boone wondered who would have thought Americans would voluntarily change the cry to "Don't cheer until you see the whites of their eyes?" He added the King or Queen could have anything in New York they asked for that day, including the Trylon and Perisphere.


As at the White House, the staff of the Federal Building was consumed with extensive preparations. Walter Dorwin Teague designed the queen's powder room in shades of pink and dove gray, utilizing a theme of tropical birds and luxuriant foliage. The two matrons specifically removed the ash trays and cigarette boxes as the Queen disapproves of public smoking. The secret service took exceptional precautions for the Federal Building luncheon, sweeping of the entire building on Friday and guarding it throughout that evening. Security also prevented the building's normal staff from entering on Saturday.

In early April the Journal American's noted social columnist, Cholly Knickerbocker, insinuated that Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Sr. would host a dinner for the royal pair at the super exclusive Terrace Club on the fairgrounds. However, this responsibility soon fell to the United States Commissioner, Edward J. Flynn. Flynn enlisted the aid of the Federal Building's major domo, Dante Cattaneo, who'd previously served the King's parents in Paris. Cattaneo, aided by T. Yier Jardin, the Terrace Club's chef – steward and Martin Sweeney, the fair's caterer, supervised the one hundred percent American meal. The single – named Joseph prepared the dishes.

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