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Louisiana Purchase Exposition

EXPO St. Louis 1904
The Government Building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
BIE-class Universal exposition
Category Historical Expo
Name Louisiana Purchase Exposition
Area 1,270 acres (510 ha)
Visitors 19,694,855
Countries 63
Country United States
City St. Louis
Venue Forest Park
Opening April 30, 1904 (1904-04-30)
Closure December 1, 1904 (1904-12-01)
Universal expositions
Previous Exposition Universelle (1900) in Paris
Next Liège International (1905) in Liège

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World's Fair, was an international exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. 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. [1]


  • Background 1
  • Architects 2
  • Legacy 3
    • Buildings 3.1
    • Introduction of new foods 3.2
    • Influence on popular music 3.3
    • People on display 3.4
    • Exhibits 3.5
  • 1904 Summer Olympics 4
  • Bullfight riot 5
  • Anglo-Boer War Concession 6
  • Notable visitors 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes and references 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Map of the St. Louis World's Fair

In 1904, St. Louis hosted a World's Fair to celebrate the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. It was delayed from a planned opening in 1903 to 1904, to allow for full-scale participation by more states and foreign countries. The Fair opened April 30, 1904, and closed December 1, 1904. St. Louis had held an annual St. Louis Exposition since the 1880s as agricultural, trade, and scientific exhibitions, but this event was not held in 1904, due to the World's Fair.

The Fair's 1,200 acre (4.9 km²) site, designed by

  • Online Exhibition by the Missouri Historical Society
  • Homepage of the 1904 World's Fair Society
  • Louisiana Purchase Exposition collection at the University of Delaware Library
  • Another online exhibit of fair memorabilia
  • An Edison company film of the Asia pavilion, at the Library of Congress
  • Web site for "The World's Greatest Fair. An award winning documentary directed by Scott Huegerich and Bob Miano of Civil Pictures.
  • A large collection of stereoviews of the fair
  • History of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
  • at gutenbergFinal Report of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission
  • 5/7/1904;The Opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
  • The effect of the fair on Washington University
  • Arthur Younger Ford (1861–1926) Photograph Albums (University of Louisville Photographic Archives) – includes 69 photos taken at the fair.
  • The Louisiana Purchase Exposition: The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair from the University of Missouri Digital Library – scanned copies of nearly 50 books, pamphlets, and other related material from and about the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair) including issues of the World's Fair Bulletin from June 1901 through the close of the Fair in December 1904.

External links

  • Afable, Patricia O. 'The Exhibition of Cordillerans in the United States during the Early 1900's'. The Igorot Quarterly, vol.6, no. 2, 1997,pg.19-22.
  • Bennitt, Mark and Frank Parker Stockbridge, eds. History of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, MO: Universal Exposition Publishing Company, 1905.
  • Boeger, Astrid. 'St. Louis 1904.' In Encyclopedia of World's Fairs and Expositions, ed. John E. Findling and Kimberly D. Pelle. Jefferson, NC and London:McFarland, 2008.
  • Brownell, Susan, The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
  • Brush, Edward Hale (January 1904). "The Main Plan of the Fair".  
  • Fox, Timothy J. and Duane R. Sneddeker, From the Palaces to the Pike: Visions of the 1904 World's Fair. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1997.
  • Gilbert, James. Whose Fair?: Experience, Memory, and the History of the Great St. Louis Exposition (2009)
  • Narita, Tatsushi, 'The Young T. S. Eliot and Alien Cultures: His Philippine Interactions.' The Review of English Studies, New Series, vol. 45, no. 180, 1994.
  • Narita, Tatsushi. T. S. Eliot, The World Fair of St. Louis and 'Autonomy'. Published for NCCF-Japan. Nagoya: Kougaku Shuppan, 2013.
  • Narita, Tatsushi, T. S. Eliot and his Youth as 'A Literary Columbus', Nagoya: Kougaku Shuppan, 2011.
  • Parezo, Nancy J. and Don D. Fowler, Anthropology Goes to the Fair: The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.
  • Rydell, Robert W., All the World's a Fair. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Further reading

