Wednesday, June 18, 2008


In 1904, St. Louis, Missouri hosted it's second world's fair.
The first one, known as the St. Louis Exposition, took place in 1884.

This expo was often called the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, but it's official name was the Louisiana Purchase Exposition - in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the famous American land acquisition.

The actual centennial anniversary took place in 1903, but hey, who's counting!

While researching expos and world's fairs, I've come to realize that these things were a much bigger deal back then.
One reason might be that if you wanted to see the world, you'd have to spend years on a steamship, various trains, and possibly even riding on the back of a yak!
But if you wanted to see it all in a short time - you could - at the World's Fair.
Chances were good that eventually there would be one that was close enough to visit without having to shell out too much to get there.

Of course, some of these were huge.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which was the largest to date, was so big and complex that folks would spend weeks exploring it.

In the case of many expos, dozens of buildings were erected on the grounds using "temporary building materials". Often, these types of structures would begin to decompose before an event was finished.

Several of the buildings and edifices of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition were made from something called "staff" - a mixture of plaster of Paris and hemp fibers. (yes, yes, insert your favorite Cheech and Chong joke here).
In fact, I touched on the same issue in my post from Feb. 2nd of 2008 about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, when I said that:
"just about everything in the longer exists."
The same holds true for this image.

I have to wonder if they built some of the bridges out of plaster and hemp!

Our postcard today is, in my opinion, a good example of an artist rendering.

I would be willing to bet that the person who created this image, was standing on a bluff with an easel and a paintbrush.

The lagoon of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was surrounded by many buildings. The one in the background of this view was the "Palace of Education".

The lagoon had many different types of boats, and of course, they had gondolas. It seems that almost all expos and similar events had gondolas. I would imagine they were brought in because of their international flair, but became a staple because so many folks wanted to ride in them.

Looking more closely at these gondolas, you can't help but wonder a few things:

- First, you notice the bright colors.
I don't know if they were really painted such bright colors or if the artist thought adding a little color would brighten things up a bit. There's also a slight possibility that someone bought a group of racing gondolas in Venice - they do come in a rainbow of colors. I'd need to find out when they started painting racing gondolas nine different colors.

- The second thing I noticed was the design - they look a bit short to be Venetian and the ferro on each boat lacks the "fingers' so commonly associated with gondola ferros.

It's possible that the artist decided not to include that detail, but they also may have been U.S.-built gondolas that had much simpler ferros.

- For me, the biggest question that comes to mind with these gondolas, is what kind of propulsion was used?

take a closer look at the following image, and you may notice two things:

1. the gondolier doesn't appear to be rowing, in fact he looks like he's standing right behind the canopy.

2. I could be mistaken here, but that gondola sure looks like she's leaving a big wake behind her!

It makes me wonder if these gondolas had engines.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 was the sight of many introductions.

It is said that the ice cream cone, peanut butter, cotton candy and iced tea were popularized there.
Bold claims have also been made, crediting this expo of first introducing hot dogs and hamburgers.
I'm not sure I believe them.

But I have it on good authority that one of my favorite products, Dr. Pepper, was first introduced in St. Louis in 1904 at the expo.

Watch for a stereoview from this expo in a future post.

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