For a taste of the 1904 World’s Fair beyond the food, the Missouri History Museum continues to offer the in-depth exhibit, The 1904 World's Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward.
Visitors can take a trip back in time to experience the notable people, architecture, inventions and fashion at the grand spectacle in and around Forest Park. “The thing that is hardest for me to think about is that it was really here,” notes exhibit curator Sharon Smith. “I can’t quite fathom it—buildings so large, a huge Ferris wheel, and it went all the way to Big Bend. It impacted the whole area.” Today, an important part of the exhibit is a map of the fairgrounds that helps modern-day St. Louisans imagine the breadth of the historic event. “There are still things that exist to tell us part of the World’s Fair story,” Smith says. Those exhibit highlights include:
• Prominent People: Almost 20 million people from throughout the world met in St. Louis, including President Theodore Roosevelt, along with First Lady Alice, and legendary inventor Thomas Edison.
• Amazing Architecture: Dubbed 'the Ivory City,' more than 1,500 buildings were erected on what was once a woodland park. “The Saint Louis Art Museum is a building that still exists from the fair, as well as parts of Washington University,” Smith says.
• Impressive Inventions: While the ice cream cone, hot dog and iced tea were popularized—and not invented—at the fair, there were many important introductions. “People were learning how to use X-rays and the fingerprint system; and puffed rice and Dr. Pepper were introduced here,” Smith notes. “People could experience these new tastes and ideas, and it was a way to introduce something to a larger population.”
• Fashion Forward: Clothing defined people’s roles at the fair, Smith explains. “There were three groups: Most people were dressed to the hilt—men in woolen suits and women had layers of skirts.” Another group wore native clothing, and workers at the fair were outfitted in various uniforms, from the Jefferson Guard—the event’s police force—to band members and cooks.