30. William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture. New York: Vintage Books/Random House (1993), 212-13.
  1. ^ James Gilbert, Whose Fair? Experience, and Memory, and the History of the Great St. Louis Exposition (2009)
  2. ^ Handbook of Texas Online - KESSLER, GEORGE E.. Retrieved 18 May 2006.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "MBG: An Illustrated History of the Missouri Botanical Garden - Timeline". Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  5. ^ Palace of Machinery, 1904 
  6. ^ The Colored Citizen, Pensacola, Florida, Friday, February 9, 1923 African American newspaper, Pg. 2
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ One-Hundred & Sixty Acres & An Orchard - State of the Ozarks - August 28, 2009
  9. ^ "Steam Hammer, Westinghouse Works, 1904".  
  10. ^ Stradley, Linda. "History of Ice Cream Cone". What's Cooking America. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  11. ^ Weir, Robert. "An 1807 Ice Cream Cone: Discovery and Evidence". Historic Food. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  12. ^ Vaccaro, Pamela. 2004. Beyond the ice cream cone: the whole scoop on food at the 1904 World's Fair. St. Louis: Enid Press.
  13. ^ a b Zwick, Jim (4 March 1996). "Remembering St. Louis, 1904: A World on Display and Bontoc Eulogy".  
  14. ^ Patrick, Andrew (2009). The Most Striking of Objects: The Totem Poles of Sitka National Historical Park.  
  15. ^ Harris, Neil (1975). Iriye, Akira, ed. "All the World a Melting Pot? Japan at American Fairs, 1876-1904". Mutual Images: Essays in American Japanese Relations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press): 24–54. 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. 
  16. ^ Rivas, Mim Eichler, "Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World," 1st ed, HarperCollins, 2006
  17. ^ "History of Smithsonian Whale Exhibits", National Museum of Natural History
  18. ^ Conrad Hilton. 1957. Be My Guest: Prentice Hall Press.
  19. ^ George W. Baltzell. "Foods of Saint Louis MO". 38.634616, -90.191313: Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  20. ^ "Einstein, Picasso - Space, Time, and the Beauty That Causes Havoc By ARTHUR I. MILLER". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ Bamberg, Paul;  
  22. ^ Narita, Tatsushi, "Fiction and Fact in T. S. Eliot's 'The Man Who Was King'", Notes and Queries, vol. 237, no. 2, pp. 191–192.
  23. ^ Narita, Tatsushi, T. S. Eliot and His Youth as 'A Literary Columbus', Nagoya: Kougaku Shuppan, 2011: pp. 15–20, 29–33.
  24. ^ Ludwig M. Lachmann (1970). The Legacy of Max Weber. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 143. ISBN 978-1-61016-072-8. Retrieved 22 March 2011
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ History of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Compiled from official sources by Mark Bennitt, editor-in-chief and Frank Parker Stockbridge, managing editor, Universal Exposition publishing company, 1905. 800 pages, 4000+ pictures.
  29. ^ The Universal Exposition of 1904 by David R. Francis. Two volumes, 7.5" x 10.5", 702 and 427 pages, St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, 1913. On-line at: (with search feature), index at: (alphabetical, but not at the detail level)

Other sources, listed below:[28][29]

Notes and references

See also

Philadelphia mercantilist, John Wanamaker, visited the exposition in November of 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 Wananmaker'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.

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. [27]

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 4 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.[25][26]

Max Weber visited upon first coming to the United States in hopes of using some of his findings for a case study on capitalism.[24]

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, Mo. 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.[22][23]

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.

Henri Poincaré gave a keynote address on mathematical physics, including an outline for what would eventually became known as special relativity.[20][21]

Geronimo, the former war chief of the Apache, was "on display" in a teepee in the Ethnology Exhibit.

The French organist pipe organ in the world.

J.T. Stinson, a well-regarded fruit specialist, introduced the phrase, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" (at a lecture during the exhibition).[19]

Helen Keller, who was 24 and graduated from Radcliffe College, gave a lecture in the main auditorium.[18]

Ragtime music was popularly featured at the Fair. Scott Joplin wrote "The Cascades" specifically for the fair, inspired by the waterfalls at the Grand Basin, and presumably attended the fair.

Attendees included John Philip Sousa, whose band performed on opening day and several times during the fair. Thomas Edison is claimed to have attended. President Theodore Roosevelt opened the fair via telegraph, but did not attend personally until after the election in November 1904, as he claimed he did not want to use the fair for political purposes.

Geronimo, photographed by the fair's official photographer, William H. Rau

Notable visitors

Admission ranged from 25 cents for bleacher seats to $1.00 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.

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.

Anglo-Boer War Concession

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.

Bullfight riot

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.

1904 Summer Olympics

The Smithsonian Institution coordinated the U.S. government exhibits. It featured a blue whale, the first full-cast of a blue whale ever created.[17]

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.


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.[16]

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.

In contrast, the Japan pavilion advanced the idea of a modern yet exotic culture unfamiliar to the turn-of-the-century Western world,[13] much as it had during the earlier Chicago World's Fair.[15]

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".[13] Similarly, members of the Southeast Alaskan Tlingit tribe accompanied fourteen totem poles, two Native houses, and a canoe displayed at the Alaska Exhibit.[14]

People on display

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.

Influence on popular music

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.[10][11] Other claims are more dubious, including the hamburger and hot dog (both traditional American foods), peanut butter, iced tea,[12] 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.

Introduction of new foods

The exposition's wireless telegraph tower was purchased by Charles N. Rix, a banker from Hot Springs, Arkansas, who moved it to the summit of Hot Springs Mountain for use as an observation tower. 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. Westinghouse Electric sponsored the Westinghouse Auditorium, where they showed films of Westinghouse factories and products.[9]

The relocated wireless telegraph tower in Arkansas during the 1920s

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.[7][8]

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.

Festival Hall, designed by Wanamaker's became a Lord & Taylor store and more recently, a Macy's store.

The organ's six–manual console

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 of the 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.

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.

Flight Cage (Aviary)

Some of the mansions from the Exposition's era survive along Lindell Boulevard at the north border of Forest Park.

Entrance to Creation Exhibit on the Pike

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.

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.

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.

East Lagoon, statue of Saint Louis, Palaces of Education and Manufacture, and wireless telegraph tower.



According to a claim in a 1923 number of "The Colored Citizen" (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.[6]

Paul J. Pelz was architect for the Palace of Machinery.[5]

In 1901 Exposition selected Emmanuel Louis Masqueray to be Chief of Design of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. 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.[4]

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.[4] Finally, Olmsted's sons advised Washington University on integrating the campus with the park across the street.

Kessler, who designed many urban parks in Texas and the Midwest, created the master design for the Fair.

Festival Hall


19,694,855 individuals were in attendance at the fair.[3]

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.

Exhibits were staged by 62 foreign nations, the boosterism (including Louis Wollbrinck's "Old St. Louis") and pure entertainment.

, and was the largest fair to date. There were over 1,500 buildings, connected by some 75 miles (120 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 (324,000 m²). Washington University and on the campus of Forest Park was located at the present-day grounds of [2]

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