Today, the Leif Ericson Millennium Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when the small Viking ship, a faithful reproduction, arrived at New York on June 17, 1893.
From The Sun, a New York newspaper, of the following day:
As They Sailed in 1000 A.D.
The Viking Ship of Leif the Red Revived for the Columbian Year.
Received with Noisy Cannon, Speeches, Steam Whistles, Champagne, and Cheers of Admiration — She Can Sail as Well as Look Quaint and Pretty, and Will Stay in the North River Perhaps for a Week.
The men sang “Ja Vi elsker dette Landet” and other songs of Bjornson’s, and the bands played the music of Nordraaik and Reissige and some chorus or some band was always singing or playing “Olaf Tryggvason,” and so the ship Viking and her handsome, hardy crew were welcomed to New York harbor yesterday.
Of course there were other features in the reception: they were so many and notable that in addressing the reception committee, Capt Magnus Anderson returned his thanks for “this almost royal reception.” If he had any Idea of comparisons in his mind when he chose that term for characterizing the quality of the welcome given him, he could have said “more than” royal.
More people were concerned in it, more small craft enlivened the scene, there was more music and more enthusiasm than in the first reception to the only person of royal rank who has entered the harbor this Columbian year. And more guns were fired in honor of the little Viking than for even Eulalia.
The Viking left Newport so late on Friday that she was not expected to come up with the Miantonomoh, which escorted her from City Island, until about 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon. But In tow of the fast tug John Fuller and favored by wind and tide, the trip was made in less time than was expected, and the beautiful little craft dropped anchor by the side of her ponderous escort at a quarter before 2 o’clock.
The Viking dropped her tow line a mile above City Island, and proudly sailed to her anchorage, just to show the big war ship, the hundreds of cheering Norwegians on excursion steamers, and the swarm of steam and sail yachts that she was no toy craft and that her one square red and white sail was meant for business.
She was as pretty a craft as any that floated in sight of City Island. The caravels were attractive because of their quaintness, but the Viking excited the admiration of the nautical experts. Her lines are as graceful as those of the birch-bark canoes made by the Lake Superior Indians. Picturesqueness is added by the upward swoop of her prow in the shape of a dragon’s neck and head, and of her stern post which ends high over the helmsman’s head In the form of the dragon’s tail.
This craft which is an exact reproduction of the Norse boat unearthed at Sandefjord and preserved in the museum at Christiania, was in traditional trim for the first time on this cruise when she arrived at City Island yesterday. That is, the sail, made in four separable pieces, was set, the alternate black and yellow shields, by which the oarsmen’s heads were protected, were in place, sixteen on each rail, the little portholes beneath the shields were ready for the oars, and every modern contrivance had been left behind at Newport. So the open hull was as free for active fighting or other Viking pastimes as were those of the craft which are said to have made Charlemagne weep when they sailed, uninvited, up French rivers.
The Viking’s one sail is fastened — bent, the mariners say — to a cross spar which is let down on deck when the sail is to be set or furled. The four pieces into which the sail can be separated allow sail to be shortened by taking one or more pieces from across the bottom, as one or more reefs are desirable. The rudder, which is on the starboard side and near the stern is operated by a tiller which runs across ship, instead of fore and aft. It is just a steerboard, placed exactly where an Indian who is steering a canoe holds his paddle.
All of these points were noticed by the yachtsmen, and they excited the liveliest interest as the Viking, after coming down with the east wind behind her and her sail squared, hauled aft her single sheet, flattened the sail nearly fore and aft, and came up surprisingly close to the wind, with never a centerboard or fin to help her.
It was after this little display of seamanship was over and her anchor had been dropped that the enthusiasm on board the welcoming craft broke forth with tremendous strength. The Miantonomoh was already firing her salute of twenty-one guns, but on the countless yachts and the four big excursion boats the curiosity and interest in the little craft, the wonder that such a bit of an open ship could have crossed the North Atlantic, had been too great to admit of noisy expression.
