Souvenirs of a Shrunken World

by Holly Iglesias


       Sources for section dividers:

       page 2: Henry Adams, The Autobiography of Henry Adams

       page 20: The World's Work, August 1904

       page 34: Helen Keller, The World I Live In

       page 48: Blackboard quotation, from a photograph, Missouri Historical Society

       page 60: George M. Beard, American Nervousness, Its Causes and Consequences

       page 74: Jack London, The Kempton-Wace Letters

       "Facade." (page 5) Louisiana Purchase O'Leary Wampler was the child of Mary and Lawrence O'Leary, laborers during the construction of the Fair. She died in June, 2003, at age 100. Her childhood memories, recorded in the 1970s, are included in the oral history archives at the Missouri Historical Society (MHS), Research Library and Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.

       "Flossie and T. R." (page 8) For those who could afford it, the Intramural Railway offered easy transport around the enormous fairgrounds. There were seventeen stations, easy-to-identify places to meet. Station No. 12 was close to the Palace of Fine Arts.

       "Foundling." (page 9) The Infant Incubators was an attraction on the Pike, or the midway, where prematurely born babies (orphaned, abandoned, up for adoption) received the latest in medical care. One baby on display was a girl found on the stoop of a building by a policeman who, after visiting the Incubators to see her many times with his wife, decided to adopt her.

       Admission to the Incubators was 50 cents; a souvenir soap baby cost 20 cents.

       "Sashay." (page 10) Targee Street, located in the central corridor of St. Louis, was home to a racially mixed, primarily poor community, as well as the site of the murder recounted in the ballad, "Frankie and Johnny." Ragtime clubs in the area, such as the Rosebud Café, were frequented by the best composers and pianists of the day—Tom Turpin, Louis Chauvin and Scott Joplin, who lived in St. Louis during the era of the Fair. When the City Beautiful movement hit its stride in the 1910s, these clubs, as well as churches, schools, homes and stores, were razed, setting a pattern for 20th century urban planning, in which hundreds of predominantly African-American communities were demolished in the name of progress.

       "Dedication Group." (page 13) Dedication of the Fair took place in 1903, but the opening had to be delayed due to the scale of the project. The figures in the portrait are President Theodore Roosevelt, former President Grover Cleveland, and David R. Francis, President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company and former governor of Missouri. Roosevelt assumed the presidency after McKinley died in 1901, assassinated by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.

       "Neurasthenia, 1." (page 16) Sources: The Cosmopolitan, September, 1904, and World's Work, August, 1904.

       "Third Visit." (page 18) Source: Diary of Edmund Philibert, MHS. Philibert, a carpenter, attended the Fair twenty-eight times. Hourly wages for plasterers, bricklayers and plumbers ranged from seventy-five cents to one dollar; common laborers earned about twenty-five cents an hour.

       Philibert’s diary, along with those of Edward V.P. Schneiderhahn and Sam Hyde, and the correspondence of Florence Philibert McCallion (Philibert's sister) are archived at MHS. Portions of these materials were published in Indescribably Grand: Diaries and Letters from the 1904 World's Fair, edited and with an introduction by Martha R. Clevenger, 1996.

       "Margaret's Morning Constitutional on the Pike." (page 22) Moxie, a carbonated beverage, was developed as a nerve tonic, a popular remedy during a time of considerable concern about the effects of neurasthenia (also known as American Nervousness), an affliction attributed to the stresses of advanced civilization.

       "Sizing Up." (page 24) William Howard Taft, former governor of the Philippines and Secretary of War, wanted the Igorots to wear short trousers instead of the customary loin cloth, which prompted a barrage of argument and newspaper cartoons. The Board of Lady Governors, however, agreed with W. J. McGee, Chief of the Department of Anthropology, that native peoples should be displayed in authentic garb. The issue of clothing rose again when the weather grew cold. Rather than giving Igorots warm clothing, Fair officials heated their huts. Spectators, frustrated in their desire to see the half-naked Igorots, threw rocks at the dwellings to force them outside for viewing.

       "Race for Space." (page 25) Historian Frederick Jackson Turner had delivered his frontier thesis of American history at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. His theory, prompted by the Census Bureau's determination that the frontier no longer existed, asserted that the frontier was the line where civilized man confronted his savage self, an encounter uniquely American and the well-spring of democracy.

