The 1904 St. Louis fair

We all read the story of Mr. Jack Daniel travelling in 1904 by train to the St. Louis World's Fair where he entered his charcoal-mellowed whiskey in the international competition. The World's Fair of 1904 celebrates the Centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, an event in American history having an importance secondary only to the Declaration of Independence.

He returned home to Lynchburg four days later with the World's Fair Gold Medal for the best whiskey in the world.

But imagine yourself back at the turn of the century. You will be visiting a magical, almost imaginary city. There will be Palaces, princesses and daily parades. You will be immersed into a perfectly planned and constructed Utopian model for the future.

Remember, this is a time before planes flew and electricity was new.

These are the Palaces of Electricity and Varied Industries as viewed from the Cascade gardens.

- Here on the Jack Daniel's Collectors Page you can take a -
1904 World's Fair Virtuel tour

Keep in mind as you marvel at the immense architecture - everything was only temporary. After the Fair closed almost everything was demolished and Forest Park in St. Louis was returned to its previous, although enhanced, condition.

This is a crowd on the Plaza watching The Transportation Day Ceremonies.

This is the circular colonnade on the Palace of Varied Industries.

Palace of Manufactures

This is the foot of the Grand Basin, showing the Palace of Manufactures, the Monument and the Transverse Lagoon.

Fourteen acres are included within the four walls of the Palace of Manufactures. About nine hundred industries are represented in the exhibits. The several great nations of the world are present with the most interesting character. Japan occupies an extensive space in the western end of the building. Germany and France occupy large spaces. The textile display, from all parts of the United States and from many countries of the world, has a place in this building. Carpets, tapestries, fabrics for upholstering, the glass and crystal exhibits, the display of modern plumbing equipment, apparatus for heating and ventilation and fixtures for lighting are a part of the exhibits in this vast building. Among the processes shown are the manufacture of steel pens, paper boxes, shoes and hats. The art of window dressing is illustrated. The Palace of Manufactures cost $720,000. It stands east of the Plaza of St. Louis, north of the Palace of Education and west of the Palace of Liberal Arts. The Municipal Street lies just north of this building.

Palace of Mines and Metallurgy

This is the vista of the East Lagoon with the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy and the Palace of Liberal Arts.

One of the rarely beautiful views at the Exposition is that shown here. It may be seen from a point near the southern angle of the Palace of Education, looking toward the east. Mr. Theodore Link designed the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy, and made it one of the most interesting of the great exhibit palaces. It is 525 by 750 feet in size, and its unique architecture is a singularly successful unification of Egyptian, Greek and Assyrian elements. Decorated obelisks flank the monumental entrances, one of which is seen in the illustration. The wide, overhanging eaves and the deep portico, give an air of comfort that invites the visitor to a closer inspection of the exhibits within, where in nine acres of space are shown the mineral resources of the world and the mechanical devices for making them available. The building is surrounded on all sides by scenes and structures of interest -- by the Government Building, the German House, the Sunken Gardens, the Lagoons -- but its beauty is only enhanced by its setting. It has its own strong individuality to arrest attention. One may wander at will upon the Exposition grounds, coming at every turn upon a view that seems new because it is different from every other.

The Palace of Liberal Arts

The Palace of Liberal Arts. How could they tear this beautiful building down?

In former Exhibitions the Liberal Arts have usually occupied space in buildings devoted to other departments. At the World's Fair of 1904 a nine-acre building in the extreme eastern part of the grounds is devoted to the various exhibits classified as Liberal Arts. The Building cost $475,000. In this magnificent palace the visitor will find such interesting objects as models of famous lighthouses, the great coin collection from the British Mint, exhibits of fine photography, an extensive display of musical instruments. China makes a large collective display which includes ancient books and carvings, rare trophies from the Chinese temples, fantastic Chinese armor and weapons. Graphic arts are also installed in this building. Modern printing machinery of all kinds is in operation. An engraving plant and lithographic presses are shown. Another exhibit shows the development of the typewriter. Germany makes an exhibit of fine printing, specimens of photography, maps and models. The great organ in the Festival Hall is classified as one of the exhibits in Liberal Arts.

