Jump to content

Pan-American Exposition

Coordinates: 42°56′26″N 78°52′20″W / 42.94056°N 78.87222°W / 42.94056; -78.87222
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pan-American Exposition
Pan-American Exposition map
BIE-classUnrecognized exposition
NamePan-American Exposition
Area350 acres (140 ha)
CountryUnited States
CityBuffalo, New York
Coordinates42°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]



The Pan-American Exposition, often referred to as "The Rainbow City", received national attention in the press and elsewhere a couple of years before, during and after it occurred[4] During the course of the exposition more than 8,000,000 visitors came to the event.[5]

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; while the city was also located on the east shore of Lake Erie and serviced by 12 steamship lines, was within a day's journey by rail or steamship for over 40 million people. The Pan-American Exposition was distinctive from its former predecessors in that it was the first exposition to employ a central theme in its overall design and layout, employing extensive lighting on and about the buildings and other structures, along with color, and sculpture to obtain its harmony. It was also the first exposition with a global unifying theme that emphasized the concept of Pan-Americanism.[5]

The Planning Committee of the Exposition
Pan-American Exposition official logo
Pan American Exposition ticket, front and back Tickets cost: US$0.50
($18.00 in 2023 dollars)[6].

The planning committee considered some twenty different locations for the exposition and after much consideration and deliberation a 350-acre tract in the western area of Delaware Park was selected. The grounds on which the exposition would be constructed extended from Delaware Ave. to Elmwood and from Park Lake northward to present Great Arrow. The total expense for the exposition came to US$7 million. ($256 million in 2023 dollars.)[6][5]

Rand McNally Pan American Exposition Handbook

In March 3, 1899, Congress pledged $500 000, and publicly declared that "it is desirable to encourage the holding of a Pan-American Exposition on the Niagara Frontier in the City of Buffalo, in the year 1901, fittingly to illustrate the marvelous development of the Western Hemisphere during the Nineteenth Century, by a display of the arts, industries, manufactures and the products of the soil, mine and sea...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.[7]

In the months preceding the exposition promotional pamphlets, newspaper articles, guide books and other publications were published and released around the United States and elsewhere. Among them were a number of different publications from the Pan-American exposition company in Buffalo,[8] along with publications from Rand McNally in New York.[9]

Events and attractions


At the opening of the Pan-American Exposition on "Dedication Day", March 20, 1901, a procession led by Vice-President Roosevelt, who was attended by a number of dignitaries, which included Governor Odell, of New York, Conrad Diehl, the Mayor of Buffalo, Senator Hanna, of Ohio, and Senator Gallinger, of New Hampshire. Leading the military division of the parade was Louis Babcock, Grand Marshal of the Exposition parade, which also included the first division, consisting of the 71st Regiment Band and other military brigades. The procession passed over the monumental Triumphal Bridge which passes over Mirror Lake, and proceeded to the Temple of Music. More than 100,000 people were in attendance. At the temple they listened to various key note speakers, where the idea of "America for the Americans" was emphasized.[10][11]

Though the Pan-American Exposition featured many exhibits that possessed commercial and transportation and different worldly themes, it was also considered to be an art exhibition, with many American paintings, sculptures and other works of art from Canada and other countries, all of which were displayed in the Exposition's Albright Art Gallery and other locations about the fairgrounds.[12] The Exposition also served to define what was officially to be considered "American Art" at the turn of the century.[13]

   Pan American commemorative issues of 1901
First released at the Exposition

In May 1901 the U.S. Post Office began issuing a series of six commemorative stamps to help promote and fund the exposition. The stamps depicted the various modern transportation themes that were featured at the exposition, The stamps were placed on sale at the exposition from May 1 to October 31, 1901. Post Offices in Buffalo post-marked out-going mail with a number of different specially made postmarks inscribed with the words, "Pan-American Exposition, 1901".[14] The Pan American issues were the first commemorative stamps to be issued in the 20th century.[15]

On September 4, President McKinley arrived and was greeted by thousands of people in anticipation of his visit.[16] Also in September, former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan visited the exposition and made an appearance at the exhibit of the Bureau of Indian Affairs with several prominent Sioux Indian chiefs, including Red Cloud, High Hawk and Blue Horse.[17] Also present were chiefs from the Six Nations League of the Iroquois Confederacy, dressed in the traditional attire of their ancestors. Arriving during the preparatory stages of the Exposition, they erected various long houses that were once commonplace in their home lands of central New York, while they were attended by various translators.[18]

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.[19] Buffalo native Nina Morgana, later a soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, was a child performer in the "Venice in America" attraction at the Exposition.[20] Composer/organist Fannie Morris Spencer gave two recitals in the Temple of Music.[21]

Pan-American Exposition by Night

Other attractions included The Great Amphitheater, Joshua Slocum's sloop, the Spray, on which he had recently sailed around the world alone, the Trip to the Moon exhibit, 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," and a plaster version of the fountain "Struggle of Life" installed in Rhode Island.

On the last day of the exposition, Saturday, November 2, a sham battle was staged at the Stadium at the Pan-American Exhibition The several hundred participants included the six tribes of American Indians, dressed in traditional garb, and the United States Infantry stationed at Buffalo. The event also included theatrical explosive charges, weaponry and many hand to hand combat encounters, and was said to be realistic in its presentation.[22]

Assassination of President McKinley

McKinley's last speech delivered September 5, 1901.

