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St. Louis World's Fair 1904 Agriculture Pavilion

ST. LOUIS, U.S.A. 1904
Louisiana Purchase Exposition

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Quick List Info

St. Louis Lousiana Purchase Exposition 1904


Dates Open - April 30 to December 1, 1904. Open 185 days. Closed Sundays.

Attendance - 19,694,855 Total Attendance. 12,804,616 Paid Attendance.

International Participants - 43 Nations and 19 Colonies.

Total Cost - Expo Authority $26,498,905.86; Total, including Exhibitors $49,657,000 plus.

Site Acreage - 1272 acres on the grounds of Forest Park and today's Washington University.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Exhibitions. St. Louis 1904 would be considered a large scale "Universal Exposition" today.

Recognized by both Federal and State governments, both of whom gave appropriations. President McKinley gave proclamation inviting nations of the earth to event commemorating the Purchase of the Louisiana Territory.

Ticket Cost - $0.50; Per Capita Price $0.487 per paid admission, $0.316 per total admission. Season ticket, adult - $25, Season ticket, children - $15.

Photo top center: Postcard of a lithograph of the St. Louis 1904 Agriculture Pavilion. From the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, Gray Lithograph Company, 1904. Courtesy Library of Congress. Column Top: Palace of Liberal Arts and Sunken Gardens. From steregraph by T.W. Ingersoil, 1904. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Official program poster for the 1904 Summer Olympics, June 16, 1904. Courtesy Smithsonian via Wikipedia Commons.

Other Histories of World's Fairs to Check Out

St. Louis Summer Olympics 1904 Official Program


Dates Open - July 1 to November 23, 1904 for extended sports program; Olympic Sports Program was August 29 until September 3, 1904.

Dates Open - Francis Field on what is now Washington University, St. Louis.

Nations Participating - 12

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History of the Event

Ferris Wheel at the St. Louis World's Fair

Meet Me in St. Louis, the song, promoted the fair, and later became a film hit forty years later, testament to its popularity. It was known for its grand palaces, most of the temporary kind, fountains, the $5 million Pike amusement area, which included what today would be seen as troublesome depictions of colonial life, and the invention of the ice cream cone. Some historians say that the Louisiana Purchase Exposition is one of those world's fairs that added less to history than others. Perhaps that's true from an exhibit standpoint, but it was hard to argue that the fair, which pulled tourists from a wider mileage than most and included a large international presence, was not impactful in its time and for the next fifty years.

When David R. Francis, former Mayor of St. Louis and Governor of Missouri, represented his state at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago 1893, the idea had already been firmly planted. St. Louis had wanted the 1893 event, but once settled, began planning for another in St. Louis to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Yes, there was a postponement.

This time, it would not only be a World's Fair, but also twin with the Summer Olympic Games, originally planned for Chicago. Turn around is fair play, it seems. It seems incongruous in these times, but at the turn of the century, it was a much bigger deal to host a World's Fair than an Olympics Games. The fair included huge ornate palaces, transportation around the grounds by railway or boat, and amusements on the Pike that included a Ferris Wheel (same as used in 1893 and moved to St. Louis, capacity 2,160 people), Cairo Street, Mysterious Asia, Empire of India, Fair Japan, the Chinese Village, the Tyrolean Alps, the Moorish Palace, the Irish Village, the Old Plantation, and the Boer War Exhibit, among hundreds more. How huge were those exhibit palaces? The Agriculture Pavilion would take a nine mile walk to see it all.

Above photo. St. Louis Ferris Wheel at expo, Underwood and Underwood, 1904. Below: Exhibit buildings and fountains around the Basin. Both photos courtesy Libary of Congress.

St. Louis World's Fair 1904
Timeline of Organization

January 10, 1899 - Louisiana Purchase Convention convention of 90 delegates from states & territories of Louisiana Purchase met for purpose of considering commemoration of purchase. Delegates decided that nothing short of an international exposition would suit and decided that St. Louis, largest and most accessible city in area, would be the proper location. Missouri Historical Society also became involved in the effort.

April 22, 1899 - Committee of Two Hundred met about a public subscription, and $4,244,670 were subscribed by end of meeting.

June 4, 1900 - Both houses of Congress passed appropriation of $5 million, pending raising of $10 million by city and citizens.

January 12, 1901 - Popular subscription by citizens of St. Louis of $5 million was made, and on Jan. 30, 1901, ordinance was passed by St. Louis municipal assembly for the issuance of $5 million in city bonds to aid the Exposition.

March 12, 1901 - 10% was subscribed from stock, and 93 directors were chosen with David R. Francis chosen as President.

June 1901 - Western half of Forest Park, six hundred fifty-seven acres, chosen as site in June 1901 with campus and model buildings of Washington University added by lease, plus five sites south of Washington University to Clayton Road and Skinker Road. Site would be 1.75 miles long x 1.25 miles wide.

August 20, 1901 - Proclamation made by President William McKinley inviting the nations of the earth to take part. Mexico would become the first to accept.

October 1901 - Ground plan with original buildings approved. Four principal executive divisions were organized - Director of Exhibits, Exploitation, Works, and Concessions & Admissions. Twelve main exhibit palaces recommended for erection:

Education 277,945 sq. ft.
Art, Four Sections (Main, E, W, S) 198,448
Liberal Arts 393,760
Varied Industries 447,900
Manufactures 588,000
Machinery 412,800
Electricity 290,200
Transportation 684,254
Agriculture 800,000
Horticulture 240,000
Forestry and Fish and Game 180,000
Mines and Metallurgy 395,592

December 20, 1901 - Groundbreaking ceremony, tied to Louisiana Purchase Flag Day, which was celebrated on 98th anniversay of formal transfer of territory.