The Palace of Education and Social Economy

This is the South Front of the Palace of Education and Social Economy viewed from the Cascade Gardens.

Classic Grecian architecture is reproduced in the great Palace of Education. The beautiful colonnades on the four sides are in fine proportion and the logglas offer an attractive promenade. The building covers eight acres and stands on the east side of the Grand Basin, surrounded by lagoons. Access is by means of several beautiful bridges. The cost of this palace was $400,000. The educational exhibits show everything from the kindergarten to the highest university courses. A complete exhibit of laboratory operations is made. Technical and agricultural schools and commercial and industrial training all have their place. A commercial school is in full operation. In addition to the exhibits from many states and countries, five large cities have independent exhibits. Leading colleges also have exhibits. A model lecture hall, schools showing methods of training deaf, dumb and blind pupils; fine art institutes and the works of polytechnic schools are among other features.

The Grand Basin

This is the vista of the Plaza of St. Louis and the Grand Basin and adjoining Palaces. Those are the Cascade Fountains in the foreground.

The view given above shows a part of a water pageant crossing the Grand Basin. This basin is a broad expanse of water lying between the Palaces of Electricity and Education and directly in front of the cascades. The point of view is near the Louisiana Purchase Monument. The Grand Basin is a part of the lagoon system, the lagoon to the right encircling the Palace of Electricity, and the one to the left surrounding the Palace of Education. Upon these lagoons is a great variety of craft including gondolas brought from Venice, peacock boats, swan boats, dragon boats and handsome electric launches. The trip is one of the romantic experiences of the visitor. Upon the gala occasions which the picture illustrates, the boats are decked out in flowers, plants, flags and banners, and a procession thus organized makes a very beautiful scene. At night colored lights serve for purposes of decoration. The lagoons are in the heart of the Exposition and from the boats one may view the glorious central picture with unusual satisfaction and pleasure.

This is the vista of Cascade Hill from the East Lagoon. On the right is the Palace of Education and Social Economy and on the left the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy.

This is The United States Government Building with terraces of steps leading to the Sunken Gardens.

The Plaza of St. Louis

This is the opening day crowd in the Plaza of St. Louis. Festival Hall and the Terrace of States are in the distance.Mr. Jack Daniels could be on this picture...

It has been remarked that at previous expositions there were but two or three good views, while the Louisiana Purchase Exposition has hundreds. Of these the prospect from Festival Hall over the Grand Basin ranks easily among the first. Here one has the glorious stretch of water, with its surface gently rippled by passing gondolas and launches, and all the way down the lagoon and along the Plaza of St. Louis are rows of transplanted maple trees, affording shade and the color of verdure. To the right lies the stately Palace of Education, with the Manufactures Palace beyond it. To the left, crowned by figures holding aloft golden stars, is Electricity Palace, and further along the Palace of Varied Industries. Fronting the Grand Basin is the tall Louisiana Purchase Monument, torched with gold. On beyond is the broad Plaza, with level space for multitudes. At right and left are band-stands and statuary, an in the center line is the heroic figure of King Louis IX of France, the great Crusader and patron saint of the City of St. Louis. In the far distance are the Tyrolean Alps, a fitting background. At sunset is perhaps the best time to see this view, when the dying lights soften and mellow every object. Then the view is enchanting. A little later, when the myriad lights show forth, and the cascades play, it is entrancing.

"Coming down the Pike?"

This is a great view of the Pike, the entertainment center of the Fair. Have you ever used the expression, "Coming down the Pike?" This is the Pike!

The exhibits of the Department of Electricity

This is the fabulous Palace of Electricity.

A very large building is devoted to the exhibits of the Department of Electricity. Including the court, the building covers eight acres and the cost was $400,000. The groups of lofty columns about the entrances and their classic details give the building a dignity worthy of its central position in the "main picture" of the Exposition. The exhibits in the Palace of Electricity will make it a center of attraction for all who are concerned in electrical progress. The remarkable advance in electrical engineering and the new discoveries of the science during the last ten years made possible the most comprehensive exhibit ever assembled. Dynamos and motors of many kinds and new electrical machinery for a multiple of uses may be seen in operation. Definite progress has been made during recent years in the use of electricity in the treatment of diseases. How it is thus used is illustrated with X-ray apparatus and the famous Finsen light. The progress in electric lighting and the use of electric power is shown. Small but powerful electric locomotives for mining purposes make an interesting exhibit. The wonders of electro-chemistry are illustrated.

