Pan-American Exposition

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Aerial view print of Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Official logo for, by Raphael Beck
Pan-American Exposition by Night

The Pan-American Exposition was a World's Fair held in Buffalo, New York, United States, from May 1 through November 2, 1901. The fair occupied 350 acres (1.4 km2) of land on the western edge of what is now Delaware Park, extending from Delaware Ave. to Elmwood Ave and northward to Great Arrow Ave.


The event was organized by the Pan-American Exposition Company, formed in 1897. Cayuga Island was initially chosen as the place to hold the Exposition because of the island's proximity to Niagara Falls, which was a huge tourist attraction. When the Spanish–American War broke out in 1898, plans were put on hold. After the war, there was a heated competition between Buffalo and Niagara Falls over the location. Buffalo won for two main reasons. First, Buffalo had a much larger population—with roughly 350,000 people, it was the eighth-largest city in the United States. Second, Buffalo had better railroad connections—the city was within a day's journey by rail for over 40 million people. In July 1898, Congress pledged $500,000 for the Exposition to be held at Buffalo. The "Pan American" theme was carried throughout the event with the slogan "commercial well being and good understanding among the American Republics." The advent of the alternating current power transmission system in the US allowed designers to light the Exposition in Buffalo using power generated 25 miles (40 km) away at Niagara Falls.

Key events[edit]

McKinley's last speech delivered September 5, 1901.

The exposition is most remembered because President William McKinley was shot by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, at the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901; the President died 8 days later. McKinley had given an address at the exposition the previous day; his speech included the following words:

"Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancements. They stimulate the energy, enterprise, and intellect of the people, and quicken human genius. They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty storehouses of information to the student...."

The newly developed X-ray machine was displayed at the fair, but doctors were reluctant to use it on McKinley to search for the bullet because they did not know what side effects it might have had on him. Also, the operating room at the exposition's emergency hospital did not have any electric lighting, even though the exteriors of many of the buildings were covered with thousands of light bulbs. Doctors used a pan to reflect sunlight onto the operating table as they treated McKinley's wounds.

Lina Beecher, creator of the Flip Flap Railway, attempted to demonstrate one of his looping roller coasters at the fair, but the organizers of the event considered the ride to be too dangerous and refused to allow it on the grounds.[1]

The Electric Tower, "the crowning feature of the Exposition"

Buildings and exhibits[2][edit]


  • The Court of Fountains, the central court to the exposition.
  • The Great Amphitheater
  • The Triumphal Bridge, which was positioned over the "Mirror Lake"
  • Joshua Slocum's sloop, the Spray, on which he had recently sailed around the world alone.
  • A Trip to the Moon (attraction)

Assassination of President McKinley[edit]

On September 6, William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, was shot and fatally wounded inside the Temple of Music. McKinley was shaking hands with the public when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. The President died on September 14 from gangrene caused by the bullet wounds.


When the fair ended, the contents of the grounds were auctioned off. Harris Wrecking Company of Chicago purchased the contents of the exposition for US$80,000 ($2.27 million in 2015 dollars[4]).[5] Demolition of the buildings began in March of 1902, and within a year, most of the buildings were demolished. The grounds were then cleared and subdivided to be used for residential streets, homes, and park land. Similar to previous world fairs, most of the buildings were constructed of timber and steel framing with precast staff panels made of a plaster/fiber mix. These buildings were built as a means of rapid construction and temporary ornamentation and not made to last.[6] Prior to its demolition, an effort made via public committee to purchase and preserve the original Electric Tower from the wrecking company for nearly US$30,000 ($850 thousand in 2015 dollars[4]). However, the necessary funding could not be raised in time.[5]


The New York State Building, located in Delaware Park, was designed to outlast the Exposition and is now used as a museum by the Buffalo History Museum. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, it can be visited on Nottingham Court. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery was intended to be used as a Fine Arts Pavilion but delays in its construction saw it uncompleted in time.

The original Electric Tower, although demolished, was the inspiration and design prototype for the 13 story, Beaux-Arts Electric Tower, built in 1912, in downtown Buffalo.

A boulder marking the site of McKinley's assassination was placed in a grassy median on Fordham Drive in Buffalo.[7]


Pan-American Exhibition, panorama view, from The Latest and Best Views of the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, N.Y.: Robert Allen Reid, 1901.
  • Ticket Cost: US$0.25
    ($7.00 in 2015 dollars[4]).
  • Total Event Expense: US$7 million
    ($198 million in 2015 dollars[4])
  • Visitors: 8,000,000

Records of the Pan-American Exposition Company survive in the library collections of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lina Beecher Obituary". Batavia Daily News. October 6, 1915. 
  2. ^ Arnold, Charles (1901). Official catalogue of Pan-American exposition. Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  3. ^ Heverin, Aaron (December 14, 1998). "The Architecture". buffalohistoryworks. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "News from 1902 (March)". Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition Arcadia Publishing. (1998), page 23. Retrieved 2011-8-5.
  7. ^ 42°56′19″N 78°52′25″W / 42.9386859°N 78.8735908°W / 42.9386859; -78.8735908
  8. ^ Peterson, Harold (2003). "Buffalo Builds the 1901 Pan-American Exposition". Buffalo as History. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  9. ^ "Pan-American Exposition Bibliography". Retrieved 2010-11-19. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°56′26″N 78°52′20″W / 42.9405356°N 78.8722551°W / 42.9405356; -78.8722551