Photos of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair

In April 1904, St. Louis opened its doors to the world for what was officially called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, but was widely known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. Millions of dollars had been spent to build the 1,200-acre fairgrounds and its nearly 1,500 buildings—a huge scale that ended up delaying the opening by a year. During the eight months the fair stayed open, nearly 20 million people paid a visit. On display were marvels of technology, agriculture, art, and history, and there were amusement rides and entertainment to be found in a section called “the Pike.” The fair introduced a huge audience to some relatively new inventions such as private automobiles, outdoor electric lighting, and the X-ray machine—as well as foods from across the United States and around the world. The exposition also had a focus on anthropological exhibits—with an approach that is shocking by today’s standards: In some cases, organizers brought people from the Philippines, the Arctic, and elsewhere to the fairgrounds as set pieces among re-creations of their home environment or villages. After the fair closed, nearly all of its structures were demolished within a short time, leaving only a few footprints, ponds, and canals in Forest Park in St. Louis.

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