       Turner considered the Louisiana Purchase as important as the Constitution in its effect upon the American character. The enormous territory, so quickly acquired, necessitated critical decisions about issues of governance and profoundly altered the nation’s sense of scale. The Purchase raised bigness to a national value, with territorial expansion its inevitable expression.

       Henry Adams recounted his impressions of the Fair in The Education of Henry Adams, where he opined that the New Americans of crowded Midwestern cities were products of a great mechanical power, bearing “no distinctive marks but that of its pressure.”

       "Model Factory: Preaching in Pictures." (page 26) Source: Photo captions, The Cosmopolitan, September, 1904.

       "The Entertainers." (page 31) Anton Dvorák claimed that the one truly American music was Negro music, the first authentic expression of the native soil. Despite this approbation, ragtime music was barred from all venues at the Fair except along the Pike.

       "The Graduate." (page 37) Source: Senior examination book of Florence Gay, 1903, possession of the author.

       "Centennial: Against the Grain." (page 38) Children, the Spaniards have surrendered... Message delivered by Lewis and Clark to tribes along the Missouri River and in the Rocky Mountains, including the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and Sioux.

       "Geronimo, Tiger of the Human Race." (page 39) The title refers to the name given Geronimo by U. S. cavalry in the war against western tribes after the Civil War. By the time of the Fair, Geronimo had been a prisoner of war for many years and converted to Christianity. Although he was occasionally taken under supervision to participate in Wild West shows and other expositions, he recounted only his experiences at the St. Louis Fair in his autobiography.

       "Zulu." (page 40) These Africans participated in twice-daily re-enactments of the Boer War (1899-1902), during which the British wrested control of South Africa from the Boers (or Afrikaaners, of Dutch descent).

       "A Romance of War and Its Simulation." (page 42) General Piet Cronje was a Boer veteran.

       "Headliners." (page 43) Source: National and local press coverage of Pygmies at the Fair, reprinted in Ota: the Pygmy at the Zoo, by Phillips Verner Bradford and Harvey Blume, 1992. Bradford is the grandson of the man who brought Ota to the Fair from the Belgian Congo.

       "The Degenerate Classes." (page 44) Source: Robert Hunter, Poverty, 1904.

       "Model Student." (page 45) Because the Fair's design reflected the ideals of beauty, order and safety espoused by the new field of urban planning, there were many “models”— Model City, Model School, Model Street. The model student in the poem is one of hundreds of St. Louis school children who participated in demonstrations of modern educational practices.

       "Will Feigns a Fall." (page 47) Will Rogers was just beginning his long career as an entertainer on the Wild West circuit when he appeared at the Fair.

       "Model Child." (page 50) The Indian School contained parallel exhibits along a corridor, on one side, the Primitive—adults in traditional dress working on crafts—on the other, the Civilized—youth in Western clothing performing small manufacturing tasks and Victorian domestic niceties.

       "Elementary Demonstrations." (page 52) One purpose of the Philippine Reservation was to show that the island’s people, so recently liberated from Spain by the U.S., could be educated as workers.

       "The Bookkeeper Flirts with Danger." (page 53) Source: Diary of Sam P. Hyde, MHS.

       "Man Made of Facts." (page 58) The fan-shaped layout of the principal exhibition palaces was called The Main Picture, a term that reflected the increasing importance of framing and of photographic images.

       For a collection of maps and photographs of the Fair, visit the MHS online exhibition: http://mohistory.org/Fair/WF/HTML/index_flash.html.   

       "St. Louis Provident Association: Applications for Relief." (page 63) Source: Charities, October 8, 1904.

       "Railroad and Transportation Day." (page 64) During the most violent episode of the infamous St. Louis streetcar strike, three men were killed and fourteen wounded when a posse fired into a crowd of strikers returning from a picnic on June 20, 1900. The incident, known as the Washington Avenue Massacre, was compared in Collier's Weekly to "the terrible orgies of riot and wantonness that characterized the early days of the French Revolution in Paris."

       "Change of Venue." (page 65) The fact that we pay..., from keynote address by Annie H. Jones, National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, July, 1904. Upon learning that Negro Day had been canceled, the group moved its annual meeting from the Fair to a local church.

       The much-anticipated Negro Day, which had been endorsed by Booker T. Washington, became a source of disappointment when a conflict arose over the refusal of a Georgia regiment to encamp in proximity to African-American veterans from Illinois.

