1904 saw one of the biggest worldwide celebrations in history. The St. Louis World’s Fair, more formally called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, was an international presentation of architecture, foods, and events, contributed to and attended by countries all around the globe.
Set up in St. Louis, Missouri, the expo celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The centennial festivities were postponed for a year, allowing for greater attendance from other states and foreign visitors. Larger than any fair to date, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was held from April 30th to December 1st and boasted over 1,500 buildings and 75 miles of roads and walkways. It was said that it was impossible to give even the briefest glances at everything in less than a week.
The U.S. government, 43 states, and 62 foreign nations staged the fair’s events. These exhibitions included industries, theater troupes, music schools and other amusements such as scientific displays, imaginary “travel” to distant lands, history, boosterism of St. Louis, and all kinds of other entertainment.
The fantastic architecture was one of the major identifying characteristics of the celebration. Grand though it appeared, all but one of the lovely, neo-classical palaces of the exhibit were actually made from wood frames and staff, a mixture of plaster of Paris and hemp fibers. The buildings kept deteriorating during the exposition and had to be continually patched up. Still, they made a nice impression to the visitors coming from all around the world to be awed and inspired.
A number of new foods were popularized through the event as well. One notable example is the waffle ice cream cone, which became a very popular treat for those winding their way through the exhibits and has lasted as a loved dessert for over a century since. Hamburgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, peanut butter, and iced tea were also foods that won great popularity through their use at the fair. Brand new foods also wormed their way into public affection; puffed wheat cereal made it’s debut at the expo, along with what is now one of the most popular sodas worldwide: Dr. Pepper.
Many prominent people were in attendance, including John Philip Sousa, Thomas Edison, Scott Joplin, Helen Keller, and J.T. Stinson, a doctor who coined the phrase, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” at a lecture during the exhibition. Even president Theodore Roosevelt attended, though he waited until after his re-election in November so that he wouldn’t be thought to have used the fair for his political purposes.
Find more of history’s big events advertised throughout the Newspapers section on Fold3.