Pan-American Exposition

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Pan-American Exposition
Pan-American Exhibition, 1901 (logo).jpg
Official logo by Raphael Beck
BIE-classUnrecognized exposition
NamePan-American Exposition
Area350 acres (140 ha)
CountryUnited States of America
CityBuffalo, New York
Coordinates42°56′26″N 78°52′20″W / 42.94056°N 78.87222°W / 42.94056; -78.87222Coordinates: 42°56′26″N 78°52′20″W / 42.94056°N 78.87222°W / 42.94056; -78.87222
OpeningMay 1, 1901
ClosureNovember 2, 1901
PreviousTrans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska
NextInter-State and West Indian Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina

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 (0.55 sq mi) of land on the western edge of what is now Delaware Park, extending from Delaware Avenue to Elmwood Avenue and northward to Great Arrow Avenue. It is remembered today primarily for being the location of the assassination of United States President William McKinley at the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901. The exposition was illuminated at night. Thomas A. Edison, Inc. filmed it during the day and a pan of it at night.[1][2][3]


Planning of the Exposition.

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 the cities of 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 mi (40 km) away at Niagara Falls.

Assassination of President McKinley[edit]

McKinley's last speech delivered September 5, 1901.

The exposition is most remembered because United States President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, at the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901. The President died eight days later on September 14 from gangrene caused by the bullet wounds.

On the day prior to the shooting, McKinley had given an address at the exposition, which began as follows:

Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancement. 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.[4]

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.

Buildings and exhibits[edit]

Buildings and exhibits featured at the Pan-American Exposition included:[5]

Image Building Architect Status Notes
Pan-American Exposition - Agriculture Building from Southwest.jpg Agricultural, Manufacturers, and Liberal Arts Buildings George Shepley Demolished The Agriculture building faced the Court of Fountain.[6]
Pan-American Exposition - The Electric Tower.jpg Electric Tower John Galen Howard Demolished The fair's center piece
Pan-American Exposition - Electricity Building from the Southeast.jpg Electricity Building Green & Wicks Demolished
Pan-American Exposition - Ethnology and Government Buildings.jpg Ethnology Building George Cary Demolished
FMIB 33855 Main Section of Government Building.jpeg U.S. Government Building James Knox Taylor Demolished The building occupied the entire eastern Esplanade of the Exposition grounds.[7]
Machinery Building illuminated at night, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, N.Y. 1901 LCCN2007682444.jpg Machinery and Transportation Building Green & Wicks Demolished
Pan-American Exposition - Mines Building from Mirror Lake.jpg Mines, Forestry and Graphic Arts Buildings Robert Swain Peabody Demolished The buildings were the first series of buildings a visitor encountered after passing through the Triumphal Bridge.[8]
Pan-American Exposition - New York State Building.jpg New York State Building George Cary Extant Constructed of Vermont Marble.
Service Building Esenwein & Johnson Demolished First building completed on the grounds.[9]
Pan-American Exposition - A Sham Battle in the Stadium.jpg Stadium Babb, Cook & Willard Demolished Modeled after the Panathenaic Stadium.[10]
Pan-American Exposition - Temple of Music.jpg Temple of Music Esenwein & Johnson Demolished Center for the live performances
Pan-American Exposition - Womans Building.jpg Woman's Building Demolished Former club house of the Country Club of Buffalo.[11]
Pan-American Exposition - A Scene in Fair Japan.jpg Fair Japan Demolished Organized by Kushibiki and Arai.


Aerial view print of Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Pan-American Exposition by Night
  • 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, a mechanical dark ride that was later housed at Coney Island's Luna Park.
  • In the center of the rose-garden beside the Woman's Building was Enid Yandell's "Struggle of Existence," a plaster version of the fountain "Struggle of Life" installed in Rhode Island

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.[12] Buffalo native Nina Morgana, later a soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, was a child performer in the "Venice in America" attraction at the Exposition.[13] Composer/organist Fannie Morris Spencer gave two recitals in the Temple of Music.[14]


