On Sunday President Obama arrived in Shanghai in typical presidential style in Air Force One at Pudong International Airport. It was raining and he had to hold his own umbrella. He was whisked of to the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which used to be one of the better hotels in Shanghai but rates only so-so these days, and the next day was greeted by Shanghai’s Mayor Han Zheng at the Xijiao State Guest House. All very nice. Other Presidents have of course visited Shanghai and their greeting has not always been so delightful.
Take Ulysses S Grant (below) who came to Shanghai shortly after ending his term as America’s 18th Commander in Chief and deciding to take a two year tour of the world. Nothing quite so grand for him. When he arrived (by ship obviously) John Graeme Purdon (1834-1910), a noted Episcopalian and Philadelphian, who was also Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council twice, between 1874 and 1876 and then again between 1892 and 1893, was deputed to greet him. A welcome reception took place, after a 21-gun salute, in the rather rought surroundings of a warehouse at the Jinliyuan Dock since there was no special place for honoured guests back in those days.
The Jinliyuan Dock had been built by the Meiqichang Company in 1862. In its heyday, more than 40,000 people traversed the dock daily – over 6.7mn a year – as they arrived in or departed Shanghai. It was for many decades the largest passenger transport dock in China. It was later renamed the Shiliupu Dock and eventually demolished in 2004.
What Grant thought of being ceremonially welcomed in a warehouse at a dockyard is not (I don’t think) recorded.