In May 1904, Prince Pu Lun, twice rumored to be heir to the Manchu throne, visited Indianapolis for 10 days on his trip to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. He was invited to the city by Wong Kai Kah, Chinese government commissioner to the exposition, who made Indianapolis his United States base at the behest of his friend William Fortune, newspaperman and civic leader. Indianapolis social and political elites feted the prince daily, worrying over what he was fed and noting his personal habits. He appeared before women’s groups and participated in a German House male “smoker.”

Stereograph shows Mayor John W. Holtzman and Prince Pu Lun inside a car surrounded by a crowd of people with a police officer in the foreground.
Prince Pu Lun travels with mayor John W. Holtzman to a reception held in his honor on May 20, 1904 Credit: Library of Congress View Source

The city’s small Chinese community participated in several social events. The prince’s stay included visits to schools, industries, and public institutions (prisons, institutes for the blind and deaf, and an asylum). Speeches at public gatherings touted what China could learn from Indiana and, most importantly, how trade could be expanded. Perhaps the high point of the visit was an automobile caravan from the capital to West Lafayette.

There were two low points. Some local Christian ministers, upset that the prince’s schedule did not include a worship service, protested. And Miss Wong Ah Mae, who had planned to arrive from Toronto to be with the prince’s Chinese host, was initially turned back when she tried to enter the country, even though her papers were in order. She was eventually allowed to enter, but the episode underscored anti-Chinese sentiment.

Revised July 2021

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