Louisiana Purchase Exposition

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Entrance to Creation Exhibit on the Pike
Map of the St. Louis World's Fair
Palace of Mines & Metallurgy
Palace of Varied Industries
View from Observation Wheel, showing exhibitions New York to the North Pole, Galveston Flood, and Palace of Transportation

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as The Saint Louis World's Fair, was the second World's Fair held in the city of St. Louis, in 1904. The Fair celebrated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase (delayed one year). It opened April 30, 1904, and closed December 1 the same year.

The Fair's 1,200 acre site, designed by George Kessler was located at the present-day grounds of Forest Park, and was the largest of any fair to date. There were over 1,500 individual buildings, connected by some 75 miles of roads and walkways. It was said to be impossible to give even a hurried glance at everything there in less than a week's time. The Palace of Agriculture alone covered some 20 acres of space.

Exhibits were staged by 62 foreign nations, the United States government, and 43 of the then 45 U.S. states. In addition to the numerous exhibits put on by industries, cities, private organizations and corporations, theater troupes, and music schools, there were also carnival-type amusements found on "The Pike".


George Kessler who designed many urban parks throughout Texas and the Midwest created a new master design for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

A popular myth says that Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park and fair grounds. Kessler had worked briefly for Olmsted as a Central Park gardener when he was in his 20s. Furthering this confusion is that Olmsted was involved with Forest Park in Queens, New York. Olmsted died in 1903 - a year before the fair. Olmsted however did create the master plan in 1897 for renovations to the Missouri Botanical Garden a few blocks to the southeast of the park.[1] Olmsted's sons did advise Washington University on integrating the campus with the park across the street.



As with the |World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1893, all but one of its grand, neo-Classical exhibition palaces were temporary edifices, constructed with a material called "staff", which was a mixture of plaster of Paris and hemp fibers. And as with Chicago, buildings and statues suffered visible deterioration during the months of the Fair.

The Palace of Fine Art, designed by architect Cass Gilbert and featuring a grand interior sculpture court based on the Roman Baths of Caracalla. Standing at the top of Art Hill, it now serves as the home of the St. Louis Art Museum.

The Administration Building is now Brookings Hall, the defining landmark on the campus of Washington University. The building was also copied to be the defining landmark at Northwest Missouri State University founded in 1905 in Maryville, Missouri. The grounds layout was also recreated in Maryville and now is designated as the official Missouri State Arboretum.

Some of the mansions from the Exposition's era survive along Lindell Boulevard at the north border of Forest Park. The official residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saint Louis is one such mansion, having been built in 1894.

The huge bird cage at the St. Louis Zoo dates to the fair.

Birmingham, Alabama's iconic cast iron Vulcan statue was first exhibited at the Fair in the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy.

The Missouri State building was planned as a permanent structure, but it burned down on November 18, and since the fair was almost over it was not rebuilt. After the fair, the World's Fair Pavilion was built on the site of the Missouri building.

Festival Hall was the site of the largest organ in the world at the time, built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company. It was placed into storage and then eventually purchased by John Wanamaker for his new store in Philadelphia. See [[w:Wanamaker Organ|Wanamaker Organ for more details.

Completed in 1913, the Jefferson Memorial Building was built near the main entrance to the Exposition, at Lindell and DeBalivere. It was built with proceeds from the fair, to commemorate Thomas Jefferson, who initiated the Louisiana Purchase, and to store the Exposition's records and archives. It is now home to the Missouri History Museum.

Introduction of New Foods

A number of foods are claimed to have been invented at the fair. The most widely accepted claim is that the waffle-style ice cream cone was invented and first sold during the fair. Other claims are more dubious, including the hamburger and hot dog (both traditional German foods), peanut butter, iced tea, and cotton candy. It is more likely, however, that these food items were first popularized at the St. Louis World's Fair -- wherein mass audiences were first exposed to them.

The owners of Doumar's Cones and BBQ in Norfolk, Virginia claim that their uncle, Abe Doumar, sold the first ice cream cones at the St. Louis World's Fair.

Judy Garland Movie

The Fair inspired the song Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis, which was recorded by many artists including Billy Murray. Both the Fair and the song are focal points of the 1944 Judy Garland movie "Meet Me in St. Louis".

1904 Summer Olympics

See 1904 Summer Olympics for more information.
The Fair hosted the 1904 Summer Olympics, the first Olympics held in the United States. These games had originally been awarded to Chicago, but when St. Louis threatened to hold a rival international competition, the games were relocated. Nonetheless, the sporting events, spread out over several months, were overshadowed by the Fair. With travel expenses high, many European athletes did not come. Nor did modern Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin.


KETC video about the fair with original film and images: <youtube v="L-XUD5PGGAw" />

See Also

External Links