When she was settled at her anchorage, and the landsmen had all exclaimed ” Well, bless me!” and the yachtsmen had made more nautical comment the noisy demonstration seemed to be a relief. There were cannons, pert little cannon on smart little yachts, cheers, songs, and brass band music in plenty.
The official reception was in charge of a committee which Prof. H. H. Boyesen was Chairman, and which met the Viking a few miles above City Island on the side-wheeler Laura M. Starin. As soon as the Viklng was at anchor the committee sent a tug to her to bring off Capt. Anderson and his entire crew. The Naval Reserve signal men on the Starin also wigwagged an invitation to Capt. Cicard and his officers on the Miantonomoh to come on board for lunch. The Naval Reserve signal men never wigwagged more plainly, and the answer came back promptly: “With pleasure.”
When the tug with the Viking’s crew came alongside the Starin the reception committee and a number of Norwegian ladies who were on board showed the feeling which this incident has aroused in the Norse-American heart. The Norwegian band onboard was playing the serious, almost solemn, music of Reisiger’s, to which Bjornson’s poem, “Olaf Tryggvason,” has been set and on a nearby steamer a Norwegian society was singing the song. It is the kind of music which in ordinary circumstances makes the heart swell, but then, when these modern Viking first stood face to face with their welcoming countrymen and women, having accomplished a deed of the kind that the Norwegian sagas have made heroic, the usual speech of welcome was not heard from the men, and as for the women, they frankly wept and did not try to hide their tears any more than their smiles.
Of course this was no way to receive those thirteen blonde-bearded, bronzed-cheeked men who silently stepped on the deck of the steamer. Alter Prof. Boyesen had shaken hands with half a dozen and had tried to say something to each, and each time had failed. Mr. Joseph H. Choate cheerily remarked, as if someone else had said something: “And now let’s adjourn to the cabin and have a little lunch and wine.”
There spoke the veteran committeeman. Prof. Boyesen gave Mr. Choate a thankful glance and Capt. Anderson an arm, and the procession moved in order, as Mr. Choate had suggested. In the cabin the party was joined by Capt Cicard and his officers, and in another moment the Captain of a ship of the model of 900 and the Captain of a ship of 1893 were shaking hands heartily.
After that there was no question of lack of talk. All the Viking chaps speak English, and besides Mr. S. Nicholson Kane told the steward to serve champagne immediately after the bouillon, and keep right on serving it: the salads and things would be looked after by the committee. Those Vikings—it is only natural to call them Vikings, they look so like every picture of a Viking one ever saw—drink champagne in a manner which Is worth notice. To hold a full glass they deem an act of discourtesy.
When a Viking’s glass is filled he regards it a second as one who says, “This is well,” moves it slowly up until his blond beard mingles with the foam, and then there follows a short, quick motion of the elbow. Then there isn’t any wine in the glass, yet the Viking has not appeared to swallow anything. The wine goes out of the glass all at once, like an egg out of a severed shell.
When everyone had become acquainted with everyone else, Prof. Boyeson made a little speech of welcome. When he came to speak of the voyage of Leif Ericssen to this continent 500 years before Columbus, the scholars who decline to entertain the Icelandic saga as worthy of investigation should have been there to listen.
Prof. Boyesen assumed the truth of the tradition that Leif explored the coast from Newfoundland to Cape Cod, naming the latter “Vineland,” and that he made that interesting voyage about the year 1000. The sagas also say that another Leif, “Leif the Lucky,” made a voyage to this country in 985. Prof. Boyesen did not desire to detract from the honor due to the discovery by Columbus; he only wished it distinctly understood that Leif Ericssen came across in a boat like the Viking on purpose to find this country, and found it. Prof. Boyesen welcomed Capt. Anderson and his crew, and asked the ladies and gentlemen present to join him in drinking a glass of wine as a token of everybody’s satisfaction with everything. Then the Professor formally asked Capt. Anderson what he had to say for himself.
