1904 St Louis US – Louisiana Purchase Exposition

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1904 St Louis

Name:Louisiana Purchase Exposition
Dates:30 Apr – 1 Dec 1904
Days:185 days, closed Sundays
Venue:Western half of Forest Park, 266 ha (657 acres)
– in total 515 ha (1,270 acres) – 2.8km x 2.1km (1.75m x 1.25m)
Theme:Centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, and supplanting the
St Louis Exposition for trade, agriculture and science,
that had run from the 1880s
Exhibitors:15,009 from 43 countries, 19 colonies and 45 US states
Visitors:19,694,855 – 12,804,616 paid – admission 25c – 50c
Legacy:Costs $26.4m – $31.5m with some reporting a loss of $1m,
others said there was a profit, though this was spent on
the Jefferson Memorial and World’s Fair Pavilion.

The territories of the Louisiana Purchase, the St Louis city and Missouri State, held a meeting that raised $5m in public subscription, Further funding of $5m was agreed with the US government while a further $5m was raised by a St Louis city bonds issue. 10% of this was issued as stock, and 93 directors were chosen. David R Francis was elected as President and F J V Skiff appointed as Show Director.

This event proved to be bigger than 1876 Philadelphia, 1893 Chicago and 1901 Buffalo put together. It was linked with the Chicago Summer Olympic Games, the first in the western hemisphere.

The event was opened by President Theodorr Roosevel5t from 700 miles away in the White House, using the same telegraph key as was used for the Chicago event seven years earlier.

Joint poster Olympics/Fair
Poster at the top of the page is an Advert for French participation in 1904

The event was to mark the centennial of President Thomas Jefferson’s real estate deal struck with Napoleon Bonaparte, paying just $15-16 million for the 600 million acres of Louisiana Territory. This was less than 4c per acre to increase the size of the then ‘America’ by 140%. The deal was actually struck in 1803, but took until 1804 for the news of the transaction to reach St Louis.

In 1804 an exploration team, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, decamped from St Louis to map this new USA land.

St Louis at the time of the show was the fourth largest US city.

1904 St Louis siteplan

Some 43 countries attended: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Persia, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Salvador, Siam, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela. [those emboldened had a pavilion].

Colonies represented were: Algeria, Ceylon, D’Joubiti, Formosa, German East Africa, Hawaii, Iceland, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Madagascar, New Zealand, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Reunion, South Africa, Syria, Tonkin (aka Hanoi) and Vatican City.

States and territories attending: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticutt, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Indian Territory, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

City’s exhibiting were : Kansas City, New York City and San Francisco.

1904 venue
General view

The St Louis Museum of Art was built for the fair, as the Palace of Fine Art, and displayed masterpieces and ancient artefacts illuminating millennia of worldwide human culture, including a display of gifts that Queen Victoria had received for her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The Palace of Liberal Arts
and the Sunken Garden

The central Festival Hall (boasting the world’s largest pipe organ and seating for 4,500) and a number of palaces were built (temporary) including the Agricultural Palace, Education, Electricity, Fine Art, Forestry Fish and Game, Horticulture, Liberal Arts, Machinery, Manufactures, Mines and Metallurgy, Transportation and Varied Industries (showing artistically pleasing items, rather than merely practical). These followed the style of the Chicago fair and were also painted white.

There were 253 buildings in all, 34 were national pavilions and 45 were state pavilions.

1904 St Louis Flight Cage

The St Louis Zoo was founded for the fair. The Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit was the ‘Flight Cage’ the largest aviary built in the world at this time, it was 69.5m (228 ft) long, 25.5m (84 ft) wide and 15m (50 ft) high. It remains one of the world’s largest free-flight cages.

In 1901, the show was formally linked with a Louisiana Purchase Flag Day on the 98th anniversary of the actual transfer of the land.

In 1903, on the actual anniversary of the signing, a Dedication before an audience of 50,000 was held in the Palace of Liberal Arts. President Theodore Roosevelt attended this.

