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Source: History of the United States
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Pan-American Exposition, 1901” [chapter 18]
Author(s): Andrews, E. Benjamin
Volume number: 5
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1903
Pagination: 341-58

 
Citation
Andrews, E. Benjamin. “The Pan-American Exposition, 1901” [chapter 18]. History of the United States. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903: pp. 341-58.
 
Transcription
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
 
Keywords
Pan-American Exposition.
 
Named persons
Karl Bitter; F. Edwin Elwell; John Galen Howard; Isidore Konti; Theodore Roosevelt; Frederick G. R. Roth; Augustus Saint-Gaudens; William Tecumseh Sherman; Charles Yardley Turner.
 
Notes
This chapter includes photographs captioned as follows: “The Electric Tower and Fountains” (p. 343), “The Ethnology Building and United States Government Building” (p. 345), “The Temple of Music by Electric Light” (p. 347), “Group of Buffalos—Pan-American Exposition” (p. 350), “The Electric Tower at Night” (p. 353), “Triumphal Bridge and entrance to the Exposition, showing electric display at night” (p. 355), and “The Electricity Building” (p. 357). A photograph of McKinley appears on the book’s frontispiece.

From title page: History of the United States: From the Earliest Discovery of America to the End of 1902.

From title page: With 550 Illustrations and Maps.

From title page: By E. Benjamin Andrews, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Formerly President of Brown University.
 
Document

 

