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Portland World's Fair 1905

Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and Oriental Fair

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Quick List Info

Portland 1905 Expo

Dates Open - June 1 to October 15, 1905. Open Sundays, Open 137 days.

Attendance - 1,588,858 Paid Admissions. 1,777,458 Paid and Free Visitors. 2,554,848 Total admissions (including staff, employees, etc.)

International Participants - 18 nations and 3 colonies.

Total Cost - Total Expenses for Fair Authority $1,440,194. Estimate of $5 million, including all participants.

Site Acreage - 402 acres.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Exhibitions. Would be considered a Special Category, Registered event today like those on the 5 years of the decade. Not officially authorized by Congress, although there was an appropriation of $400-500,000. There were no formal invitation to governments from Washington, but fair was a bonded warehouse.

Ticket Cost - Admission to fair was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children, with additional charges for Trail attractions. Season passes, non-transferable season type passes, ticket books, 137 tickets, picture required, could be purchased for $20, or 50 tickets for $12.50.

Portland 1905

Photo top center: Official postcard of the Lakeview Terrace from the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and Oriental Fair, 1905, B.B. Rich Official Stationaire. Courtesy Pinterest. Column Top: Official program from Portland 1905. Courtesy Pinterest. Column Bottom: Exterior of the Forestry Pavilion, 1905, H.B. White and Company. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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History of the Event

Portland World's Fair 1905

It was the 100th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's expedition and Portland was going to celebrate. Held on four hundred and two acres with vibrant views of Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and the Cascade Mountains along the Willamette River, the exposition brought attention to the Pacific Northwest, a region unknown to most United States residents, outside gold rush news. The United States hosted over twenty foreign exhibitors as well as over a dozen states. The fair celebrated an amazing transformation in the western United States since the frontier days of Lewis and Clark's adventure. The fairgrounds themselves, designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead, were located two miles from the center of Portland, reachable by an electric car ride of eighteen minute duration. Acres of water abounded with a Bridge of Nations, one thousand feet long, that traversed it to the United States Government building on an island.

But the Bridge of Nations was only one of the grand courts and boulevards that spread about the site. There was the Colonnade Entrance where the public entered, the Pacific Court inside it, Lewis & Clark Boulevard serving as the main avenue from northeast and southwest and holding the principal buildings. There was Benton Plaza, Columbia Court with sunken gardens, the Sacagawea Fountain, Monroe Court, Jefferson Court, Washington Avenue, Montana Avenue, the Plaza of States, and more.

Above photo. Balloon rising over Guild's Lake, Portland 1905, 1905, C.L. Watson, International Stereograph Company. Below: Interior Forestry Pavilion, 1905, C.L. Watson, International Stereograph Company. Photos courtesy Library of Congress.

Portland 1905
Main buildings housed the various exhibits from foreign and domestic exhibitors, including the Forestry Building, Foreign Exhibits Building, Oriental and Educational Building, Machinery, Electricity and Transportation Building, Auditorium, Fire Department, Administration Building, and the Oregon State Building.

Concessions abounded with seventy-five souvenir stands, fifteen ice cream and soft drink stands, and twelve restaurants. An inn was built on the site, called the American Inn. It had five hundred and eighty-five rooms, costing $1.50 to $7.00 per night, depending on the European or American plan chosen. Five thousand other rooms were available at new frame hotels within walking distance of the fair; the Detroit, Fairmount, and the Outside Inn.

While the fair had some labor problems and trouble getting Asian governments to participate, plus early damp days that caused the fair authority to change some ticket practices, it succeeded, turning a profit of $84,840 and paying a dividend of nearly 40% to the stockholders of the corporation. The fair had a substantial impact of the economy of the city, spurring investment and turning the fairgrounds after it closed into a warehouse and industrial center. It build self-esteem and private fortunes. It is said that Theodore Wilcox, a grain and flour exporter, increased his fortune by $2 million. Today, the annual Rose Festival is considered a fair residual.

Historian's Perspective

Mike Cramer - "Even before fair opened, the reaction in Portland was excellent, everyone got on the band wagon. Even the media was pretty positive. The exposition authority got the message out pretty well, mainly because the 1st president was also the president of the Oregonian newspaper, and it was well built up. The Lewis and Clark Journal was published for a full year before fair opened. After the fair opened, the public reaction was excellent, it was million and one-half paid admission, pretty darn good. Portland day itself had 88,000. Forestry Building was around for 59 years. The exposition was the biggest news event ever to hit Portland at the time, very positive, after the fair closed a few things brought up. Media really lashed on to it ."

Prior to the B.I.E.

Portland Expo 1905

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

Nations - Austria, England, China, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Australia, Turkey, Russia, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Egypt, Persia, United States, Canada.

Colonies - New Zealand (Great Britain), East India (Great Britain), Phillipines.

States that Participated: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Oregon.

States with Buildings: Maine, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, California, and Oregon.

Note: It is sometimes difficult to tell whether certain nations actually participated in a significant way. Newspaper reports as well as the official guidebook and reports may indicate participation when actual participation did not occur, or occurred minimally. Take the above as a guide, not gospel.

Origin of Paid Admissions
Portland 540,000, Oregon (remainder) 361,243, Washington 279,775, Idaho, 48,530, Montana 27,200, Utah 29,057, Wyoming 7,550, California 111,356, Arizona 1,687, Colorado 16,190, Nevada 1,270, British Columbia 16,000, Alaska 2,000, Eastern States & remainder of Canada 147,000. TOTAL 1,588,858.

Expo Tidbits
Bolossy Kiralfy brought his musical spectacular called "Carnival of Venice" to the fair.

Lewis and Clark fair had the largest log cabin in the world, Forestry Building.

Motto of fair, "Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way."

The United States pavilion was the largest on site, 74,800 sq. ft., with two auxiliary buildings, 100 x 100 feet. It was situated on a peninsula jutting into the center of Guild's Lake. Buildings could be reached by crossing the Bridge of Nations or taking a ferry boat ride.

Fair had substantial impact on the economic development of city, attracting investment, and creating a real estate boom. Guild's Lake was filled in and is now a warehouse and industrial district. No buildings remain. Forestry Building remained until it was destroyed by fire in 1964 and has been rebuilt in Washington Park.

Those in Charge

Director-general was Henry W. Goode of Portland General Electric Company. Oregon State Commission Officiers - President Jefferson Myers, Vice President Warren E. Thomas, Secretary Edmond G. Giltner, Treasurer J.C. Ainsworth. Commissioners Jefferson Myers, Warren E. Thomas, Richard Scott, Frank A. Spencer, G.Y. Harry, F.G. Young, Geo. Conser, J.H. Albert, Frank Williams, J.C. Flanders, Dr. Dave Raffety.

Portland Expo 1905 Official Map

Sources: Report of the Lewis & Clark Exposition Centennial Commission for State of Oregon' Official guidebook of the Lewis and Clark Exposition Portland 1905; Official Catalogue of the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition and Oriental Fair, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.; Official History of the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition; All the World's a Fair; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs by Alfred Heller; World's Fair Magazine; History of Centennial, Fairs and Expositions; The Great Extravaganza, Carl Abbott, Oregon Historical Society.

Photo column top: Stereo Card of the main entrance to the Lewis and Clark Expo, 1905, J.A. Blosser. Courtesy Library of Congress. Bottom: Official Map of the Portland Expo, 1905, Lewis and Clark Expo Committee. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

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