The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World's Fair, was an international exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, from April 30 to December 1, 1904. Local, state, and federal funds totaling $15 million were used to finance the event. More than 60 countries and 43 of the 45 American states maintained exhibition spaces at the fair, which was attended by nearly 19.7 million people.
Historians generally emphasize the prominence of themes of race and empire, and the fair's long-lasting impact on intellectuals in the fields of history, art history, architecture and anthropology. From the point of view of the memory of the average person who attended the fair, it primarily promoted entertainment, consumer goods and popular culture.
In 1904, St. Louis hosted a World's Fair to celebrate the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The idea for such a commemorative event seems to have emerged early in 1898, with Kansas City and St. Louis initially presented as potential hosts for a fair based on their central location within the territory encompassed by the 1803 land annexation.
The exhibition was grand in scale and lengthy in preparation, with an initial $5 million committed by the city of St. Louis through the sale of city bonds was authorized by the Missouri state legislature in April 1899. An additional $5 million was generated through private donations by interested citizens and businesses from around Missouri, a fundraising target reached in January 1901. The final installment of $5 million of the exposition's $15 million capitalization came in the form of earmarked funds that were part of a congressional appropriations bill passed at the end of May 1900. The fundraising mission was aided by the active support of President of the United States William McKinley, which was won by organizers in a February 1899 White House visit.
While initially conceived as a centennial celebration to be held in 1903, the actual opening of the St. Louis exposition was delayed until April 30, 1904, to allow for full-scale participation by more states and foreign countries. The exposition remained in operation from its opening until December 1, 1904. During the year of the fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition supplanted the annual St. Louis Exposition of agricultural, trade, and scientific exhibitions which had been held in the city since the 1880s.
The fair's 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) site, designed by George Kessler, was located at the present-day grounds of Forest Park and on the campus of Washington University, and was the largest fair (in area) to date. There were over 1,500 buildings, connected by some 75 miles (121 km) of roads and walkways. It was said to be impossible to give even a hurried glance at everything in less than a week. The Palace of Agriculture alone covered some 20 acres (81,000 m2).
Exhibits were staged by approximately 50 foreign nations, the United States government, and 43 of the then-45 U.S. states. These featured industries, cities, private organizations and corporations, theater troupes, and music schools. There were also over 50 concession-type amusements found on "The Pike"; they provided educational and scientific displays, exhibits and imaginary 'travel' to distant lands, history and local boosterism (including Louis Wollbrinck's "Old St. Louis") and pure entertainment.
Over 19 million (19,694,855, to be precise) individuals were in attendance at the fair.
In conjunction with the Exposition the U.S. Post Office issued a series of five commemorative stamps celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The 1-cent value portrayed Robert Livingston, the ambassador who negotiated the purchase with France, the 2-cent value depicts Thomas Jefferson, who executed the purchase, the 3-cent honors James Monroe, who participated in negotiations with the French, the 5-cent memorializes William McKinley, who was involved with early plans for the Exposition and the 10-cent presents a map of the Louisiana Purchase.
Kessler, who designed many urban parks in Texas and the Midwest, created the master design for the Fair.
A popular myth says that Frederick Law Olmsted, who had died the year before the Fair, designed the park and fair grounds. There are several reasons for this confusion. First, Kessler in his twenties had worked briefly for Olmsted as a Central Park gardener. Second, Olmsted was involved with Forest Park in Queens, New York. Third, Olmsted had planned the renovations in 1897 to the Missouri Botanical Garden several blocks to the southeast of the park. Finally, Olmsted's sons advised Washington University on integrating the campus with the park across the street.
In 1901 the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Corporation selected prominent St. Louis architect Isaac S. Taylor as the Chairman of the Architectural Commission and Director of Works for the fair, supervising the overall design and construction. Taylor quickly appointed Emmanuel Louis Masqueray to be his Chief of Design. In the position for three years, Masqueray designed the following Fair buildings: Palace of Agriculture, the Cascades and Colonnades, Palace of Forestry, Fish, and Game, Palace of Horticulture and Palace of Transportation, all of which were widely emulated in civic projects across the United States as part of the City Beautiful movement. Masqueray resigned shortly after the Fair opened in 1904, having been invited by Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota to design a new cathedral for the city.
