1901-2, Charleston US – South Carolina, Inter-State and West Indian Exposition

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1901-2 Charleston

Name:South Carolina, Inter-State and West Indian Exposition
Dates:2 Dec 1901 – 31 May 1902
Days:180 days
Venue:Lowndes Plantation – 5 ha (185 acres)
Exhibitors:4 Nations and 20 States
Visitors:674,086 – c350,000 had free entry, an official guide was 25c
Legacy:Costs were $1.25 bn, revenue was $300,000 below this
– the authority ended up in bankruptcy

This show’s claim to fame is that it was the first World’s Fair that went bankrupt.

Seeing the 1895 Atlanta and 1897 Nashville exhibitions, in 1899 by a railroad executive Col John H Averill believed that Charleston needed its own event, to catch up. He gathered the support of Charleston’s The News and Courier. The port had significant links with the West Indies and so this was to be its USP. It was the third Southern fair in six years and had the issue of following on from the tragic 1901 Buffalo event.

1901 Charleston Plantation building

The exposition was held at Lowndes Plantation, owned by the expo’s president, Capt F W Wagener, it was several miles north of Charleston’s downtown on the Ashley River. It had been a Civil War prison and a ractetrack in previous times. The Director General was Algar M Wheeler.

It was connected to the downtown by street cars and special rail excursions were run from Florida. However, it proved more of local interest, rather than national.

The showground was designed by Bradford L Gilbert, he had previously designed the Atlanta site.

Site plan

The plantation building was used for the US government to display exhibits from the 1901 Buffalo event. Another fourteen buildings were erected to house the exhibiting states – Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, West Virginia (eleven other States appointed commissioners but there is no data on them participating formally) – the exhibiting nations – Cuba, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the USA, and three exhibiting cities – Charleston, Cincinnati and Philadelphia (from 9 Jan this held the real Liberty Bell on display).

The show as opened by the state governor and city mayor.

Sunken Garden

A centrepiece was the Sunken Gardens and a Plaza, and notable buildings included a Court of the Palaces with the Palace of Agriculture, the Palace of Commerce, the Cotton Palace (107m [350 ft] long with exhibiting space of 4,645 sq m [50,000 sq ft]), The Louisiana Purchase Building promoted the planned 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. There were buildings for Mining and Forestry and for Transport, there was a Negro Building and a Womens’ Building. There was a 4,000 seater Auditorium and an Electrical Island within the 12 ha (30 acre) Lake Juanita within the plantation.

It became known as the Ivory City based on the colour of the buildings.

A midway had the usual fare including an Esquimaux Village, the Streets of Cairo, Fair Japan, a Temple of Fortune and a Wayside Inn. It also boasted a miniature railway. There was also a wild west show and a (400 ft) long painitng of the 1861 Battle of Manassas (aka Bull Run), the first major battle of the Civil War – a Confederate victory.

Charleston Medal

Notable exhibitors included General Electric, H J Heinz and National Cash Register, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was a notable visitor.

Charleston ticket

The show’s attendance suffered from late completion of some of the buildings and was run during unusually bad weather, Charleston was expected to be milder. When the press started to mention the financial troubles of the event this further depressed attendance in later months.

The exposition organisation declared bakruptcy and auctioned off the buildings.

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Back to 1901, Glasgow UK – International Exhibition
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