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WNYRHS HISTORY - PanAm Expo 1901 - Chapter III

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This is the Second of many historical articles about railroading in the Western New York area, written by Society Historian, Greg Jandura. As more articles are added, old ones will be archived. So sit back, or feel free to print out, and enjoy the rich railway heritage of Western New York.
by: Greg Jandura

"Spring and Summer 1901 at the Exposition"

       The railroads in their wisdom and planning did their utmost to see that the Exposition would be a huge success and began implementing physical changes as early as 1897 for this event. The fruits of their efforts did not go unnoticed up to and between May and October 1901. These improvements and the successful movement of tens of thousands of people in and out of Buffalo will be discussed later. For now, its sufficient to say that as the Exposition drew closer, the railroads announced (for one month only) May 1901, a 1 1/3 round trip fare good for fifteen days. Every Tuesday, a round trip fare was offered at I fare plus $1.00 with a five day stopover. Special fares would be in effect on May 15th and 20th. These coach excursions good for 3 days stopover were sold at 1 cent a mile. The Wabash Railroad which first entered Buffalo in 1897 over the Grand Trunk Railroad and was the shortest direct route to Kansas City started a price war with its western competitors via Chicago by charging a less then standard agreed upon or "differential rate." The railroads in anticipation of huge crowds hired extra staff in all areas of their passenger departments. Already, there were enterprising ticket scalpers out to make a fast buck at the railroads expense and an anti-scalping bill was being considered in Albany by the Legislature and Governor O'Dell.

May 1, 1901 the Pan American Exposition had its inaugural opening to the general public. All of Buffalo's leading newspapers gave quite lengthy accounts of this historic event, but the New York Times of May 2, 1901 summed it up! Quoting verbatim, "A beautiful electrical display to-night was the culmination event of the opening day of the Pan-American Exposition. The attendance this morning was small owing to the threatening weather, which kept away many form near-by towns. Later in the day when the sun broke through the gray clouds the crowd began to assume the proportions of an exposition throng and to-night thousands passed through the turnstiles.

The gates were open this morning without ceremony, the opening day celebration having been postponed until May 20, when they will be combined with dedication day ceremonies.

The following congratulatory telegraphic message received from President McKinley's Secretary (while on his cross-country train tour)

read: MEMPHIS, TENN., May 1st, The President directs me to convey his congratulations to the citizens of Buffalo upon the auspicious opening of the Pan-American Exposition so rich in blossom and ripe in expectations. May the hopes and ambitions of its promoters be realized to the fullest measure. By direction of the President. GEORGE B. CORTELYOU.

The Government Building was formally opened this afternoon. General J. H. Brigham, Chairman of the Government Board, in a brief address, declared the Government's exhibit the most complete of any presented to the people of the United States. The different departments, he said, had worked with the object in view of giving to the people of the country the best possible conception of the work and achievement of the several branches of the Government. This was to demonstrate to the people, how faithfully, and efficiently their work was being done.

       President John G. Milburn of the Pan-American Exposition Company thanked the Government board for its efficient and faithful work, which resulted in such an exhibition of the Nation's resources. No building, he said, is receiving so much praise as the Government Building, and its exhibit is the most perfect, complete, and thorough ever made. Mayor Conrad Diehl, on behalf of the city, thanked the Government board for its work and extended a hearty welcome to the city. The heads of the various departments then explained and demonstrated their exhibits.

In the Government Building, the visitors found the Smithsonian Institutions exhibit as well as those of the National Museum, the Interior Department, the Navy Department, the Treasury Department, the Post Office Department, the Fish Commission, and the Philippines exhibit. All were practically complete in detail and the other departments not far behind.

At 2 o'clock forty-five aerial bombs were fired, one in honor of each State of the Union. At the same time, the flags of all the buildings were unfurled in the breeze. The Stars and Stripes, the Pan-American flag, with its yellow sun and golden eagle, the flags of countries south, the green pine tree of Ecuador, the spangled banner of Bolivia, and the flaunting red and green flag of Argentina. All floating from tower and spire added a new glory to the already beautiful sight. The highest towers of the Agricultural Building had the United States colors.

On the four corners of the Electricity Building were the flags of the Western colonial powers; England, France, Holland, and Denmark, with the flags of their dependencies grouped around them. The Stadium was ablaze with colors.

