New York’s oddest tourists: the Chinese delegation of 1911

Above: Chinese naval officers, with Mayor William Jay Gaynor, mounting the steps of Grant’s Tomb, 9/11/11.

Workers at the Hudson waterfront awoke on September 11, 1911, to catch quite a curious sight in the water that day. It wasn’t the size of the ship that struck gathering crowds or its loud, rumbling engines; after all, the Chelsea piers hosted the largest ships in the world, and military vessels frequently traveled up and down the harbor. But this exotic, 4,300 ton cruiser was from a world away – the Hai Chi (or ‘Flag of the Sea’) from China, the first ever to enter American waters.

As the vessel sailed into harbor, greeted with cannon salutes from Fort Wadsworth and Fort William on Governor’s Island, New Yorkers were most captivated by the bright yellow flag held aloft by the breeze, emblazoned with a “huge blue dragon, with big black eyes, a flaming red tongue and white claws a foot long,” according the New York Times.