According to a claim in a 1923 edition of The Colored Citizen of Pensacola, Florida, the majority of work in building the fair was done by African Americans, including all the engineering calculations for the layout of the park. Many African Americans contributed to architecture design, but were not credited.
Florence Hayward, a successful freelance writer in St. Louis in the 1900s was determined to play a role in the World's Fair. She negotiated a position on the otherwise all-male Board of Commissioners. Hayward learned that one of the potential contractors for the fair was not reputable and warned the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company (LPEC). In exchange for this information, she requested an appointment as roving commissioner to Europe.
Former Mayor of St. Louis and Governor of Missouri David R. Francis, LPEC president, made the appointment and allowed Hayward to travel overseas to promote the fair, especially to women. The fair also had a Board of Lady Managers (BLM) who felt they had jurisdiction over women's activities at the fair and objected to Hayward's appointment without their knowledge. Despite this, Hayward set out for England in 1902. Hayward's most notable contribution to the fair was acquiring gifts Queen Victoria received for her Golden Jubilee and other historical items, including manuscripts from the Vatican. These items were all to be shown in exhibits at the fair.
Pleased with her success in Europe, Francis put her in charge of historical exhibits in the anthropology division, which had originally been assigned to Pierre Chouteau III. Despite being the only woman on the Board of Commissioners, creating successful anthropological exhibits, publicizing the fair, and acquiring significant exhibit items, Hayward's role in the fair was not acknowledged. When Francis published a history of the fair in 1913, he did not mention Hayward's contributions and she never forgave the slight.
Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancement. They stimulate the energy, enterprise, and intellect of the people; and quicken human genius. They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty storehouses of information to the student. -President William McKinley at the 1901 World's Fair
The World Fairs are known for bringing new technology, innovation, and scientific discoveries to the average person. At the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, many of the inventions displayed were precursors to items which have become an integral part of today's culture. Novel applications of electricity and light waves for communication and medical use were displayed in the Palace of Electricity. According to an article he wrote for Harper's Weekly, W.E. Goldsborough, the Chief of the Department of Electricity for the Fair, wished to educate the public and dispel the misconceptions about electricity which many common people believed. New and updated methods of transportation also showcased at the World's Fair in the Palace of Transportation would come to revolutionize transportation for the modern day.
Wireless Telephone – The "wireless telephony" unit or "radiophone" installed at the St. Louis World Fair was a thing of wonder to the crowds. Music or spoken messages were transmitted from an apparatus within the Palace of Electricity to a telephone receiver out in the courtyard. The receiver, which was attached to nothing, when placed to the ear allowed a visitor to hear the transmission. This radiophone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, consisted of a transmitter which transformed sound waves into light waves and a receiver which converted the light waves back into sound waves. This technology has since developed into the radio and early mobile phones.
Early Fax Machine – The telautograph, the precursor to the modern day fax machine, was invented in 1888 by the American scientist, Elisha Gray who at one point in time contested Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone. The telautograph was a device which could send electrical impulses to the receiving pen of the device, in order to be able to recreate drawings to a piece of paper while a person simultaneously wrote them longhand on the other end of the device. In 1900 Gray's assistant, Foster Ritchie, improved upon the original design and it was this device which was displayed at the 1904 World's Fair and marketed for the next thirty years.
Finsen Light – The Finsen light, a phototherapy unit invented by Niels Ryberg Finsen, utilized ultraviolet light to treat a form of lupus caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1903 for his contributions and his invention pioneered the way which led to many other forms of radiation therapy in the treatment of disease.