At 3 o'clock 3,500 homing pigeons were released. Frank W. Converse, head of the livestock and agricultural department of the fair, had charge of the birds, which will carry the news of the opening of the exposition to distant States. The message is a brief greeting signed by Pan American Exposition Director-General William I. Buchanan. Band concerts given by the Sixty-fifth and Seventy-fourth regiment bands rounded out the afternoon."

Formal dedication and official grand opening of the Pan American Exposition would take place on May 20, 1901 when all construction and displays would be completely finished. It was reported in the New York Times of May llth, "To the visitor during these early days of the Pan-American Exposition it appears that the electric illuminations will form one of the most prominent features of the big show. In preparation for the dedication day ceremonies a thorough test has been made during the past week of the illumination system on the grounds and in the buildings, and the extraordinary effects have provoked unbounded enthusiasm on the part of the spectators.

For these tests the lights were turned on at their full brilliancy, but during the exposition the current will pass through a rheostat, and the lamps will gradually grow from nothingness to the climax of their glory. It is probable that there has never been an exposition where the illumination per square foot was so great or where the illumination has covered such a large area of space. Messages from Niagara Falls, Lockport, Tonawanda, and numerous villages within a radius of fifty miles from Buffalo state that the electric tower under illumination is visible at those places."

During the duration of the Exposition there would be band concerts throughout the summer, an ongoing series of flower shows in the Horticulture Building featuring certain flower varieties during a given week and there would be Pan American Intercollegiate Athletic Championships May 31st and June 1st. There would also be days dedicated specifically to organizations, states, county municipalities, and ethnic groups.

"One of the novel features of the U.S. Navy exhibit is a large map of the world, 8 by 16 feet, on which are placed models of every ship in the navy. Each day, as telegraphic notification is received of the exact location of each vessel, the models are moved about the map in accordance with this information, so that the visitors may see just where every vessel of the navy is."

May 20, 1901 had arrived; it was now time for the big extravaganza to begin in earnest! A spectacle that has never been equaled in the history of Buffalo! Congratulatory telegrams and cablegrams were received last night and today by Pan-American Exposition Director-General William I. Buchanan from the heads of states of North, Central, and South American nations including the following: San Francisco, May 20, 1901. Fellow-citizens of the United States and fellow-Americans from all our neighbor nations: I send you greetings from the shores of the Pacific.. with fervent prayers for the benediction of heaven upon this beneficial enterprise, with sincere congratulations to all those whose energy and devotion have brought it to pass, and with heartfelt welcome to our guests from our sister republics, to whom we wish continued and abundant prosperity. May there be no cloud upon this grand festival of trade and commerce, no thought of rivalry except that generous competition in useful arts and industries which benefit all.

I earnestly hope that this great exhibition may prove a blessing to every country of this hemisphere, and even that the world at large may profit by the progress of which we give proof, by the lesson of our efforts and their results. I trust that it may become evident before this exhibition closes, that our vast and increasing prosperity is fruitful of nothing but good to our elders in the brotherhood of nations. And that our onward march may forever exemplifies the divine sentiment of "Peace on earth and good will to men": William McKinley

The following descriptive, some verbatim, was taken from the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser of May 20, 1901. As Buffalonians awoke that day the sky was very overcast and foreboding, threatening a downpour at any moment. The clouds began to gradually dissipate, and by 10 am when the grand pageant got under way the sun was smiling on the Queen City. Grand Marshall Louis L. Babcock signaled for the parade to begin with the appearance in a carriage of U.S. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and John G. Milburn, President of the Pan-American Exposition Company. The troops would be reviewed by the Vice President, their swords "presented" and their guns at "present arms" prior to the Vice President's carriage later joining the procession at 10:23 AM. Martial music was heard, and at 10:10am the parade beginning on the Franklin Street side of City Hall (Old County Hall) began. Proceeding up Seneca Street, to Main St. to Chippewa St. and then down tree lined Delaware Avenue. Its elms and maples arching over the heads of the passing line toward the Exposition grounds. "Its residents chorusing applause from the windows and verandas of their beautiful homes." There were mounted patrolmen followed by several regiments of both the U.S. regular army. Next came the Mexican band leading the Mexican troops and Mexican Calgary followed by the carriages containing federal and state dignitaries including the Vice President. More carriages with members of the Louisiana Purchase Commission, Pan-American Exposition officials, city and county officials and scores of invited guests followed these. They came to see Theodore Roosevelt the idolized American, Spanish-American War Rough Rider, former New York State Governor and now Vice President. As the parade-entered Main St. he was quickly recognized and "the tumultuous shout that rose from the multitude showed it plainly. Garbed in his plain clothes, his silk hat stood up in the carriage. (This he did many times along the route). He received the applause with the smile and bow that have made him famous, acknowledged it with the grace born of long years of public life: with the debonair manner of a man who was accustomed to the plaudits of a nation". Last night at 8pm, the vice-president, his wife and daughter and others in his party had arrived by train over the DL&W from New York City to a rousing gathering of well wishers at the depot.