Festival Hall and Grand Basin

Our tour ends here, with this view of Festival Hall and its ornate surroundings. Recognize the man in the foreground? It's Napoleon.

The view shown is one of the majestic sweeps of the Cascade Gardens and their settings. At the left rises the dome of Festival Hall, 200 feet above the crown of the hill on which it stands. Rich carpets of sward slope gracefully down toward the waters of the Grand Basin, and the wonderful rainbow gardening makes a picture not to be excelled elsewhere. The observer contemplating this scene faces nearly west. The western arm of the Colonnade of States connects Festival Hall with the restaurant pavilion near the center of the picture. The ever-charming cascade at the west shows clearly, though the great central cascade can be better seen from the Grand Basin. Toward the right, the 250-foot circle of the Observation Wheel is sharply defined against the sky, and at the extreme right a portion of the Palace of Machinery may be seen. A part of the white walls of Jerusalem peers over the hill. The scene is one of majesty, of vastness, of many objects combined into a satisfying and harmonious whole. It fills the eye, and delights with a wealth of color and grace of line, and charms with the swirl and play of water. The surface of the basin ripples and dapples under the wind and the sun, and to complete the satisfaction of the beholder the sounds of music and of voices add human note.


The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 was by all accounts the most beautiful, educational and exciting of all the international exhibitions of global culture ever presented. The world was at peace and technology promised a future beyond all imagination. 62 nations and 43 states brought their treasures and their civilizations to St. Louis to display and demonstrate humanity's advancements since the Louisiana Purchase.

Built on over 1,200 acres in the heart of St. Louis, it was the largest fair ever held. With its immense architecture, broad boulevards, curved bridges and landscaped water vistas, the beauty of the Fair was unmatched! For 7 months in the summer of 1904, the city of St. Louis became the “World’s University.” The Fair offered its students an opportunity to learn first hand about the wonders and the cultures far removed from their everyday lives.

Cities at the turn of the century were expanding quickly, but not always in a structured, logical manner. The Fair was designed to demonstrate a model urban community of the future. The layout of this miniature city was carefully planned into different zones, each with a specific purpose. The Fair had limitless educational opportunities, little to no crime and an almost constant state of celebration. It truly became an ideal, utopian society.

The Fair planners celebrated a glorious past, acknowledged the accomplishments of the present and offered a glimpse into the possibilities of the future. The people of St. Louis put everything they had into celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, and the result was the most spectacular World’s Fair ever created.

The Planning

A great deal of the Fair’s success is due to the extensive planning. The Exposition Company was created to coordinate the preparations, but the entire population of St. Louis worked toward the great event. Arrangements had to be made for such things as transportation, sanitation, fire protection and security. They needed hotels, restaurants, services and supplies for millions of additional people. The incredible physical effort of erecting the buildings, carving the lagoons and building the roads, sewers and power plants is to be marveled at in itself.

Originally the Fair was to open April 30, 1903, the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase treaty. However, as the scope of the Exposition broadened, it became clear that everything could not be completed by the scheduled date. Since the goal of the Exposition Company was to include everything possible, the officials decided to put off the opening date for one year. After three years of concentrated work, everything was finally finished.

The Palaces

The Exposition Company divided and displayed humanity's advancements into 12 major classifications, such as Transportation, Art, Anthropology and Education. These main exhibits were housed in the Palaces. These ornately detailed show-places, with their massive columns and spired towers, were immense and beautiful almost beyond description. Electric light, a recent innovation for the turn of the century, was used lavishly both for illumination and decoration.

The Palaces comprised 5 million square feet of exhibit space. The Agriculture Palace alone covered 23 acres. Just one of the medium sized Palaces required 95,000 sq. ft. of glass, 600 windows and doors, 450 tons of steel, and 7,000,000 feet of lumber. Since they were of temporary construction, their outsides were covered with 800,000 sq. ft. of staff, a mixture of plaster of paris and hemp fiber.