X-Ray Machine – The X-ray machine was an invention which had its public debut at the 1904 World's Fair. X-rays were first discovered in November 1895 by a German scientist, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who at the time was studying the phenomena accompanying the passage of an electric current through a gas of extremely low pressure. After Rontgen's discovery, he took an x-ray of his wife's hand, showing the bones and her fingers along with her wedding ring, and sent it to several of his scientist colleagues. One of the scientists that learned of the discovery was Thomas Edison and he soon began to experiment with his own x-ray machine with his assistant Clarence Dally. In 1901, Dally brought a test version of the x-ray machine to the 1901 World's Fair, but failed to test the machine when President McKinley was assassinated. For the 1904 World's Fair, the x-ray machine was perfected and successfully shown to the public. X-rays are now commonplace in hospitals and airports.
Infant Incubator – Although infant incubators were invented in the year 1888 by Drs. Alan M. Thomas and William Champion, these devices were not immediately widely used. To increase awareness of the benefits these units provided, infant incubators containing premature babies were displayed at the 1897, 1898, 1901, and 1904 World Fairs. This piece of medical equipment helped neonates with compromised immune systems by providing a sanitary environment to reduce the likelihood of acquiring an infection. Each incubator was an air-tight glass box with a metal frame. Hot air was pumped into the container to keep a constant temperature. Newspapers advertised the incubators with "lives are being preserved by this wonderful method." During the World Fair in 1904, E. M. Bayliss brought these devices for exhibition on The Pike where approximately ten nurses cared for twenty-four neo-natal babies while in the infant incubators. The exhibit required an entrance fee of twenty-five cents and visitors could also purchase souvenirs and refreshments from the adjoining shop and café. These proceeds, totaling $181,632, helped to fund Bayliss's project. There were some setbacks with the infant incubator display as the sanitary conditions were not always consistent and some babies died of illness. The incubator area was then modified by installing glass walls to separate the babies from visitors, thus decreasing the exposure of the infants. The science and technology behind the incubators has since been expanded upon. Now known as "isolettes," these units are a vital component to caring for neonates in modern neonatal intensive care units.
Electric Streetcar – Although street railways had been in use in North America since the early 1800s, electric street railcars were still novel at the time of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Outside of the Palace of Electricity, an exhibit including a working electric street car and 1400 feet of track demonstrated the speed, acceleration, and braking capacities of this new-powered model. Electric railways for inner-city transport are still used in many cities today.
Personal automobile – One of the most popular attractions of the Exposition was contained in the Palace of Transportation: automobiles and motor cars. The automobile display contained 140 models including ones powered by gasoline, steam, and electricity. The private automobile first made its public debut at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Four years after the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the Ford Motor Company began producing the Ford Model T making the personal automobile more affordable. Since that time, the automobile has increased in popularity, advanced in technology, and expanded the mobility of humanity. A prototype car radio was also demonstrated by inventor Lee de Forest. 
Airplane – The 1904 World's Fair hosted the first ever "Airship Contest" as aerial navigation was still in its infancy at this time. The Exposition offered a grand prize of $100,000 to the airship or other flying machine with the best time through a course marked out by stationary air balloons while travelling at least 15 miles per hour. Although none were able to earn the grand prize, the contest did witness the first public dirigible flight in America as well as numerous other flights made by various airships. This was the first major event in a history of aviation in St. Louis leading to the city's nickname, Flight City. The science of aerial navigation continued to develop and has been mastered since the 1904 Exposition. Air travel has become a vital component in today's global society.
As many people were curious about this up and coming city, many reporters and photographers attended the World Fair to document and understand the city. What they found was nothing like anyone else could have imagined. Still as a relatively new city, the streets were buzzing with activity, with many of its citizens constantly on the "go" and the streets "crowded with activity". One observer remarked that, at this time, St. Louis had more energy in its streets than any other Northern Street did.
