March 6, 2017

The World Came to St Louis

The World Came to St. Louis

A Visit to the 1904 World’s Fair

By Dorothy Daniels Birk

Reviewed by Mike Truax

Perhaps the best first book a World’s Fair fan, “The World Came to St. Louis: A Visit to the 1904 World’s Fair” contains over 60 unique Fair photographs taken by Dorothy’s father. Containing almost 100 pages, it sells for around $10 at major bookstores (usually in the Local Interest Section of St. Louis bookstores) as well as the Missouri Historical Society’s World’s Fair exhibit at the Jefferson Memorial in Forest Park. The caption to a picture of a sculpture superbly captures the spirit of the Fair: “Genius points, Inspiration whispers, Nothing Impossible.”

Dorothy Birk’s father, Edward S. Daniels, attended the Fair and took over 140 double glass slide pictures. He shared them frequently with family and friends when they reminisced about the Fair. Many of his pictures depict an informal aspect of the Fair not often seen in the typical formal pictures of the Fair. Adapting his glass slides to modern projection slides and photographs, Dorothy developed a script for a program based on her father’s slides. She presented the program hundreds of times from 1967 through 1978, when her book, dedicated to her father, was published to commemorate the Fair’s 75th anniversary in 1979.

Dorothy’s daughter, Sue Birk Oertli, has continued the family tradition. She often presents her grandfather’s slides and a program about the 1904 World’s Fair to interested groups.

Following August A. Busch Jr.’s foreword “The Birth of a Show”, the first chapter “Dedicated to Accomplishment” takes you back to the world of 1904 St. Louis. It focuses on three major themes, describing: the Fair’s people, from Mr. Francis, Fair President, to the people of St. Louis who contributed nearly $5 million to the Fair in $10 shares; the Fair’s purpose to bring together scientists of the world to expand humanity’s potential; and the execution of the idea, with exhibition palaces on a scale never before seen, broad avenues, and exhibits of the best art, music, and architecture from all over the world. This chapter also describes building of the Fair, Dedication Day in 1903, Opening Day in 1904, and contains a rough map of the Fairgrounds overlaid on present-day Forest Park.

“The University of Man” chapter takes the reader on a brief tour of the main Fairgrounds: the expansive plazas, the ever-present, large statuary (which was both artistic and relevant to the Louisiana Purchase), and magnificent, immense palaces. Filled with statistics, the grand scale of the Fair is described in fascinating detail.

In “All the World Was Here”, descriptive text and supporting pictures describe the Fair’s intramural train, the Pike’s many attractions, buildings from 45 countries and the Terrace of Nations, the 1904 Olympics, and the aeronautic and anthropologic exhibits, including the large Philippine exhibit.

“So Many Amazing Things” takes you on a visual tour of the 264 foot Ferris Wheel, the 112 foot diameter Floral Clock, buildings of many countries and states, and the Bird Cage, one of the few structures still remaining from the Fair.

If you haven’t learned enough about the Fair so far, “And Still More” contains numerous additional facts and statistics about the Fair’s buildings, exhibits, monuments, and events, topically arranged to parallel the main text.

The book closes with her “Final Thought”, a quote from an anonymous Fair-goer: “It is difficult now to express the wonder and the sense of awe we experienced…we suddenly discovered that we were all very proud of our city-and, I suppose, quite foolishly proud of ourselves. We admired everything: the statues, the buildings, the fountains-the good and the bad. We liked it all!”