That handsome sailor stepped to the head of the table, blushed, emptied a glass of wine behind his long moustache and proceeded to say that on behalf of the committee of Norwegians whose efforts had made his trip possible, on behalf of the citizens of Norway whoso contributions had seconded the committee’s efforts, and on behalf of his officers and crew he thanked the present committee for its almost royal welcome. He, too, was a firm believer in the sagas’ account of the voyage of Leif Ericssen.
When the Captain had made his speech, President Low of Columbia spoke of Norway’s renown as a country whose men were daring navigators, and praised its literary achievements.
Next Mr. Joseph H. Choate was called upon. He said he thought he ought not to speak. In the presence of such guests he could not help thinking how little time Leif Ericssen would have had in which to discover Care Cod if he had spent as much time as some people he (Mr. Choate) could name in making and listening to speeches.
The laugh with which those thirteen Vikings greeted that remark shook the ship. That pleased Mr. Choate, and he was reminded to say that a very profitable and sentimental discourse might be based upon the presence near them of two so strangely unlike ships as the Viking and the Miantonomoh. He would not make the discourse; he would say only that of the two he, a man of peace and lover of beauty, preferred the graceful Viking to the frowning Miantonomoh.
Then Capt. Cicard was asked to talk, he declined, saying only that he and all American naval officers had looked with great interest upon the voyage of the Viking, and he considered its safe accomplishment a wonderful feat performed by brave and able seamen.
That pleased the Vikings, and each one dropped a glass of wine inside his throat, nodding approvingly at Capt. Cicard the while.
Mr. S. Nicholson Kane then, on behalf of the yachtsmen and yacht clubs of America, welcomed the Norsemen, and the ceremony was finished.
It was nearly 4 o’clock by that time, and a committee was aboard from one of the excursion steamers to ask Capt. Anderson and his men to make them a visit. Mr. Choate whispered to Capt Anderson to cut his visit short as there were thousands waiting on the wharves of New York, Brooklyn, and Jersey City to see his ship, and the days were shorter here than in Norway. Acting upon this hint the procession was soon under way.
First was the Patrol, then the Miantonomoh, followed by the Viking in tow of the navy yard tug Narkeeta, and then a big fleet of miscellaneous craft. All the factories and all the steamers passed shrieked welcome, and at least a hundred yachts gave cannon salutes.
The Viking had her sail set and carried four flags forward the Stars and Stripes, at her maintop her own pennant, on the backstay the old Viking flag, a square red flag bearing n black raven, and aft the Norwegian flag, with the jack of Norway and Sweden.
She looked so brave and handsome that the big sound boats and the heavy down-East coasters were not content with the usual three whistles of salute, but shrieked away all out of order in a manner which plainly evinced the delight of the men in the pilot houses.
The promised thousands were indeed upon the water fronts, and after the bridge was passed and Castle Williams began her salute of twenty-one guns the river craft which saluted were countless, also.
An old boatman off the Battery, alone in his boat, rested on his oars, looked long at the Viking, and then slowly pulled off his cap and nodded stiffly to Capt Anderson. That old chap did not uncover for the Columbian fleet. There was nothing to wonder at in crossing the ocean in a 7000 ton ship, but here was something worthwhile.
Opposite Twentieth street in the North River, the Viking cast off her tow line, thirty-two oars wore shoved through the sides, and the trip to Thirty-fourth Street was made by rowIng. That was a pretty sight, the long oars, making slow sweeps, twenty to the minute, propelled by men hid behind the shields. The little visitor dropped anchor near the Miantonomoh, and she will remain there until next Thursday, or possibly Saturday, when she will continue her voyage by the canal and lakes to Chicago.
The Leif Ericson Millennium Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the Viking ship being towed in the New York harbor in 1893.