With more and more people interested in the city, St. Louis government and architects were primarily concerned with their ports and access to the city. Though transportation by water had always been important to the city (St. Louis had originated as a trading post), it was becoming even more important that the port be open, but efficient for all visitors. It also needed to show off some of the city's flair and excitement, which is why in many photographs one sees photos of St. Louis' skyscrapers in the background. In addition to a functioning port, the Eads Bridge was constructed, which was considered one of St. Louis' "sights". 1627 feet long, it connected Missouri and Illinois.
As with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, all but one of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition's grand, neo-Classical exhibition palaces were temporary structures, designed to last but a year or two. They were built with a material called "staff," a mixture of plaster of Paris and hemp fibers, on a wood frame. As at the Chicago world's fair, buildings and statues deteriorated during the months of the Fair, and had to be patched.
The Palace of Fine Art, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, featured a grand interior sculpture court based on the Roman Baths of Caracalla. Standing at the top of Art Hill, it now serves as the home of the St. Louis Art Museum.
The Administration Building, designed by Cope & Stewardson, is now Brookings Hall, the defining landmark on the campus of Washington University. A similar building was erected at Northwest Missouri State University founded in 1905 in Maryville, Missouri. The grounds' layout was also recreated in Maryville and now is designated as the official Missouri State Arboretum.
Some mansions from the Exposition's era survive along Lindell Boulevard at the north border of Forest Park.
The huge bird cage at the Saint Louis Zoological Park, dates to the fair. A Jain temple carved out of teak stood within the Indian Pavilion near the Ferris Wheel. It was dismantled after the exhibition and was reconstructed in Las Vegas at the Castaways hotel. It has recently been reassembled and is now on display at the Jain Center of Southern California at Los Angeles. Birmingham, Alabama's iconic cast iron Vulcan statue was first exhibited at the Fair in the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy.
The Missouri State building was the largest of the state buildings, as Missouri was the host state. Though it had sections with marble floors and heating and air conditioning, it was planned to be a temporary structure. However, it burned the night of November 18–19, just eleven days before the Fair was to end. Most of the interior was destroyed, but some contents were rescued without damage, including some furniture and much of the contents of the fair's Model Library. Since the fair was almost over, the building was not rebuilt. After the fair, the current World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park was built on the site of the Missouri building with profits from the fair in 1909–10.
Festival Hall, designed by Cass Gilbert and used for large-scale musical pageants, contained the largest organ in the world at the time, built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company. After the fair, it was placed into storage, and eventually purchased by John Wanamaker for his new Wanamaker's store in Philadelphia where it became known as the Wanamaker Organ. The famous Bronze Eagle in the Wanamaker Store also came from the Fair. It features hundreds of hand-forged bronze feathers and was the centerpiece of one of the many German exhibits at the fair. Wanamaker's became a Lord & Taylor store and more recently, a Macy's store.
Completed in 1913, the Jefferson Memorial building was built near the main entrance to the Exposition, at Lindell and DeBalivere. It was built with proceeds from the fair, to commemorate Thomas Jefferson, who initiated the Louisiana Purchase, as was the first memorial to the third President. It became the headquarters of the Missouri History Museum, and stored the Exposition's records and archives when the Louisiana Purchase Exposition company completed its mission. The building is now home to the Missouri History Museum, and the museum was significantly expanded in 2002–3.
The State of Maine Building, which was a rustic cabin, was transported to Point Lookout, Missouri where it overlooked the White River by sportsmen who formed the Maine Hunting and Fishing Club. In 1915, when the main building at the College of the Ozarks in Forsyth, Missouri burned, the school relocated to Point Lookout, where the Maine building was renamed the Dobyns Building in honor of a school president. The Dobyns Building burned in 1930 and the college's signature church was built in its place. In 2004, a replica of the Maine building was built on the campus. The Keeter Center is named for another school president.