The Pan-American Exposition, 1901

     THE time had come for North and South America to unite in a noble enterprise illustrating their community of interests. United States people were deplorably ignorant of their southern neighbors, this accounting in part for the paucity of our trade with them. They knew as little of us. Our war with Spain had caused them some doubts touching our intentions toward the Spanish-Americans. An exposition was a hopeful means of bringing about mutual knowledge and friendliness. But the fair could not be ecumenical. At Chicago and Paris World’s Fairs had reached perhaps almost their final development. To compete in interest, so soon, with such vast displays, an exposition must specialize and condense.
     On May 20th, the day of opening, a grand [341][342] procession marched from Buffalo to the Exposition grounds. Inspired by the music of twenty bands representing various nations, the parade wound through the park gate up over the Triumphal Bridge into the Esplanade. As the doors of the Temple of Music were thrown open, ten thousand pigeons were released, which, wheeling round and round, soared away to carry in all directions their messages announcing that the Exposition had begun. The Hallelujah Chorus was rendered, when Vice-President Roosevelt delivered the dedicatory address.
     The authors of the Pan-American, architects, landscape-gardeners, sculptors, painters, and electricians, aimed first of all to create a beautiful spectacle. Entering by the Park Gateway you passed from the Forecourt, attractive by its terraces and colonnades, to the Triumphal Bridge, a noble portal, with four monumental piers surmounted by equestrian figures, “The Standard-bearers.” This dignified entrance was in striking contrast with the gaudy and barbarous opening to the Paris Exposition. From the gate the [342][343] whole panorama spread out before the eye. Down the long court with its fountains, gardens, and encircling buildings, you saw the Electric Tower soaring heavenward, fit expression of the mighty power from Niagara, which at night made it so glorious. The central court bore the form of a cross. At either side of the gate lay transverse courts, each adorned with a lake, fountains, and sunken gardens, and ending in curved groups of buildings. On the east was the Government Group; on the west that devoted to horticulture, mines, and the graphic arts. The intersection of the two arms formed the [343][344] Esplanade, spacious enough for a quarter of a million people, and commanding a superb view. Connected by pergolas with the building in the transverse ends two structures, the Temple of Music and the Ethnology Building, stood like sentinels at the entrance to the Court of Fountains. A group of buildings enclosed this court, terminating in the Electric Tower at the north. From the Electric Tower round to the Gateway again all the buildings were joined by cool colonnades. Beyond the Tower was the Plaza, a charming little court, its sunken garden and band-stand surrounded by colonnades holding statuary.
     The broad and spacious gardens with their wealth of verdure, their lakes, fountains, and statuary, formed a picture of indescribable charm. Nothing here suggested exhibits. Instead, spectators yielded to the spell of the beautiful scene. Chicago was serious and classic; Buffalo romantic, picturesque, even frivolous. The thought seemed to have been that, life in America being so intense, a rare holiday ought to bring diversion and amuse- [344][345] ment. No style of architecture could have contributed better to such gayety than the Spanish-Renaissance, light, ornate, and infinitely varied, lending itself to endless decoration in color and relief, and no more delicate compliment could have been paid our southern neighbors than this choice of their graceful and attractive designs. Each building was unique and original in plan. Domes, pinnacles, colonnades, balconies, towers, and low-tiled roofs afforded endless variety. The Electric Tower, designed by Mr. Howard, the central point in the scheme of architecture, its background of columns and its airy perforated walls and circular cupola with the Goddess of Light above, combined massiveness with lightness. Other buildings were strikingly quaint and pleasing, especially those suggesting the old Southern [345][346] Missions. All blended into the general scheme with scarcely a discord. This harmony was not accidental, but resulted from combined effort, each architect working at a general plan, yet not sacrificing his individual taste. It was an object lesson in massive architecture, showing how easily public edifices may be made beautiful each in itself, and to increase each other’s beauty by artistic grouping.
     Perhaps the most novel feature of the Fair was the coloring. Charles Y. Turner’s color-scheme, original and daring, called forth much criticism. With the Chicago White City the Rainbow City at Buffalo was a startling contrast. But the artist knew what he was doing when he boldly applied the gayest and brightest colors to buildings and columns, and added to the quaint architecture that bizarre and oriental touch in keeping with the festal purposes of the occasion. The rich, warm tones formed a perfect background for the white statuary, the green foliage, and the silvery fountains. The Temple of Music was a Pompeian red, Horticultural Hall orange, with details of blue, green, and yellow. The [346][347] whole effect was fascinating, and at night, when the electric lights illumined and softened the tones, fairy-like.
     But the coloring had a deeper meaning than this. Mr. Turner tried to depict, in his gradations of tone, the struggle of Man to overcome the elements, and his progress from barbarism to civilization. Thus, at the Gate, [347][348] the strongest primary colors were used in barbaric warmth, yet in their warmth suggestive of welcome. As you advanced down the court the tones became milder and lighter, until they culminated in the soft ivory and gold of the Electric Tower, symbol of Man’s crowning achievements. Everywhere you found the note of Niagara, green, symbolizing the great power of the falls.
     Many forgot that in all this Mr. Turner was working from Greek models. Color was lavishly used on the Athenian temples, rich backgrounds of red or blue serving to throw the sculptural adornments into vivid relief. Buffalo was in this a commentary on classic art, revealing what fine effects may be produced by out-of-door coloring when suited to surroundings. We saw that in our timid, conventional avoidance of exterior colors we had missed something; that cheerful colors might well supplant on our houses the eternal sombre of gray and brown, as they so often and so gloriously do in nature.
     The power sculpture may have in exterior decoration was also taught. At Buffalo [348][349] statues were not set up in long rows as in museums. Instead you beheld noble and beautiful groups in natural environments of bright green foliage with temples and blue sky above, or forming pediments and friezes upon buildings. White nymphs and goddesses bent over fountains or peeped from beneath trees or the ornate columns of pergolas. One was greeted at every turn by these gleaming figures, a vital and integral part of the landscape.
