Wentworth Adjusts to the World Spotlight
Privy to the unfolding of the story that proceeded to rivet world attention, the people of Portsmouth were fully engaged. The headlines in the Portsmouth Herald kept the high-profile daily score and stakes in people’s minds. From the welcoming parade on August 8th when ordinary citizens lined the streets ten deep in their Sunday best, to the throngs at the train station to wave goodbye, this was a peace conference that both captured and expressed that peculiar Portsmouth attention to civic affairs: that ordinary people matter; they care, they get personally involved.
The social set brought out their memories of attending the Czar’s wedding and the tea they had brought back from Japan. Their daughters flitted on the Wentworth verandah for a glimpse of the celebrities, or, even better a dance with the dashing and exotic junior officers, Russian and Japanese. A magnet for those who would arrive with enough trunks and servants to last the summer season, the Wentworth was full of socialites, as well as the newspapermen and a constant flow of petitioners. Man of letters, William Dean Howells, then a correspondent for Harper's Weekly and Colliers magazines, dubbed the earnest daughters of the dowagers “the summer girls” of Wentworth. The Russians, particularly Korostovetz, were amazed at the liberty allowed to these unchaperoned young women who flocked to the diplomats. Korostovetz’ memoir of the evening that peace finally was achieved gives almost as much space to the star struck young women at Wentworth who begged to be introduced to Witte as to the triumphant reception the entourage received on returning to the hotel.
On the Wentworth verandah: the Russians (left), Japanese (right) and newspapermen.
The newspapermen looked under every palm branch in the hotel for a story. And the hotel telegraph operator, Henry Cooper, who assembled an autograph book that was a “Who’s Who” of the Portsmouth Treaty.
Next: There were even two observers, recent research suggests, who might better have been described as "spies" -- named O’Laughlin and Asakawa.