Jack Corbett's Ten Wonders of Pattaya

 

 

The 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair
by Jack Corbett

 

There had never been a world's fair of this magnitude before and there never would be since. The Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904 was the greatest and the grandest there has ever been. To put this in perspective the Chicago World's Fair in 1891 took a little over 600 acres of flatlands to house it whereas the St Louis Fair spilled out over 1271 acres of former wilderness, an area known then as it is now, as Forest Park.

By 1904 the United States was rapidly becoming the nation of destiny that would soon lay claim to its industrial, scientific, and moral leadership over the rest of the planet. So on opening day April 30, 1904, Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company President, David R. Francis, no doubt expressed the sentiment of a whole nation when he announced to the 200,000 visitors who had showed up: "So thoroughly does it represent the world's civilizations, that if all man's other works were by some unspeakable catastrophe blotted out, the records here established by the assembled nations would afford all necessary standards for the rebuilding of our civilization."

As the man in charge of building the enormous spectacle and showcase, David Francis and his partners had to overcome an enormous series of both man made and natural obstacles to the completion of the fairgrounds from a group of privately owned and undeveloped wooded tracts to an unforgetable site that would command the imagination of millions of fair goers. Just one of the challenges was the rechanneling of the River Des Peres in the middle of winter. This river meandered throughout the area the fair's large ornate palaces were to occupy. Not only was it in the way, it was prone to flooding, so a new channel was dug through a foot of frozen ground in the middle of winter so the water could course through a new ditch sided with wood which its builders covered with dirt for future fair growers to cross. Obstinate and often unscrupulous land owners also stood in the way of the fair's architects who needed a lot more than the 600 original acres for a fair of such magnitude that it could later claim to be the biggest and best ever.

Historically the timing was perfect for an exposition that would reflect a country's idealistic hopes for a much better world and for a civilization that was approaching its zenith. Ten years later, 1914, would bring in the most devastating war that had ever been fought-----the war to end all wars. But this was ten years earlier. The Kaiser of Germany was closely related to the Russian Tsar as was the royal family of England who also were pals of the Archduke of Austria Hungary and his family. Back then these people did a lot more than just visiting each other on their yachts. They married into each other's families. All of this would change in World War I which saw the complete dissolution of the Czars, the Kaisers, and the Hapsburg royal families.

In 1876 Custer and his men were massacred at the Little Big Horn but by the end of the year the Sioux and Cheyenne were no longer a threat to whites migrating westward. Three years later, Thomas Edison, invented the incandescent electric lamp in 1879 just twenty-five years prior to the World's Fair's grand opening.

Edison was an American, who later went on to obtain patents for the phonograph and the motion picture projector. By 1904 the designers of the World's Fair gave center stage to Edison's invention. Festival Hall, which at over 200 feet high, claimed to have a larger dome than St. Peter's basilica in Rome, was transformed at night by thousands of lights that had been arranged around its exterior and along the Cascades which pumped forty-five thousand gallons of water a minute from in front of Festival Hall to the Grand Basin. The celebration of electricity and its potential for changing the way mankind would live in the twentieth century was further dramatized by the Palace of Electricity and Machinery, a project over which Edison presided himself.

There was to be a division of Anthropology which included the Philippine Reservation which occupied forty-seven acres now occupied by the current campus of Fontbonne College. Traditional Philippine village structures were built for display here. Other sections in this division had American plains Indian men and women building lodges before the fairgoers, Belgian Congo tribesman, and Ainu natives from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to name just a few.

I think the whole thing served to show a promise of greatness that would be unfilfilled. Through being able to pump all those thousands of gallons of water through the cascades, we were trying to show that man could after all control the waters, and its lakes and oceans. Yet the unsinkable Titanic would perish in 1912. Electricity would give us the means to enjoy lives of unprecedented promise. The villages in the Anthropolgical area of the park were to be evidence that mankind could get along together and that perhaps wars would rapidly become a thing of the past. Yet just ten years later the nations of the world would be lined up against each other to mow down millions with their machine guns and artillery.

Back then nearly all of the huge palaces of the fair were built of staff, a compound of plaster of Paris and fiber, being built to withstand only eight months of use, which is how long the fair lasted. These structures cost a half million or a little more to build which was a substantial sum in those days. Only the St Louis Art Museum, called then the Palace of Fine Arts, was built to last. At a cost then of a million dollars, this enduring structure was hidden from view behind Festival Hall, which dominated Art Hill in 1904.

And when it was over, it was over. All the buildings came down except for the Palace of Fine Arts. But the memories would last, memories of a time when it was hoped that civilization would flourish and that wars would become a thing of the past. World War I and its millions of dead would give way to the generation of the twenties--a disillusioned no longer idealistic generation and that would give way to World War II and its even more millions of dead. Things would never be the same.

 

There had never been a world's fair of this magnitude before and there never would be since. The Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904 was the greatest and the grandest there has ever been. To put this in perspective the Chicago World's Fair in 1891 took a little over 600 acres of flatlands to house it whereas the St Louis Fair spilled out over 1271 acres of former wilderness, an area known then as it is now, as Forest Park.

