Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly 33:3 (Summer 2013)
As they entered the elegant lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, Elias G. Stevens and his wife, Handuma, must have marveled at how their lives turned out. They had both been born and raised in what was once the Ottoman province of Syria. They had come to the United States at the turn of the century, found their way to Wichita, Kansas, and worked hard to build a successful candy and tobacco business. They were in New York to meet with representatives from Philip Morris. Surveying the accommodations, however, Handuma noticed a major problem that had to be addressed right away. She insisted they find a grocery store, and the family headed out. A while later, the Stevens entourage returned, marching through one of the most sophisticated hotels in the country carrying bags loaded with provisions. Back in the room, Handuma dutifully arranged the food on dishes to set before the company representatives. To her, it was unthinkable to host such important guests without offering them something to eat and drink. The Stevenses understood the needs and nuances of American consumerism, while never forgetting the ancient Arab tradition of hospitality.