Proceeding up Main Street, "The pavement, swept as clean as a kitchen floor", stretched out like a furrow. It was a clean, straight line, edged with gayly clad people, who waved handkerchiefs and hands and hats. The enthusiastic people crowded down to the very edge of the sidewalks and stood obliquely so that not an inch of space might be lost. The children were nearest the curb; next came the older folks, back of them on chairs, on steps, in windows, on roofs. It was like a cascade of people rising from the level of the pavement, where sat little tots hardly large enough to walk, to the roof peaks, where there were some venturesome youths. Buffalo streets have had many vast throngs, but none quite so compact and great as the one that filled them this morning.

And the buildings! They were gorgeous. Flags, streamers, draperies, bunting-fabrics of every kind floated from windows, flapped jauntily from mastheads, waved from building peaks. In front of the William Hengerer Company's store there was a big rosette woven in the facade, a rosette of many colors; and surrounding it were flags and bunting ... The Massive Ellicott Square building, seemed a flutter with flags enough to float it off into space. Its portico was filled with a brilliant sign reading: "'Peace and Prosperity to Pan-Americas". The American Express Company was decorated with the flags of all the nations of North, South and Central America ... The tall, stately Prudential Building waving a myriad of gay colorings to the cavalcade... The Meldrum & Anderson Company waved a thousand flags and across the street the J.N. Adam & Co. and the Mooney-Brisbane building looked resplendent in the attire of bunting and flags ... The Erie County Savings Bank draped in beautiful colors...Other large and a hundred smaller structures were gay with little and big flags."

Next at 11am, came the Midway parade along the same route, a glorious panorama of colors and surprises. By now, the crowds had begun to spill out into the streets, and it took the police about ten minutes to reform the line along the curb. "It led off with Frederick T. Cummins, the grand marshall on a horse, and wound up with a sod house on wheels, and in between there were all the contrasts and varieties that the peoples and beasts of strange lands could possibly provide." There were native Americans in gaily colored garments, toreadors, Mexican ladies, rancheros, the miniature railway and Chiquita floats, gypsies, elephants, zebras, a caged lion, stag hunters, the Royal Bavarian Band, dragoon guards, cross-bowmen, peasants, singers and dancers, market people, the Cleopatra float, "mounted on the throne of an immense float drawn by a score of slaves who were dressed in the picturesque fashion of the east." Japanese Geisha girls, swordsman and wrestlers, Next came the Eskimo float, the men an women dressed in furs, Bringing up the rear were camels and donkeys accompanied by Turks, Bedouins, Nubians, Egyptians, and Moors. "After them came a number of wagons bearing exhibits from different concessions, popcorn, peanuts, drinks, etc., the Midway Boys Zobo band and other lesser features, all extending the line. It was 11:40 when the end of the parade passed the Iroquois Hotel and the streetcars (a long northbound line which had been detained) were allowed to proceed on their way. Most of them were crowded to the lowest step with men, women and children anxious to get to the grounds."(24)

Meanwhile, back at the Pan-American Exposition grounds, at 9 AM, kites were sent up into a west wind bearing them against the Temple of Music. At 9:30 the first American flag went up. Two hundred red, white, and blue flags would be in the air. By noon, at the conclusion, a 60-foot shield bearing the figure of an eagle was sent up.

"At 2 o'clock in the afternoon, the attendance at the exposition grounds was variously estimated at from 75,000 to 125,000. It would probably not be an exaggeration to say that at that hour fully 100,000 persons were within the gates. And the best of it was that there were solid streams of people crowding for admission at every one of the entrances, and not a ghost of a sign that the flood of newcomers would diminish during the afternoon. The exposition officials were overjoyed at the prospects. They were confident that the 200,000 mark, which had been fixed as the maximum limit of attendance, not only would be reached, but that it would be surpassed by possibly 50,000...

