Alice in Plunderland
The Gifts at Alice's Wedding
As wedding gifts began pouring in from foreign heads of state the president was forced to declare an outright ban but some got through early under the radar screen. The Mikado of Japan sent silver vases, King Alfonso of Spain sent antique jewelry, and the Cuban government sent an exquisite string of sixty-two matched pearls with a diamond clasp worth almost a half million dollars in today’s money. The President of France sent a rare Gobelin tapestry that was considered “priceless.” The King of Italy offered a table so large that Alice could never use it. King Edward VII presented a blue and gold enameled snuffbox with diamonds on the lid. Pope Pius X presented “a mosaic representing the great paintings in the Vatican.” The German Kaiser offered a bracelet of diamonds. The most exotic gift and one of Alice’s favorites, was a hand carved teak chest from the Empress Dowager of China. Determined not to lose face in the international competition, the Empress had secreted in the various compartments dozens of valuable gifts of jewelry, an ermine coat, a fox coat, valuable Chinese paintings and jade carvings.
Common folk sent in gifts of their own and announced clever ploys to wrangle an invitation to the wedding, while the local press heralded the antics of its citizens as human interest stories. Telegrams arrived from new parents announcing that they had named their babies after Alice. When a group announced they were raising $800,000 so America’s first daughter could live in style for the rest of her life, the president announced that Alice would not accept it. Most of the gifts Alice Roosevelt never saw and many were still found unopened at her death.