When the fair ended, the contents of the grounds were sold to the Chicago House Wrecking Company[15] of Chicago for US$92,000 ($2.61 million in 2021 dollars[16]).[17] Demolition of the buildings began in March 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.[18] Prior to its demolition, an effort was made via public committee to purchase and preserve the original Electric Tower from the wrecking company for nearly US$30,000 ($977,160 in 2021 dollars[16]). However, the necessary funding could not be raised in time.[17]

The site of the exposition was bounded by Elmwood Avenue on the west, Delaware Avenue on the east, what is now Hoyt Lake on the south, and the railway on the north. It is now occupied by a residential neighborhood from Nottingham Terrace to Amherst Street, and businesses on the north side of Amherst Street. A stone and marker on a traffic island dividing Fordham Drive, near the Lincoln Parkway, marks the area where the Temple of Music was located.[19]


  • 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 at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Nottingham Avenue. The Museum's Research Library has an online bibliography of its extensive Pan-American holdings.[20] Included in the Library collection are the records of the Pan-American Exposition Company.[21]
  • The Albright-Knox Art Gallery was intended to serve as a Fine Arts Pavilion but due to construction delays, it was not completed 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. The Hotel Statler was likewise demolished before Statler built a replacement in 1907, then another replacement in 1923.
  • A boulder with a plaque and a flagpole marking the site of McKinley's assassination was placed in the grassy median on Fordham Drive in Buffalo.[22]
  • At least one engine from the miniature railway that carried visitors around the fair was preserved. It is currently privately owned and operated in Braddock Heights, Maryland.


  • Ticket Cost: US$0.50
    ($16.00 in 2021 dollars[16]).
  • Total Event Expense: US$7 million[23]
    ($228 million in 2021 dollars[16])
  • Visitors: 8,000,000[23]
Pan-American Exhibition, panorama view, from The Latest and Best Views of the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, N.Y.: Robert Allen Reid, 1901.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Panorama of Esplanade by night". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2019-03-26. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  2. ^ "Pan-American Exposition by night". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2019-03-26. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  3. ^ "Panoramic view of Electric Tower from a balloon". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2019-03-26. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  4. ^ "The Last Speech of William McKinley". American Experience – America 1900 – Primary Sources. PBS; WGBH Educational Foundation. Archived from the original on November 26, 2015. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  5. ^ Arnold, Charles (1901). Official Views of Pan-American Exposition. Arnold. Retrieved 2011-08-06.
  6. ^ "Agriculture Building Design". Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  7. ^ "U.S. Government Buildings Design". Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Mins Building Design". Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  9. ^ "Service Building Design". Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  10. ^ Heverin, Aaron (December 14, 1998). "The Architecture". buffalohistoryworks. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  11. ^ "Women's Building Design". Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Lina Beecher Obituary". Batavia Daily News. October 6, 1915.
  13. ^ "Nina Morgana ('Little Patti', 'Baby Patti')" Archived 2018-06-15 at the Wayback Machine Pan-American Women exhibit, University at Buffalo Libraries.
  14. ^ Benjamin, W. H. (1908). Biographies of celebrated organists of America. Benjamin Pub. Co. OCLC 10709899. Archived from the original on 2022-09-06. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  15. ^ "Exposition Buildings Sold". San Francisco Call. 24 November 1901. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  16. ^ a b c d 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  17. ^ a b "News from 1902 (March)". Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  18. ^ Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition Arcadia Publishing. (1998), page 23. Retrieved 2011-8-5.
  19. ^ "Quiet Street Enjoys a Place in History", by Anthony Cardinale, Buffalo News, March 12, 1989 pB-11
  20. ^ Buffalo History Museum. "Pan-American Exposition: A WorldCat List". Archived from the original on 6 September 2022. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  21. ^ Buffalo History Museum. "Finding Aid for the Pan-American Exposition Company Records, 1899-1908". Mss. C65-7: University at Buffalo. Retrieved 4 December 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  22. ^ 42°56′19.3″N 78°52′25″W / 42.938694°N 78.87361°W / 42.938694; -78.87361, Google Maps Street View of the memorial marker on Fordham Drive.
  23. ^ a b Peterson, Harold (2003). "Buffalo Builds the 1901 Pan-American Exposition". Buffalo as History. Archived from the original on 2011-08-12. Retrieved 2011-08-05.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]