THE ROBINSON LIBRARY
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(Buffalo, New York, May 5 - November 2, 1901) a celebration of "commercial well being and good understanding among the American Republics"
The Bureau of American Relations, established in 1889, began planning the Pan-American Exposition immediately following the close of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Planning was delayed by the Spanish-American War, but the Pan-American Exposition Company was finally formed in 1897. Buffalo was chosen as the Exposition host in 1898, and Congress pledged $500,000 for the Exposition in July of that year.
Construction on the Exposition grounds began in 1899, and continued up to opening day. All of the buildings were designed in the Spanish Renaissance style, with bright colors being one of that style's most notable characteristics. Over five hundred sculptures signifying man's struggle to overcome the elements were situated throughout the grounds. Because the owner of the land upon which the Exposition was built insisted that he get the land back in the exact same condition it was in when it was donated, most of the buildings were constructed with a ploaster-like material that was designed to crumble after several months. The only building that was built to last was the New York State Pavilion, which was made of marble and is now home to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.
The centerpiece of the Exposition was the Electric Tower, which stood 373 feet and gave visitors a view of Niagara Falls from its upper floors. Other important buildings included: Agriculture; Machinery and Transportation; Manufacturers and Liberal Arts; Ethnology; Government; Mines; Graphic Arts; and, Horticulture. Interesting attractions in the Exposition's Midway included: Eskimo Village; Trip to the Moon; Darkness and Dawn, a realistic representation of a departed spirit whose life on earth was less than exemplary; Old Plantation, including slave quarters, "slaves," and glimpses of "Negro life"; African Village; House Upside Down; Venice in America, complete with canals and gondolas; and, Indian Congress, in which spectators could watch dances and other rituals performed by various Native Americn tribes. The entire complex was lighted by electricity generated at Niagara Falls, and 240,000 eight-watt bulbs outlined each building at night, with 44,000 on the Electric Tower alone.
The revelry of the Pan-American Exposition was interrupted on September 6, 1901, when President William McKinley was shot on the steps of the Temple of Music; he died eight days later. Although the assassination stunned the nation, it did not keep people from visiting the Exposition; in fact, daily attendance actually increased after the tragedy. The Exposition never achieved the total attendance figures it had expected, however, and it was in the red when the gates closed.
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This page was last updated on 11/02/2017.