     Carl Bitter, director of sculpture, aimed to make sculpture teach while it decorated. He sought to tell in sculpture the story of man and nature. In the lake fronting the Government Building stood a fountain of Man. A half-veiled form, mysterious Man, occupied a pedestal composed of figures of the five senses. Underneath the basin the Virtues struggled with the Vices. Minor groups depicted the different ages. The most remarkable was Mr. Konti’s Despotic Age. The grim tyrant sat in his chariot, driven by Ambition, who goaded on the four slaves in the traces, while Justice and Mercy [349][350] cowered in chains behind. In the opposite court was told the story of Nature. Most striking there was Mr. Elwell’s figure of Kronos, standing, with winged arms, on a turtle. From the Fountain of Abundance on the Esplanade, Flora was represented as tossing garlands of flowers to the chubby cherubs at her feet. The main court, dedicated to the achievements of man, had groups representing the Human Intellect and Emotions. The sculptures about the Electric Tower naturally related to the [350][351] Falls. There were primeval Niagara and the Niagara of to-day, as well as figures symbolic of the Lakes and the Rivers.
     Copies of the most famous marbles, like the Playful Faun and the Venus of Melos, embellished the Plaza. Many fine modern pieces adorned the grounds, as Roth’s stirring “Chariot Race” and St. Gaudens’s equestrian statue of General Sherman. Sculpture was profusely used to beautify buildings. Wholly original and charming were the four groups for the Temple of Music: Heroic Music, Sacred Music, Dance Music, and Lyric Music. Perched in every corner were figures of children playing different instruments.
     Much of the sculpture, was careless in execution—not surprising when we consider that over 500 pieces were set up in less than five months, and that the artists’ models had to be enlarged by machinery. But in vigor and originality of thought and as a testimony to the progress which art had made in this country, the exhibit was truly wonderful. All the arts were employed. To many it [351][352] was mainly an Art Exhibition, the artistic feature making a stronger impression than any other. As a work of art the Exposition could not but effect permanent good, demonstrating what may be done to beautify our cities and dwellings and cultivating our love for the beautiful in art and nature.
     The supreme glory of the Exposition lay in its electrical illumination. Niagara was used to create a city of light more dazzling than any dream. “As the moment for the illumination approached, the band hushed and a stillness fell upon the multitude. Suddenly dull reddish threads appeared on the globes of the near-by lamp-pillars. A murmur of expectation ran through the crowd. For an instant the great tower seemed to pulse with a thread of life before the eye became sensible to what had taken place. Then its surfaces gleamed with a faint flush like the flush which church spires catch from the dawn. This deepened slowly to pink and then to red. . . . In a moment the architectural skeletons of the great buildings had been picked out in lines of red light. [352][353] Then the whole effect mellowed into luminous yellow. The material exposition had been transfigured, and its glorified ghost was in its place. . . . Every night this modern miracle was worked by the rheostat housed in a humble shed somewhere in the inner recesses of the exposition.”
     The centre of light was the Tower. It was suffused with the loveliest glow of gold, ivory, and delicate green, all blending. The lights revealed and interpreted the architecture, [353][354] softening the colors and adding the subtle charm of mystery. A hundred beautiful hues were reflected in the waters of the fountains. The floral effects made by submerged lights in the basin were exquisite, and the witchery of the scene was indescribable.
     The chaining of Niagara for electric purposes was of course a prominent feature of the fair. Electricity was almost, or quite, the sole motor used on the grounds; 5,000 horsepower being directly from Niagara’s total of 50,000. Niagara circulated the salt water in the fisheries and kept their water at the right temperature. It operated telephones, phonographs, soda fountains, the big search-lights, the elevators, the machines in the Machinery Building, the shows and illusions in the Midway.
     At Chicago we were ashamed of the Midway. We had since learned to play. Buffalo used utmost ingenuity to provide sensations and novelties. The Midway was made fascinating. You saw in it every variety of buildings, representing all countries from Eskimodom to Darkest Africa. Cairo had [354][355] eight streets with 600 natives. The Hawaiian and Philippine villages were centres of interest, revealing the every-day life of our new-won lands. In Alt-Nürnberg you dined to the strains of a German orchestra.
     The magnificent amphitheatre, covering ten acres, a monument to American athletics, was built after the marble Stadium of Lycurgus at Athens. An Athletic Congress celebrated American supremacy in athletic sports. The programme included basket-ball tournaments, automobile, bicycle, and track and field championship races, lacrosse matches, and canoe “meets.” [355][356]
     The exhibits at Buffalo, though less ample, naturally showed advance over the corresponding ones at Chicago. The guns and ammunition of the United States ordnance department excited interest, for we were now making our own war supplies. A picturesque log building was devoted to forestry. The Graphic Arts Building showed the great strides made in printing and engraving. A model dairy was operated in a quaint little cottage on the grounds. Fifty cows of the best breeds were tested and the tests recorded.
     A conservatory contained a very fine collection of food plants, alive and growing, sent from South and Central America; also eight different kinds of tea plants from South Carolina. A small coffee plantation and some vanilla vines had been transplanted from Mexico. Nearly every country in Spanish America was represented. Cuba, San Domingo, Ecuador, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, and Canada had buildings. Sections in the Government Building were devoted to exhibits from Porto Rico, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Philippines. [536][357]
     The United States Government Building was most interesting. New inventions made its exhibits live. In place of reading reports and statistics, you saw scenes and heard sounds. Class-room songs and recitations were reproduced by the graphophone. The biograph showed naval cadets marching while at the same time you heard the band music. Labor-saving machines were represented in full operation. Pictures by wire, the mutoscope, and type-setting by electricity were among the wonders shown. Every day a crew of the life-saving service gave a demonstration, launching a life-boat and rescuing a [357][358] sailor. Near by was a field hospital, where wounded soldiers were cared for. Many of the newest uses for electricity were displayed. Never before had lighting been so brilliant or covered such large areas, or such speed in telegraphy been attained, or telephoning reached such distances. The akouphone, a blessing to the deaf, was exhibited, as were also the powerful search-lights now a necessity at sea.

 

 


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