March 6, 2017

Remembering the St. Louis World’s Fair

Remembering The St. Louis World’s Fair

By Margaret Johanson Witherspoon

Reviewed by Mike Truax

An excellent book for World’s Fair fans. Remembering The St. Louis World’s Fair contains over 100 fascinating pictures and drawings of the Fair. Just under100 pages, it is available for about $8 at major bookstores as well as the Missouri Historical Society’s World’s Fair exhibit. It provides an excellent overview of the Fair, capturing the spirit, variety, and magnitude of the worlds largest exposition.

In 1973, Ms. Witherspoon realized that no book describing the Fair had been recently published, so she set out to describe the Fairs charming appeal in order to whet the appetite of St. Louisans for the Fair. She was inspired by her parents recollections of the Fair, and her memories of the crumbling concrete wall that still stands along the Forest Park Expressway (and some say ‘formed’ the Fairs northern boundary, although this is not documented).

Introductory sections and pictures describe the how the Fair project was authorized and funded, how David Roland Francis, the President of the Fair and former St. Louis Mayor and Missouri Governor, organized the efforts to build the Fair, and the Ground-breaking, Dedication, and Opening Day ceremonies.

Excellent pictures and drawings throughout the book accompany the vivid narrative. Portraits of the Fairs palaces and major features, selected state and country buildings, and the floral clock and map are presented. The use of Washington University’s campus, the expansive Philippine exhibit, travel at the fair, the 1904 Olympics, and the Pike are all recounted in a captivating style.

The significant impact of women at the Fair is related, as are the imposing displays of sculpture, landscaping, and music throughout the Fairgrounds. The visit of the Chinese Prince Pu Lun and Chinese participation at the Fair is described along with accounts of the major fires at the Fair. Also related are many other interesting bits of trivia about the Fair.

Of particular interest to Fair aficionados is a detailed 2-page map of the Fairgrounds, accompanied by a transparent overlay of present-day Forest Park. By comparing the two maps, one easily obtains a sense of the immense scale of the Fair and the size of the palaces. Constructing an exhibition of this magnitude in 1904 was a magnificent achievement, today it would be extremely expensive and probably impossible!

Finally, the closing day at the Fair and the eventual disposition or relocation of many surviving buildings and exhibits are recounted. After sadly recounting the demolition of the Fair, she describes the reconstruction of Forest Park, the building of the Jefferson Memorial museum, and the rich heritage of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.