It was estimated at 11 o'clock in the morning that 20,000 persons had passed through the gates. From 11 o'clock until noon ... Early in the afternoon, the crowds of new arrivals increased rapidly until the ticket sellers, who were laboring in their shirtsleeves, were overpowered. It was simply impossible to hand out the tickets and work the turnstiles fast enough to keep up with the swelling throngs on the outside. That was the situation at every entrance. As the afternoon wore on, the crowds kept increasing. Every car from the downtown section of the city reached the terminals packed to the platforms.

Inside the exposition grounds the scenes were Almost animated. Every exposition street was well filled the mall and courts were crowded, and the throngs in the midway were so dense that it was almost impossible to shoulder one's way through them. The concessionaires were happy for the money was pouring in as fast as they could handle it. All the exhibit buildings were crowded, and there was a big overflow into the park.

Just at the stroke of 12 o'clock noon the triumphal procession reached the objective point, the Esplanade. As the marchers halted, thousands upon thousands of pigeons rose from in front of the electric fountain and flew towards the Temple of Music. Kites were also soaring in the air and for a few moments the guests gazed with admiration upon the sight and then turned to enter the Temple of Music.

At 12:15 o'clock vice-president Roosevelt escorted by president Milburn, passed up the aisle toward the platform reserved for active participants in the ceremonies and the guests...All were greeted with enthusiastic rounds of applause from all parts of the auditorium. The galleries of the temple were open to the public long enough for all those sets to be filled, after which the doors were closed by the police.

When the guests had been seated and the applause had subsided, the eventful ceremonies began with Handells "'Hallelujah"' by the 71st regiment band."

The program order followed with an opening prayer by Rev.C.H. Fowler, DD.Bishop of the M.E. Church; an address by Buffalo Mayor, Conrad Diehl; and a poem written by Robert Cameron Rogers. "Salve Libertasu-Sturm by Buffalo Orpheus and Orchestra; address by the Honorable Theodore Roosevelt; Music; address by the Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts; poem by Frederick Almy; address by New York Lieutenant Governor Honorable Timothy L. Woodruff; and the singing of "America" by the audience accompanied by the band. Bishop William D. Walker pronounced the benediction and the hall was cleared to the strains of a March.

"At the conclusion of the exercises in the Temple of Music there was grand display of day fireworks on the Esplanade and about the Court of Fountains. The feature tonight was the electrical show. Many of those who came during the day dined at the grounds and joined in the night crowd. The Electrical Tower was a dazzling of light, and the play of the lights on the fountains below produced some beautiful effects."

As for the railroads, "The number of exposition visitors brought into the city by the railroads this morning was close upon 10,000. The New York Central and West Shore Roads had a dozen special trains from points west of Syracuse. The Grand Trunk system had seven special trains, and the Michigan Central three special trains from Canadian points. The Lake Shore Road had a special of 14 cars from Dunkirk to bring in the employees of the Brooks Locomotive Works. All the other roads had extra cars on the regular trains. and all the specials and regular trains were crowded. The Akron route train, made up of seven cars, arrived with the seats full and the aisles crowded. On nearly all the roads, extra stops were made by through trains to accommodate the people who wished to arrive in the city early to see the parade.

The International Traction Company had a five-minute service in and out of the city. All morning there was a five-minute service between Niagara Falls and Buffalo and a thirty-minute service and extra cars between Lockport and Buffalo. The traffic was very heavy. In the city over 600 cars were in service for that day.

The Belt Line service for the day was made practically continuous to meet the enormous demand for transportation to the grounds.

The great bulk of the people brought to the city were taken direct to the terminal stations at the exposition grounds, and will take the trains from there when leaving for their homes this evening. The terminal facilities were well tested, and it is now confidently expected that they will meet the requirements for the summer business.

The head officials or the transportation departments or the leading roads centering in Buffalo, were in the city early in the morning to get ideas of the volume or traffic that will have to be handled this summer for this point. The Canadian roads were alone in giving special low rates. The other roads giving only the excursion rates, agreed upon for Tuesday or each weekend during May. The immense crowds attracted by the excursion rates proved to the officials that special low rates will not be required at any time during the summer to make the exposition business most profitable.


21. "Pan-American Exposition" The New York Times. 2 May, 1901
22. "Features At the Pan-American Show" "New York Times" 2, May, 1901
23. "Grand Pageant" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 20 May, 1901
24. "Concessionaires" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 20 May, 1901
25. "Immense Throng" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 20 May, 1901
26. "Ceremonies" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 20 May, 1901
27. "On the Railroads" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 20 May, 1901

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