By 1904 the United States was rapidly becoming the nation of destiny that would soon lay claim to its industrial, scientific, and moral leadership over the rest of the planet. So on opening day April 30, 1904, Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company President, David R. Francis, no doubt expressed the sentiment of a whole nation when he announced to the 200,000 visitors who had showed up: "So thoroughly does it represent the world's civilizations, that if all man's other works were by some unspeakable catastrophe blotted out, the records here established by the assembled nations would afford all necessary standards for the rebuilding of our civilization."

As the man in charge of building the enormous spectacle and showcase, David Francis and his partners had to overcome an enormous series of both man made and natural obstacles to the completion of the fairgrounds from a group of privately owned and undeveloped wooded tracts to an unforgetable site that would command the imagination of millions of fair goers. Just one of the challenges was the rechanneling of the River Des Peres in the middle of winter. This river meandered throughout the area the fair's large ornate palaces were to occupy. Not only was it in the way, it was prone to flooding, so a new channel was dug through a foot of frozen ground in the middle of winter so the water could course through a new ditch sided with wood which its builders covered with dirt for future fair growers to cross. Obstinate and often unscrupulous land owners also stood in the way of the fair's architects who needed a lot more than the 600 original acres for a fair of such magnitude that it could later claim to be the biggest and best ever.

Historically the timing was perfect for an exposition that would reflect a country's idealistic hopes for a much better world and for a civilization that was approaching its zenith. Ten years later, 1914, would bring in the most devastating war that had ever been fought-----the war to end all wars. But this was ten years earlier. The Kaiser of Germany was closely related to the Russian Tsar as was the royal family of England who also were pals of the Archduke of Austria Hungary and his family. Back then these people did a lot more than just visiting each other on their yachts. They married into each other's families. All of this would change in World War I which saw the complete dissolution of the Czars, the Kaisers, and the Hapsburg royal families.

In 1876 Custer and his men were massacred at the Little Big Horn but by the end of the year the Sioux and Cheyenne were no longer a threat to whites migrating westward. Three years later, Thomas Edison, invented the incandescent electric lamp in 1879 just twenty-five years prior to the World's Fair's grand opening.

Edison was an American, who later went on to obtain patents for the phonograph and the motion picture projector. By 1904 the designers of the World's Fair gave center stage to Edison's invention. Festival Hall, which at over 200 feet high, claimed to have a larger dome than St. Peter's basilica in Rome, was transformed at night by thousands of lights that had been arranged around its exterior and along the Cascades which pumped forty-five thousand gallons of water a minute from in front of Festival Hall to the Grand Basin. The celebration of electricity and its potential for changing the way mankind would live in the twentieth century was further dramatized by the Palace of Electricity and Machinery, a project over which Edison presided himself.

There was to be a division of Anthropology which included the Philippine Reservation which occupied forty-seven acres now occupied by the current campus of Fontbonne College. Traditional Philippine village structures were built for display here. Other sections in this division had American plains Indian men and women building lodges before the fairgoers, Belgian Congo tribesman, and Ainu natives from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to name just a few.

I think the whole thing served to show a promise of greatness that would be unfilfilled. Through being able to pump all those thousands of gallons of water through the cascades, we were trying to show that man could after all control the waters, and its lakes and oceans. Yet the unsinkable Titanic would perish in 1912. Electricity would give us the means to enjoy lives of unprecedented promise. The villages in the Anthropolgical area of the park were to be evidence that mankind could get along together and that perhaps wars would rapidly become a thing of the past. Yet just ten years later the nations of the world would be lined up against each other to mow down millions with their machine guns and artillery.

Back then nearly all of the huge palaces of the fair were built of staff, a compound of plaster of Paris and fiber, being built to withstand only eight months of use, which is how long the fair lasted. These structures cost a half million or a little more to build which was a substantial sum in those days. Only the St Louis Art Museum, called then the Palace of Fine Arts, was built to last. At a cost then of a million dollars, this enduring structure was hidden from view behind Festival Hall, which dominated Art Hill in 1904.

And when it was over, it was over. All the buildings came down except for the Palace of Fine Arts. But the memories would last, memories of a time when it was hoped that civilization would flourish and that wars would become a thing of the past. World War I and its millions of dead would give way to the generation of the twenties--a disillusioned no longer idealistic generation and that would give way to World War II and its even more millions of dead. Things would never be the same.

 

 

Other images of the 1904 World's Fair
 

Hey...I took just about all the pictures for Jack Corbett's Ten Wonders of St Louis but I sure didn't take these. In the classic sense that is. Believe it or not I don't own a scanner. But I've been using a digital camera of over five years so I simply used the Canon G-2 to take pictures of pictures from the World's Fair. They came from the Missouri Historical Society Press, "From the Palaces to the Pike," by Timothy J. Fox and Duane R. Sneddeker

 
 

Tranformation of a Wilderness to the largest and best Fairground  ever
The 1904 Festival Hall (it blocked the Art Museum from view)
The Palace of Machinery and Electricity
The Palace of Education and Social Economy
The Division of Anthropology--The Philippine Reservation
 

 

 

Other Forest Park Attractions

 

 
 The Looking Glass Magazine

 


 

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