Journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who coined the now-famous phrase “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” during his travels, spent formative years in New Orleans. The origins of Henry Morton Stanley's persona are under much debate, but there is no doubt that New Orleans played a crucial role in the development of the legend surrounding the famous Welsh-born explorer.
In the early spring of 1859, 18-year-old Welsh cabin boy John Rowlands began to transform into Henry Morton Stanley when he arrived in New Orleans. As he later claimed in his controversial and mistake-riddled autobiography, Rowlands felt “emancipated” from the class oppression of his native Wales after disembarking from The Windermere onto the docks of New Orleans and overlooking the great Mississippi River for the first time.
Rowlands first meal in New Orleans consisted of “Okra soup, grits, sweet potatoes, brinjalls, corn pones, mush pudding and fixings.” After spending the night sleeping on cotton bales, Rowlands made his way up Canal Street where he came across Speake & McCreary’s wholesale store and warehouse at No. 3 Tchoupitoulas. Noticing a gentleman sitting outside the store reading a newspaper, Rowlands supposedly approached him and inquired about employment.
The gentleman was Henry Hope Stanley, a wealthy local cotton merchant who, according to Henry Morton Stanley’s story, recommended that James Speake, the store’s proprietor, hire John Rowlands as an employee. Speake hired Stanley and the father-son relationship between Rowlands and Henry Hope Stanley progressed until Rowlands became like an adopted son to Stanley. Stanley having once been a religious minister, re-baptized Rowlands, saying, “in the future you are to bear my name, Henry Stanley.” Some historians, including Tim Jeal, have speculated that there is no truth to Henry Morton’s adoption story, while others assert that the two did have a relationship. The depth of Stanley and Rowlands' relationship has also been subject to speculation.