As his tour of duty as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the
Empire came to an end in 1884, Lew Wallace was offered a number of
gifts from his friend, Sultan Abdul Hamid II. These included Arabian horses,
jewels, and works of art. As a representative of the government of the United States,
Wallace graciously declined these expressions of friendship and gratitude.
According to legend, as Wallace closed his office and packed his residence, the
Sultan was able to secretly include the painting called The Turkish Princess,
some elaborate carpets and a few other items in the shipping crates. The crates
were delivered to Crawfordsville before Lew and Susan returned home. These
items sent by the Sultan remained undiscovered by Wallace until he was back in
Crawfordsville and opened the crates. The Turkish Princess, said to be
one of the Sultan’s daughters, remains one of the highlights of the Study.
These were not the only presents exchanged between the Sultan and Wallace.
One of the reasons the crates returned to Crawfordsville in advance of Wallace was because Lew and Susan concluded their time in the Middle East with a tour of
On that tour, Lew stopped in London
to fulfill a favor asked of him by the Sultan. The sovereign leader of the Ottoman Empire wanted a dog. As Lew wrote to his son,
Henry, in February of 1885, he spent four days in London
doing nothing but looking at dogs as London
was the greatest dog market in the world. He looked at everything from a King
Charles spaniel that was so small it could be put in an overcoat pocket to a
boar-hound as big as a burro.
He first considered a St. Bernard but realized the breed would not do well in hot and humid
Constantinople. He then considered the boar-hound like
Prince Bismarck of Prussia
owned. When Wallace inspected the dog, he felt the face was treacherous and
full of malice. “He did not seem so much a dog as a dangerous beast of prey.”
Another dog considered was the stag-hound. A breed of dog belonging to Sir Walter Scott that Wallace ultimately felt entirely unsuited for his mission. These were hunting dogs, and in his opinion not particularly handsome, which would not do for the Sultan, who was known for his appreciation of all things beautiful.
|English Mastiff from Wikimedia Commons|
After considering several breeds, Wallace looked at the English mastiff. The first one brought to him was about two years old and had won first prize in competition in the
Wallace was immediately impressed and asked about buying the animal. Both the
dog and its purchase price were fit for a king. The seller noted that the dog
was priced at only 500 guineas—or about $3,000!! In Wallace’s day, that was a
lot to pay for a dog—even one headed off to be a royal companion. When Wallace
declined the purchase, the dealer offered an eight month old offspring from the
first dog at a more reasonable price.
Wallace purchased the puppy. It was the finest dog he had ever seen with a head like a lion’s and already standing thirty-six inches at the shoulder and six feet from tip of the tail to muzzle. Not only was he the size of a lion, the dog had the tawny color of a lion. When Wallace was showing the dog at his hotel, one of the curious guests climbed on a window to look in as a burglar or thief might do. When the dog saw this “thief” his eyes reddened, the hair on this back stood up, and he growled in a most menacing manner. Wallace was thrilled at this protective stance taken by the dog.
Wallace named the dog ‘Victorio’ after an Apache Indian chief who caused Wallace great difficulty in
New Mexico, but whom
Wallace respected for his military prowess. After Wallace shipped the dog, the
Sultan began asking after the dog, inquiring about its delivery and was
thrilled when it arrived. He immediately ordered that the dog be sent to the
palace. When it was brought into the reception room, the crowd scattered
believing it was, in fact, a lion. In reports that Wallace received he was
pleased to hear that the dog was happily playing with the Sultan’s daughter,
perhaps the girl in the painting given to Wallace of The Turkish Princess,
and becoming a favorite companion of the Sultan himself. It proved to be a
present that held special meaning for both the gift giver and the recipient and
represented the special bond between two men of such different backgrounds.