30 Apr 1904 the show was formally opened at site by the show president, Sousa performed his Louisiana March.

A three-pronged theme emerged – automobiles, aeronautics and wireless:

Some 160 automobiles were on show, operating with gas, steam or electricity.

Balloons, kites, gliders, airships and aircraft were on show at an 11-acre field.

Wireless Telegraphy Tower

Visitors could send wireless messages across the fairground from the inventor Lee De Forest’s Wireless Telegraphy Tower, De Forest’s valve was on show and soon assisted in expanding the distance that wireless could be transmited exponentially, during the show’s run.

The national pavilions had major features – the French had a model of its Grand Trianon, Belgim showed a model of the Antwerp Old Town Hall, Britain a model of the Kensington Palace Orangery, China had a model of Prince Pu Lui’s Summer Palace, Siam had buildings from the Bangkok Imperial Palace,

1904 St Louis Ferris Wheel

The $5 million ‘The Pike’ amusement area and some fifty entertainment concessions were adjacent to the site in Forest Park. The Ferris Wheel was brought here from 1893 Chicago with a capacity 2,160 people. It was reportedly sold for scrap after the event.

The Pike had a Cairo Street, a Chinese Village, Cliff Dwellers’ exhibit, Creation (showing the first six days of Genesis, elsewhere there was also a ‘Hereafter’ feature), the Educated Horse, an Empire of India feature, Fair Japan, an Irish Village, a Moorish Palace, Mysterious Asia, the Old Plantation and a Tyrolean Alpine feature.

1904 St Louis Creation (in Pike area)

A Boer War Exhibit was exaggeratedly publicised as ‘the greatest and most realistic military spectacle known in the history of the world’. It consisted of a British Army encampment and several South African native villages and an arena. Soldiers paraded, sporting events were held and major battles reenatcted from the Second Boer War – twice a day, three on Saturdays and holidays. These took two-three hours, involved several generals and 600 veterans from both sides of the war. At the end of the show, the Boer General Christiaan de Wet escaped on horseback by leaping from a height of 11m (35 ft) into a pool of water. The concession cost $48,000 to construct, its revenue was c. $630,000, and contributed $113,000 to the event.

Poster for a colonial exhibit

Some of its exhibits of colonial life were later criticised as being a ‘human zoo’. The Igorrots from the Philippines, the Eskimaux from Canada, Aboriginals from Japan, Chinese artisan labourers, giants from Patagonia, pygmies from Africa…

This expo is credited with the invention of the ice cream cone, the first to serve iced tea and hamburgers (not necessarily together!).

Total attendance was published as 19,694,855, with 12,804,616 having paid an admission (25c – 50c). T S Eliot, Helen Keller, Geronimo and the Sundance Kid were notable attendees.

A temporary hotel,, the Inside Inn, was uilt on the fairground, able to accommodate 4,000 guests. Of its 2,257 rooms, 500 had private baths. It cost $450k to build and room rates were $1.50 – $7.00/night (including admission to fair). In fact in total some 15,000-20,000 lived at the site.

1904 St Louis lake

Transportation around the grounds was by railway or boat. And to/from the fair was assisted by the St Louis Union Station being built for the exposition traffic- it is today a National Historic Landmark.

The Democratic National Convention was co-located in St Louis.

‘Meet me at St Louis’ was written for the fair by Sally Benson and serialised in the New Yorker magazine, this in turn inspired the 1942 Benson novel and 1944 Judy Garland movie (the movie made over $5m in USA/Canada and over $1.5m in overseas territories).

1904 St Louis Cascades

Scott Joplin wrote ‘The Cascades’ specifically for the fair.

The Missouri History Museum was built after the exposition in Forest Park has exhibits on the land purchase and the fair.

St Louis World’s Fair Pavilion

The current World’s Fair Pavilion is a later construction built on the site of the exposition’s Missouri Building.

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