20/05/2022

1898, Omaha US – Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition

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1898 Omaha

Name:Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition
Dates:1 Jun – 31 Oct 1898
Days:153 days
Venue:On a plateau overlooking the Missouri river, twelve minutes north the city business centre
– 74.5 ha (184 acres) – around half of ths became Kountze Park
Theme:To promote the territories in the West
Exhibitors:4,062 exhibits – from 14 countries, only China and Mexico were official
31 states participated, nine built pavilions
Awards:
Visitors:2,613,508 – paid entry was 1,778,250 at 50c adults and 25c Children
– with special free days across the run
Legacy:Costs of the major players were Exposition – £1.6m, Nebraska – £608k, Federal Govt – $250k and other sources suggest a net revenue of $216k.
– the buildings were sold for $17,500 to the organisers of a planned
Greater American Exposition, but this failed within three months.

Four years in the planning the Omaha exhibition was initiated by the first Trans- Mississippi commercial congress of western states and territories. The exposition corporation was founded in 1896 and Gordon Wattles was appointed its president. As a result the exposition opened on time, with all its buildings completed. Remarkable for a city that was just 44 years old.

1898 Omaha general view

It followed earlier examples with Renaissance-revival architecture, gathered around a body of water. The main building was The Grand Court an arrangement of buildings around a quadrangle and with a 610m (2,000 ft) lagoon.

Swan rides on the lagoon

Illuminated in the evening by incandescent lights, gondola and giant swan boat rides were popular.

Illustration of the Arch of the States
aka Administration Arch

Other buildings were: and the Administration Arch, Agriculture building, an Auditorium, Fine Arts building, Goverment Buidling, Horticulture, Liberal Arts building, Livestock, Machinery and Electricity, Manufactures, Mines and Mining, Transportation…

1898 Fine Art Building

Of course there was a Midway with the by-now familiar attractions: an Apiary and Dairy, Chinese Village, a Cyclorama of an Indian Battle, the Fall of Babylon, a Giant See-Saw, Glass Bloweres, Hagenbach’s Wild Animals, Mirror Maze, Moorish Palace, Old Plantation, Scenic Railway, Shute the Shutes, Streets of All Nations’, Streets of Cairo, a Wild West Show…

The Spanish American War was a major distraction for the Exposition’s opening, the war ran from Apr-Aug 1898, with 30 battles – three in the Pacific and twenty-seven in the Caribbean. This would have affected the potential for international visitors. An extremely hot summer was also noteworthy for visitor numbers.

1898 Poster

An Indian Congress was held during the show, with representation from thirty-five extant tribes (including Apache, Blackfeet, Crow, Flathead, Fox, Kiowa, Omaha, Pueblos, Sac, Sioux, Tonkawa, Wichita…) and five hundred Native Americans attended. The Apache Geronimo attended charging 50c fro autographs and $1 for pictures. The feature showed dwellings, tools, costumes and industries and there were staged dances and mock battles.

The visitor count was 2,613,508, with paid entry of 1,778,250 at 50c for adults and 25c children. There were special free-entry days across the run. he population of Omaha at the time was just 102k, and with suburbs 161k.

Roentgen X-Ray demos at Omaha

One notable exhibit was William Roentgen’s ‘Wonderful Ray of Light’, later known as X-rays. Just three years after his discovery Roentgen demonstrated the mysterious radiation at the Omaha exposition. He offered visistors glimpses of the interiors of everyday objects as well as their appendages. Unbeknownst to them the devices were zapping them with 1,500 times the levels of today’s X-ray machines. Even when hair fell out the enthusiasm was not dimmed.

The buildings were sold for $17,500 to the organisers of a Greater American Exposition, planned for the following year. However, it was judged to have failed and closed after four months. The lagoon was filled in and the clearedf land became Kountze Park. The Park mounted a centennial celebration of the exposition in 1998.

Forward to 1898, San Francisco US – California’s Golden Jubilee and Mining Fair
Back to 1898, Bergen NO – Scandinavian Exhibition for Fishery, Cooling Facilities and Sea Rescue Equipment
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to VOLUME II Index – Back to bobdenton.com home

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