1907, Jameston US – Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition

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1907 Jameston

Name:Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition
Dates:26 Apr – 30 Nov 1907
Days:188 days – 219 days inc Sundays (different admission rules)
Venue:Venue is Sewell’s Point, today’s Hampton Road Naval Base
– 149 ha (367 acres)
Theme:Third centennial of the first permanent
English colony in the New World
Exhibitors: – 18 countries, 3 colonies and 24 states
Awards:No data
Visitors:2,758,692 total (the target had been 3,500,000), 1,401,409 paid
– 50c adults, 25c children
Legacy:Total costs $3,191,918 with losses of £2.45m

The original site of Jamestown had been abandonned, so a 367 acre site was selected six miles out of Norfolk Virginia – it is today’s 4,000 acre Hampton Road Naval Base.

Poster with an ‘aerial’ view

The first Event President was General Fitzhugh Lee, a confederate general and governor of Virginia, the Second (Vice?) President was Henry St. George Tucker, who was a former Virginia Governor. Underwear factory-owner David Lowenberg was appointed as Director-General, though he was replaced on 5 Jul.

President Roosevelt opening 1907 Jamestown

The show was opened by President Theodore Roosevelt, with the warships providing salutes. The United States had determined to take a role in world affairs, having won the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt would send his ‘Great White Fleet’ around the world to advertise American sea power. He visited the show on a number of occasions, other famous attendees were King Edward VII, William Randolph Hearst, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mark Twain, and Booker T Washington.

Jamestown World's Fair 1907
Site Plan

Exhibiting countries were: Austria-Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Great Britain, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Russia and the United States,

Exhibiting colonies were: East India, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic.

State of New York pavilion

State of Virginia pavilion

Exhibiting states were: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Exhibiting cities were: Baltimore and Richmond.

Negro building

The exhibition was arrayed around three main features – Raleigh Square, the Lee Parade Grounds and the Hampton Roads (ie sea lanes). Buildings included an Auditorium, others were designated History, Mother’s and Children’s, Negro issues… The History Building did not open until 12 Aug, four months into the seven-month run.


Attractions included: two squadrons of ships off Sewell’s Point – sixteen battleships, five cruisers, and six destroyers. Two long piers jutted out 760m (2,500 ft) into the Hampton Roads and formed a lagoon that staged naval and aquatic events.

Given the area’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, there were cycloramas of Gettysburg and the Manassas battles, a mock battle between the Meerimac and Monitor.

Ethnic displays

There was a Pennsylvania Independence Hall replica, an International Congress of Beauty, a Baby Incubator, a miniature railway, a monorail, and features like the The Far East, the Beautiful Orient, Colonial Virginia, Deep Sea Diving, Marvels of the Jungle, the Destruction of San Francisco, the Esquimoux Village, Fair Japan, Ferrari’s Wild Animal Show, the Klondike Gold Mine, the Old Mill, the Ostrich Farm, Roman chariot races, Paul Revere’s Ride, the Streets of Cairo, Temple of Mirth, and Commanche Dan’s Wild West Show.

In July some 400 uniformed guardsmen became incensed that they had paid to see both the Far East and Beautiful Orient burlesque shows, only to find they were the same show. They shut down the shows protesting they were fakes. The exhibition police talked and confronted them until they withdrew.

Visitors could take a boat ride to Jamestown to see ruins of its church and its cemetries, and Ye Olde Jamestown Theatre that played performances of John Smith and Pocahontas (aka Priness Matoaka).

Exhibitors included Aluminum Company of America, Cambria Steel Company, HJ Heinz,and the Westinghouse Machine Company.

Illustration of the exhibition in operation

Jamestown had just 200,000 population, in retrospect it was realised that this was not enough to support an international exhibition. The show experienced bad weather, weak management, poor roads, high prices at hotels and eaterys, ineffective drainage, limited availability of electricity – at the end of the show Receivers were appointed.

1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition Medal, Norfolk County Virginia  (So-Called Dollar) ANACS MS60
Jamestown medal

The exhibition site did not attract development investment, instead the government bought it (less their loan fee) to create the naval base. Over a dozen of the state buildings remain on Admiral’s Row in the naval base, most are used as admiral’s quarters. The Hampton Roads Naval Museum has many exhibits devoted to the 1907 exposition.

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