Education was the keynote of the Fair. The Exposition Company incorporated education into all aspects of the exhibits, and their presentation was both innovative and organized. Within the separate Palaces, the exhibits were arranged to show the process of how things were made, not just the items themselves. For example, one could watch the rope maker, the blacksmith or the farmer actually at work, and then see the results of his/her labor. There was even a model school, where the latest educational methods were demonstrated.

The Variety

It was impossible to see all of the fair in less than a week, or study it with any care in less than a month. There were over 1500 distinct buildings on 75 miles of walks and roadways. Each country, state and territory had its own building. There was a U. S. Government building, a bank, a hospital and a press building. There were 7 churches, each one a replica of a famous place of worship. The official hotel on the Fairgrounds was the Inside Inn, which had 2257 rooms. Over 36,000 people could be served simultaneously throughout the Fair, and one large restaurant had seating for 4,800.

The 1904 Summer Olympic Games were held during the Fair. Francis Field, which had the first concrete stadium in the United States, was the most modern in the world at that period. With so many other events going on, the Olympics took on a minor role. The medals earned during the Fair have since become very desirable, and the Games themselves very interesting to research.

The Fair traveler may have chosen to visit the walled city of Jerusalem, a Japanese tea garden or a Chinese temple. There was a gigantic floral clock with hands 100 feet across, a sunken garden and the actual log cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born. One could travel over the lovely lagoons in a modern motor launch or in gaily decorated gondola. One could hire an automobile, a wheel chair, an Irish jaunting car or ride a camel, a turtle or an elephant.

There were almost daily celebrations, parades and special events. A designated committee made sure something was always going on. Some of the activities included president's week, flower show week and college week. There were weeks honoring specific states, and 32 different cities celebrated special days. There was even an official anti-cigarette day!

St. Louis, well known as a musical city, paid special attention to planning music of every variety. There were daily organ concerts in Festival Hall. The official Exposition Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of internationally famous conductors, performed popular concerts in the Tyrolean Alps. A choral group of nearly 3000 sang for special occasions. Every section of the fairgrounds featured outdoor concerts with music from a variety of internationally famous bands. John Philip Sousas’s celebrated group was a Fair favorite.

The Wonders on the Pike

The Pike was a mile long midway featuring rides, amusements and fantastic attractions. It was the headquarters for fun and adventure. The Pike was primarily a source of pleasure, but many of its features educated as they entertained. The old expression “coming down the Pike” originated at the Fair, as you never knew what you would see next.

Visitors could scale the Tyrolean Alps, visit Blarney Castle or take in a Parisian fashion show. One could go deep sea diving, ride a burro to cliff dwellings or experience the “Hereafter.” An afternoon's activities might have included stalking wild animals, exploring the North Pole or walking the streets of ancient Rome. In the Naval Battle of Santiago, model ships staged war on a miniature lake. The food choices were just as diverse, and the Pike is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.

By day the Pike was an excited crowd of children, souvenir hunters, acrobats and clowns. By night it became a milling mob of pleasure seekers. 50 different shows could be seen in the Pike’s theaters. Here one could see the forms of entertainment popular in different parts of the world, and the people came out to play. Belly dancing fast became a favorite of many fairgoers.

The Memories

When the Exposition Company made the initial contracts to plan the Fair, they promised to restore the grounds to a public park. When it was all over, the tremendous buildings were salvaged and the wonderful fountains and cascades were demolished. Archaeologists are currently studying the immense landfills where the debris from the Fair was buried.

The times had been right for the coming together of people, but much of the credit should go to the people of St. Louis. They had indeed built a fair so comprehensive, so perfectly planned, that had some disaster wiped out every culture from the face of the Earth, all could have been reconstructed from the materials on hand.

Many of these antique treasures of yesteryear are still around today, in basements, attics and memory chests of thousands of potential collectors. The next time you're at an antique store or estate sale, look for 1904 World’s Fair collectibles. Their owner may not be as familiar with the Fair’s rich history as you.

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