Monthly Archives: July 2013

Meet me at the Fair

Looking back to a time of promise and the dawn of a new century, with new inventions and American — not to mention Midwest — pride; when we were an emerging world power; when the world looked to America and said “That’s how to do it.”  Let’s take a look at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, AKA the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair.

That Fair was the most massive, magnificent, opulent, ostentatious and over-the-top world’s fair, ever. Period. This 47-slide picture show (link below) doesn’t even show Germany’s huge re-creation of the Tyrolean Alps, or much of “The Pike” where you could ride elephants, camels or ostriches … see street performers of magic and musicians of all sort, walk the streets of Cairo … or, see a working hospital complete with new inventions like incubators with actual “struggling-for-life” premature human babies.

Consider what you could see from the 265-foot tall Ferris Observation Wheel — the one that had 36 cars carrying 60 passengers each, for a total of 2,160 riders at once:

  • Fourteen Palaces, up to 21-acres each;
  • 1,576 separate buildings;
  • …lit up with electric lights like the Emerald City, visible for miles and miles, unheard of!;
  • Underwater lighting of huge cascading waterfalls;
  • … powered by a 14,000 hp motor that drove electric generators;
  • that also powered chillers (air conditioning — ah!!) so they could enjoy ice cream and ice skate through the summer;
  • total area of 1,240 acres with 75 miles of walkways (for comparison, Disneyland is 85 acres; Disney World’s Epcot Center; and Magic Kingdom combined are only about 400 acres);
  • 20-million visitors;
  • Over 1,000 new huge sculptures;
  • Daily parades with the likes of John Phillip Sousa;

Walking around you could see and enjoy:

  • Exhibitions and speaking engagements by personalities from Will Rogers to Helen Keller;
  • Food treats made popular or first coming to public view: the newly ‘invented’ hot dog, ice cream cone, cotton candy, hamburger, puffed rice, puffed wheat, and Dr Pepper;
  • A real working hospital, a real oil well and a real coal mine;
  • And, somehow they had the great idea to hold the 1904 Olympics at the same time and place, at Washington University, on the western edge of the Fairgrounds.

— just one of the biggest extravaganzas in human history.  An exclamation mark to president Teddy Roosevelt’s bold proclamation: “This will be an American century.”

Enjoy the tour!