The observation tower erected by the American DeForest Wireless Telegraph Company was purchased by Charles N. Rix, a banker from Hot Springs, Arkansas, who moved it to the summit of Hot Springs Mountain. Renamed the Rix Tower, it reopened to the public on its new location in 1906. Dismantling and reassembling the tower, however, proved to be its worst enemy (it had previously been moved once before, to St. Louis from Buffalo, New York); it was eventually demolished in 1975 due to instability almost certainly caused by being relocated twice. A more modern tower would later be built on the site in 1983.
A number of foods are claimed to have been invented at the fair. The most popular claim is that the waffle-style ice cream cone was invented and first sold during the fair. However, it is widely believed that it was not invented at the Fair, but instead, it was popularized at the Fair. Other claims are more dubious, including the hamburger and hot dog (both traditional American foods), peanut butter, iced tea, and cotton candy. It is more likely, however, that these food items were first introduced to mass audiences and popularized by the fair. Dr Pepper and Puffed Wheat cereal were first introduced to a national audience at the fair. Daughter of slaves, Annie Fisher, brought her beaten biscuits, which were already famous in her hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The exposition awarded Fisher's biscuits a gold medal. They would later be enjoyed by President William Howard Taft on his 1911 visit to Missouri.
The fair inspired the song "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis", which was recorded by many artists, including Billy Murray. Both the fair and the song are focal points of the 1944 feature film Meet Me in St. Louis starring Judy Garland, which also inspired a Broadway musical version. Scott Joplin wrote the rag "Cascades" in honor of the elaborate waterfalls in front of Festival Hall.
Following the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired new territories such as Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Some natives from these areas were brought to be on "display" at the fair. Such displays included the Apache of the American Southwest and the Igorot of the Philippines, both of which peoples were dubbed as "primitive". Similarly, members of the Southeast Alaskan Tlingit tribe accompanied fourteen totem poles, two Native houses, and a canoe displayed at the Alaska Exhibit.
Ota Benga, a Congolese Pygmy, was featured at the fair. Later he was given the run of the grounds at the Bronx Zoo in New York, then featured in an exhibit on evolution alongside an orangutan in 1906, but public protest ended that.
One exhibit of note was Beautiful Jim Key, the "educated" Arabian-Hambletonian cross horse in his Silver Horseshoe Pavilion. He was owned by Dr. William Key, an African-American/Native American former slave, who became a respected self-taught veterinarian, and promoted by Albert R. Rogers, who had Jim and Dr. Key on tour for years around the US, helping to establish a humane movement that encouraged people to think of animals as having feelings and thoughts, and not just "brutes." Jim and Dr. Key became national celebrities along the way. Rogers invented highly successful marketing strategies still in use today. Jim Key could add, subtract, use a cash register, spell with blocks, tell time and give opinions on the politics of the day by shaking his head yes or no. Jim thoroughly enjoyed his "act"—he performed more than just tricks and appeared to clearly understand what was going on. Dr. Key's motto was that Jim "was taught by kindness" instead of the whip, which he was indeed.
After the fair was completed, many of the international exhibits were not returned to their country of origin, but were dispersed to museums in the United States. For example, the Philippine exhibits were acquired by the Museum of Natural History at the University of Iowa. The Vulcan statue is today a prominent feature of the Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, where it was originally cast.
The Fair also featured the original "Floatopia". Visitors floated on rafts of all sorts in the tiny Forest Park Lake. Many Floatopias have occurred since, including the infamous San Diego Floatopia of '83 and the Santa Barbara Floatopia that has been happening for years.
Daisy E. Nirdlinger's book, Althea, or, the children of Rosemont plantation (illustrated by Egbert Cadmus (1868-1939)) was adopted by the Commissioners of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition as the official souvenir for young people.