July 1, 1902 - President Theodore Roosevelt signed proclamation which postponed date of exposition to 1904.

April 30, 1903 - The Dedication held to celebrate the actual anniversary of the centennial purchase of the Louisiana Territory. It was held in the Palace of Liberal Arts with an estimated attendance of 50,000, including President Theodore Roosevelt.

April 30, 1904 - Opening Day: President of Exposition took rostrum at 10:25 and called assemblage to order. Sousa band played "Louisiana" march and "Hymn of the West" with music by John Knowles Paine. Secretary of War, William H. Taft represented Roosevelt in St. Louis. Roosevelt opened the fair from Washington.

There were 253 exhibit buildings and structures built by the Exposition, 13 constructed by Washington University, 34 national buildings, 45 State, Territorial and Municipal buildings, 92 Philippine buildings and other structures, 74 other buildings, and 448 Concession buildings.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition was considered a success, with education supplanting commerce in the exhibits, travel to St. Louis higher than expected, and a profit (some state a loss to subscriptions, but profits were used after the fair to construct memorials and the Jefferson Pavilion) made. So probably not a profit in the traditional sense, but it did better than previously thought. Although most of the spectacular buildings were temporary, the visage of the fair exceeded most attendee expectations. Some of that had to do with the concessions on the Pike, the amusement section, as much as it did the exhibits in the palaces and national buildings, although the exhibits did contain many unique new wares: The electric stove, dial telephone, and the wireless telegraph among them.

Prior to B.I.E.

St. Louis World's Fair 1904

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

Argentina (B), Australia, Austria (B), Belgium (B), Brazil (B), Bulgaria, Canada (B), China (B), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba (B), Denmark, Egypt, France (B), Germany (B), Great Britain (B), Greece, Guatemala (B), Haiti, Honduras, Holland (Netherlands) (B), Hungary, Italy (B), Japan (B), Mexico (B), Monaco, Nicaragua (B), Norway, Panama, Persia (B), Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Salvador, Siam (B), Spain, Sweden (B), Switzerland (Unofficial), Turkey, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Colonial exhibits included Iceland (Denmark); D'Joubiti, Algeria, Madagascar, LeReunion, Tonkin (Hanoi) (France); German East Africa (Germany); Ireland, Ceylon, Jamaica, India (B), New Zealand, South Africa, other colonies (Great Britain); Vatican (Italy); Formosa (Japan); Syria (Turkey); Phillipine Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii (USA).

Various nations and their colonial or territorial possessions are listed in various buildings as participants. Some sources disagree on who was there and not there. Above list is from the Official Report by the President of the Exposition, David Francis. (B) represents that the nation/colony had their own pavilion. Some nations, such as Columbia, are listed as having Foreign Commission, but not listed as exhibitors.

States and Territorial Commissions - Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticutt, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Indian Territory, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Municipal and Other Commissions - (Represented by Special Bldgs. on "Model Street") - New York City Building, San Francisco Building, Guild Hall, Model Playground, Town Hall, Twin City Building, Kansas City Casino.

Expo Tidbits
Democratic National Convention held in St. Louis as one of the conventions associated with the World's Fair.

There was a temporary hotel inside the exposition grounds called the Inside Inn. It held over 4,000 guests with more than 1,000 employees. There were 2,257 rooms, 500 with private baths. Rates were $1.50 to $7 per night, which included the 50c fair admission fee. It cost $450,000 to build.

The Intramural railroad transported 6,274,000 passengers.

The Pike or Midway was one mile long x six hundred feet wide. .

Fairgoers were the first to enjoy an ice-cream cone, iced tea, hamburgers, and roller-coaster rides.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people actually lived on site.

St. Louis was the 4th largest city in the United States at the turn of the century.

Jefferson Memorial was accepted by city on April 30, 1913, it was built with fair profits near location of the main entrance, but was not there during the fair. It is now home to the Missouri History Museum.

St. Louis Museum of Art, located on Art Hill, was the Palace of Fine Art at the exposition and still stands today .

Monument of St. Louis on Art Hill.

World's Fair Pavilion is a structure built after the fair with its profits. It is located on the site of 1904 Missouri Building.

The administration building of the exposition is now Brookings Hall on the campus of Washington University.

Aviary at the St. Louis Zoo.

St. Louis World's Fair Pike

Perspective of Historians

Historian Terry Laupp - "Most visitors had a positive reaction to the fair; however not all visitors entering the gates had the same feelings. Members of the black community had anticipated the fair as a hope for racial change in St. Louis, that did not occur. Despite the promise by the fair organizers, that members of all races were welcome to the fair, the black community was discriminated against. Members of the white middle class were very positive of the event and most remembered the Philippine exhibit (humans from that country on display in their "native" surroundings), which was more like a human zoo than an exhibit. Remember that this fair was held during the progressive era in american history and most americans felt the need to prove that the western civilization was superior."

Those in Charge

Organizers for the exposition included President David R. Francis, former Governor of Missouri.

Sources: Official Report of the Universal Exposition of 1904, Volumes 1 and 2, by D.R. Francis, President; Pictorial History of the Louisiana Purchase & the World's Fair at St. Louis; New York Times; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs by Alfred Heller; History of Fairs and Expositions; Wikipedia; Bureau of International Exhibitions; All the World's a Fair; Fair News; 1904 World's Fair Society.

Photo column top: Statuary at the St. Louis World's Fair 1904. Middle: Scene of the Pike at St. Louis Lousiana Purchase Expo. Both photos courtesy Library of Congress.

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