The city is certainly abuzz with preparations for Pope Francis’ impending visit. Naturally, a pope’s visit is uncommon, and therefore an historic occasion, but it’s a surprisingly short history since the first visit to the United States didn’t occur until Paul VI’s arrival in 1965. Still, that didn’t stop Americans from the visiting the pope. The diary of dry goods merchant Edward Neufville Tailer offers some recollections of his 1859 meeting with Pope Pius IX during a tour of Europe.
Though he records seeing a multitude of treasures all over Rome, Tailer clearly had never expected to meet with the pope himself. On February 21, 1859, perhaps with a hint of indignation, he describes how his “servant woman Ann” obtained for herself an interview with His Holiness, musing that it “[shows] the advantages of being a faithful Romanist.” Tailer then notes how he, a protestant, would require an application through the American Minister, and then might be forced to wait a month or more.
So it was presumably much to his surprise when, less than a week later, Tailer gained an unexpected audience through Doctor Lockrow, an acquaintance and physician from New York. Interestingly, a French priest, who claimed to be a grand nephew of the Marquis de Lafayette, shepherded the group to see the pope. Upon seeing Pius IX, Tailer thought one detail worthy of description was the pope’s snuff habit: “…with a happy open smile, and with a gold snuff box in hand, out of which he, in an easy, graceful manner occasionally helped himself to a pinch of snuff.”
Tailer was the lone American in his group with a grasp of Italian and so played the role of interpreter, even requesting the blessing of a rosary for one of the women accompanying him. Paul IX complied but not before confirming that it was ultimately intended for a Catholic!