The Fair hosted the 1904 Summer Olympic Games, the first Olympics held in the United States. These games had originally been awarded to Chicago, but when St. Louis threatened to hold a rival international competition, the games were relocated. Nonetheless, the sporting events, spread out over several months, were overshadowed by the Fair. With travel expenses high, many European athletes did not come, nor did modern Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
On June 5, 1904, a bullfight scheduled for an arena just north of the fairgrounds, in conjunction with the fair, turned violent when Missouri governor Alexander Monroe Dockery ordered police to halt the fight in light of Missouri's anti-bullfighting laws. Disgruntled spectators demanded refunds, and when they were turned away, they began throwing stones through the windows of the arena office. While police protected the office, they did not have sufficient numbers to protect the arena, which was burned to the ground by the mob. The exposition fire department responded to the fire, but disruption to the fair was minimal, as the riot took place on a Sunday, when the fair was closed.
Frank Fillis produced what was supposedly "the greatest and most realistic military spectacle known in the history of the world". Different portions of the concession featured a British Army encampment, several South African native villages (including Zulu, San, Swazi, and Ndebele) and a 15-acre (61,000 m2) arena in which soldiers paraded, sporting events and horse races were held and major battles from the Second Boer War were re-enacted twice a day. Battle recreations took 2–3 hours and included several Generals and 600 veteran soldiers from both sides of the war. At the conclusion of the show, the Boer General Christiaan de Wet would escape on horseback by leaping from a height of 35 feet (11 m) into a pool of water.
Admission ranged from 25 cents for bleacher seats to one dollar for box seats, and admission to the villages was another 25 cents. The concession cost $48,000 to construct, grossed over $630,000, and netted about $113,000 to the fair—the highest-grossing military concession of the fair.
The Louisiana World fair was opened by US president, Theodore Roosevelt, by telegraph, but he did not attend personally until after the federal election in November 1904, as he stated he did not wish to use the fair for political purposes. Attendees included John Philip Sousa, a musician, composer and conductor whose band performed on opening day and several times during the fair. Thomas Edison is claimed to have attended.
Jelly Roll Morton did not visit, stating in his later Library of Congress interview and recordings that he expected jazz pianist Tony Jackson would attend and win a jazz piano competition at the Exposition. Morton said he was "quite disgusted" to later learn that Jackson hadn't gone either, and that the competition had been won instead by Alfred Wilson; Morton considered himself a better pianist than Wilson.
The poet T. S. Eliot, who was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, visited the Igorot Village held in the Philippine Exposition section of the St. Louis World's Fair. Several months after the closing of the World's Fair, he published a short story entitled "The Man Who Was King" in the school magazine of Smith Academy, St. Louis, Missouri that he was attending. Inspired by the ganza dance which the Igorot people presented regularly in the Village and their reaction to civilization, the poet explored the interaction of a white man with an island culture. Interestingly, all this predates the poet's delving into the anthropological studies during his Harvard graduate years.
Jack Daniel, the American distiller and the founder of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey distillery, entered his Tennessee whiskey into the World's Fair whiskey competition. After four hours of deliberation, the eight judges awarded Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey the Gold Medal for the finest whiskey in the world. The award was a boon for the Jack Daniel's distillery.
Novelist Kate Chopin lived nearby and purchased a season ticket to the fair. After her visit on the hot day of August 20, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and died two days later, on August 22, 1904.
Philadelphia mercantilist, John Wanamaker, visited the exposition in November 1904 and purchased an entire collection of German furniture which included the giant jugenstil brass sculpture of an eagle that he would display in the rotunda of his Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia. He also purchased the organ from the fair, which at the time was the biggest concert organ in the world.
Benedictine monk, artist and museum founder, Fr. Gregory Gerrer, OSB exhibited his recent portrait of Pope Pius X at the fair. Following the fair, Gerrer brought the painting to Shawnee, Oklahoma, where it is now on display at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art.
John McCormack, Irish tenor, was brought to the fair by James A. Reardon, who was in charge of the Irish Exhibit.September issue 1999 of the Yellow Jacket http://gr-gs.org/
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Japanese exhibit, staged during the Russo-Japanese War, ... presented a modern country that had fundamentally different traditions and concepts than the Western (and Christian) countries fair-goers identified with modernity.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Louisiana Purchase Exposition.|