       "Maria Antonia Montoya Martinez, San Juan Ildefonso Pueblo." (page 68) Maria Martinez, one of the greatest potters of the 20th century, was in her twenties and newly married when she exhibited her unique black-on-black vessels at the Fair. Soon after, collectors began to seek out her work.

       By 1904, the San Ildefonso Pueblo had been inhabited continuously for seven hundred years.

       "Going the Distance." (page 69) The first modern-era Olympic Games held in the United States took place at the Fair.

       "Helen Keller Day." (page 70) While nearly every day of the Fair was named in honor of something special—an historic event, a state or nationality, a fraternal or professional organization—Helen Keller Day (October 18) was the only occasion dedicated to a living person. She was 24 years old.

       Missouri native son Mark Twain, a friend and advocate of Keller since her early teens, felt that one day history would consider her as powerful and influential as Napoleon Bonaparte.

       "Datto Bulon's Vision." (page 71) Of all the palaces and exhibits, Keller most wanted to visit the Philippine Reservation. As a sign of esteem for the guest of honor, the Bagabo prince Bulon placed his hair in her hands. It was nearly three feet long.

       "Julia Davis and the Reconstruction of Heaven." (page 72) Julia Davis, a lifelong teacher and community activist in St. Louis, attended the Fair the summer before she started Sumner High School, the first high school for African Americans west of the Mississippi. Her recollections are included in the oral history archives at MHS.

       "And When I Die." (page 73) Smithsonian scientists, aware that deaths were inevitable among the tribal peoples displayed in anthropological exhibits, made plans to distribute their skeletal remains and organs among various research institutions.

       "Testimonial." (page 76) Fairy Soap and Gold Dust Washing Powder were not the only products displayed at world's fairs to rely upon racist advertising. Others included Aunt Jemima pancake mix ("slave in a box"), Uncle Ben's rice and Cream of Wheat cereal. Aunt Jemima was introduced at the Chicago Fair in 1893 in a living advertisement, the character played by an actual ex-slave who cooked while entertaining customers with anecdotes about plantation life.

       "Neurasthenia, 2." (page 79) Sources: The Cosmopolitan, September, 1904 and World's Work, August, 1904.

       "Anthropometry." (page 80) The sheer paper upon which these individuals’ feet and hands were printed for measurement and analysis can be viewed among Fair materials archived at the St. Louis Public Library.

       "One of the Happiest Days of Our Quiet Lives." (page 82) The title is a phrase from a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat written by pupils of the Deaf Mute Institute to describe their visit to the Fair on November 25. Nearly 200 children, of many nationalities, had previously attended the Thanksgiving banquet mentioned.

       "Conversion Experience." (page 84) The Fair that had taken years to build was demolished in a matter of months. It is difficult to imagine the sense of desolation for those who had watched the wonderland take shape and spent days wandering through it. Part of the Fair's mystique was an instant nostalgia, a yearning based on the knowledge that it would not last, vanishing without a trace.

       The Ferris Wheel (or Observation Wheel) was built for the 1893 Chicago Fair. After that event, the Wheel went without an investor or permanent home until the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company bought it at auction for $1,800. It carried 36 cars, each with a 60-passenger capacity. Some people bought multiple tickets in order to ride for hours; others held private dinner parties in a car; a few were married during their ride.

       After the St. Louis Fair, again with no investor to remove it, the Ferris Wheel was destroyed. Execution of an old friend..., from the recollections of Arthur Proetz (http://members.socket.net/~jtucker/wfair5.htm).

       "Too Long at the Fair." (page 85) Source: Correspondence of Florence Philibert McCallion, MHS.

       "In the Dream an Electric Fan." (page 86) Emma Kuhn attended the Fair during a two-week visit to St. Louis to attend to her sister, Louise, who had just had a baby. Her own mother was pregnant at the time with a child who died shortly after his birth.

       Emma, whose recollections of the Fair are included in the MHS oral history archives, was the sister of Pauline Kuhn, the author’s grandmother, who was twelve years old when she attended the Fair.  Her other grandparents—Rudolph Krummenacher, Richard Lancaster, and Florence (Flossie) Gay—also attended the Fair.

       "Attempting the Impossible." (page 87) Sources: Diaries of Edward V.  P. Schneiderhahn and Sam P. Hyde, MHS.