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The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair Philippine Reservation

by Jack Corbett

The division of Anthropology at the 1904 World's Fair focused upon how different cultural groups lived, fed themselves, and how their societal members interacted with each other. A whole 47 acres of the fairgrounds was devoted to the Philippine Reservation. Now 47 odd acres might not sound like all that much. But it's an entire quarter mile square and back in 1904 there were 100 buildings housed in this greater than 1320 by 1320 foot piece of parkland. 1100 Filipinos resided here for the eight months the fair ran.


One of the goals of the Anthropological Division was to show Americans exotic lands and lifestyles that differed vastly from theirs. Setting aside forty-seven acres for the representatives of just one Pacific Island was a celebration of the U.S. victory over Spain in 1898 when the U.S. took control over the Philippines. In 1904 Theodore Roosevelt was President. The Spanish American War popularized Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders who had played no small part in the American victory at San Juan Hill. But the conquest of the island would not end easily after the U.S. made quick work of the Spanish. Insurrection of fanatical Islamic Moro warriors swept the Philippines. For more than two years, American troops were engaged in guerrilla warfare that in some ways became a portent for the Vietnam War.

One hundred years later these small scale conflicts with Moro tribesmen are still remembered. The U.S. military had just replaced the proven Colt 45 Single Action Army with a new double action revolver chambered for the much smaller .38 long Colt. Accounts have it that the new round repeatedly failed to stop hopped up Moro warriors who were able to get in close to lop off the heads of undergunned U.S. servicemen. Hundreds of 1873 model .45 Peacemaker Single Action revolvers were hastily pressed back into service and the legend of the 45 as a reliable man stopper was rekindled.

Small wonder then that the Philippine Reservation should be given a top billing status at the 1904 St Louis World's Fair.



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