Louisiana Purchase Exposition

1904 St. Louis
St louis 1904 mucha poster.jpg
Poster for the Exposition painted by Alphonse Mucha
BIE-classUniversal exposition
CategoryHistorical Expo
NameLouisiana Purchase Exposition
Area1,270 acres (510 hectares)
CountryUnited States
CitySt. Louis
VenueForest Park
Coordinates38°38′18.6″N 90°17′9.2″W / 38°38′18.6″N 90°17′9.2″W / 38.638500; -90.285889
OpeningApril 30, 1904 (1904-04-30)
ClosureDecember 1, 1904 (1904-12-01)
Universal expositions
PreviousExposition Universelle (1900) in Paris
NextLiège International (1905) in Liège

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World's Fair, was an international exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, from April 30 to December 1, 1904. Local, state, and federal funds totaling $15 million were used to finance the event. More than 60 countries and 43 of the 45 American states maintained exhibition spaces at the fair, which was attended by nearly 19.7 million people.

Historians generally emphasize the prominence of themes of race and empire, and the fair's long-lasting impact on intellectuals in the fields of history, art history, architecture and anthropology. From the point of view of the memory of the average person who attended the fair, it primarily promoted entertainment, consumer goods and popular culture.[1]


St. Louis World's Fair Map[2][3]
The Government Building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition

In 1904, St. Louis hosted a World's Fair to celebrate the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The idea for such a commemorative event seems to have emerged early in 1898, with Kansas City and St. Louis initially presented as potential hosts for a fair based on their central location within the territory encompassed by the 1803 land annexation.[4]

The exhibition was grand in scale and lengthy in preparation, with an initial $5 million committed by the city of St. Louis through the sale of city bonds was authorized by the Missouri state legislature in April 1899.[5] An additional $5 million was generated through private donations by interested citizens and businesses from around Missouri, a fundraising target reached in January 1901.[6] The final installment of $5 million of the exposition's $15 million capitalization came in the form of earmarked funds that were part of a congressional appropriations bill passed at the end of May 1900.[7] The fundraising mission was aided by the active support of President of the United States William McKinley, which was won by organizers in a February 1899 White House visit.[8]

While initially conceived as a centennial celebration to be held in 1903, the actual opening of the St. Louis exposition was delayed until April 30, 1904, to allow for full-scale participation by more states and foreign countries. The exposition remained in operation from its opening until December 1, 1904. During the year of the fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition supplanted the annual St. Louis Exposition of agricultural, trade, and scientific exhibitions which had been held in the city since the 1880s.

The fair's 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) site, designed by George Kessler,[9] was located at the present-day grounds of Forest Park and on the campus of Washington University, and was the largest fair (in area) to date. There were over 1,500 buildings, connected by some 75 miles (121 km) of roads and walkways. It was said to be impossible to give even a hurried glance at everything in less than a week. The Palace of Agriculture alone covered some 20 acres (81,000 m2).

Exhibits were staged by approximately 50 foreign nations, the United States government, and 43 of the then-45 U.S. states. These featured industries, cities, private organizations and corporations, theater troupes, and music schools. There were also over 50 concession-type amusements found on "The Pike"; they provided educational and scientific displays, exhibits and imaginary 'travel' to distant lands, history and local boosterism (including Louis Wollbrinck's "Old St. Louis") and pure entertainment.

Over 19 million (19,694,855, to be precise[10]) individuals were in attendance at the fair.

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