The exposition is often remembered because it was the location where 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. McKinley's last words, from a favorite hymn, were, "Nearer my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee".[23]

McKinley's presence at the Exposition was widely advertised by newspapers and magazines which played a significant role in attracting many thousands of people to the event.[24] Of his visit to the exposition, McKinley's secretary of State, John Hay, remarked, "Never had I seen him higher in hope and patriotic confidence."[25]

His arrival was the source of great concern for the Secret Service, the Exposition police and others who were assigned to McKinley's security. The year before a plot to kill the president had been discovered, while two other world leaders had recently been assassinated. Normally people who would draw near to the president were required to have their hands empty and in plain sight, but for reasons not clear, this rule was not strictly enforced.[26][27]

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

I am glad to be again in the city of Buffalo and exchange greetings with her people ... 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.[28]

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.[29]

Buildings and exhibits

Photo listing of buildings and exhibits

Buildings and exhibits featured at the Pan-American Exposition included:[30]

Image Building Architect Status Notes
Agricultural, Manufacturers, and Liberal Arts Buildings George Shepley Demolished The Agriculture building faced the Court of Fountain.[31]
Electric Tower John Galen Howard Demolished The fair's center piece
Electricity Building Green & Wicks Demolished
Ethnology Building George Cary Demolished
U.S. Government Building James Knox Taylor Demolished The building occupied the entire eastern Esplanade of the Exposition grounds.[32]
Machinery and Transportation Building Green & Wicks Demolished
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.[33]
New York State Building George Cary Extant Constructed of Vermont Marble.
Service Building Esenwein & Johnson Demolished First building completed on the grounds.[34]
Stadium Babb, Cook & Willard Demolished Modeled after the Panathenaic Stadium.[4]
Temple of Music Esenwein & Johnson Demolished Center for the live performances
Woman's Building Demolished Former club house of the Country Club of Buffalo.[35]
Fair Japan Demolished Organized by Kushibiki and Arai.



When the fair ended, the contents of the grounds were sold to the Chicago House Wrecking Company[36] of Chicago for US$92,000 ($2.93 million in 2023 dollars[6]).[37] 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.[38] 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 ($1.1 million in 2023 dollars[6]). However, the necessary funding could not be raised in time.[37]

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.[39]


  • The New York State Building, located in Delaware Park, was designed to outlast the Exposition and has been the home of the Buffalo History Museum since 1902. 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.[40] Included in the Library collection are the records of the Pan-American Exposition Company.[41]
  • 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.
  • While the original Electric Tower may have inspired the 13 story Beaux-Arts General Electric Tower, built in 1912 in downtown Buffalo, the General Electric building is not a faithful replica.
  • The Hotel Statler was demolished after 1901. Ellsworth Statler then built second Buffalo hotel in 1907, then a third 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.[42]
  • 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.
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



  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. ^ a b The Buffalo History Works; Architecture, Midway
  5. ^ a b c Peterson, 2011, Buffalo as History
  6. ^ 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 February 29, 2024.
  7. ^ Scientific American, January 27, 1900
  8. ^ "The Pan-American exposition. Buffalo, N.Y., U. S. A. from May 1 to November 1, 1901". Pan-American exposition company. 1900. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  9. ^ (1901) Rand McNally Pan American Handbook, 1901
  10. ^ Scientific American, v. 84. n. 22, pp. 338-339
  11. ^ Opening, Pan-American Exposition; library of Congress
  12. ^ Caffin, 1901, p. 1049
  13. ^ Bewley, 2003, pp. 179-180
  14. ^ Pan-American Exposition postmarks, 1901
  15. ^ "Pan-American Exposition Issues". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  16. ^ Olcott, 1916
  17. ^ "William Jennings Bryan with Sioux chiefs at Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 18, 2023.
  18. ^ Scientific American, v. 83, n. 19, .p. 298
  19. ^ "Lina Beecher Obituary". Batavia Daily News. October 6, 1915.
  20. ^ "Nina Morgana ('Little Patti', 'Baby Patti')" Archived 2018-06-15 at the Wayback Machine Pan-American Women exhibit, University at Buffalo Libraries.
  21. ^ Benjamin, W. H. (1908). Biographies of celebrated organists of America. Benjamin Pub. Co. OCLC 10709899.
  22. ^ Library of Congress, film and short essay
  23. ^ Leech, 1959, pp. 591-592, 600-601
  24. ^ Leech, 1959, p. 584
  25. ^ Hay, 1902, p. 13
  26. ^ Leech, 1959, p. 591
  27. ^ Olcott, 1916, pp. 313-314
  28. ^ Olcott, 1916, p. 377
  29. ^ Leech, 1959, pp. 596, 599
  30. ^ Arnold, 1901
  31. ^ "Agriculture Building Design". panam1901.org. Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  32. ^ "U.S. Government Buildings Design". panam1901.org. Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  33. ^ "Mins Building Design". panam1901.org. Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  34. ^ "Service Building Design". panam1901.org. Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  35. ^ "Women's Building Design". panam1901.org. Pan-American Exposition Buffalo 1901. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  36. ^ "Exposition Buildings Sold". San Francisco Call. 24 November 1901. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  37. ^ a b "News from 1902 (March)". PanAm1901.org. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  38. ^ Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition Arcadia Publishing. (1998), page 23. Retrieved 2011-8-5.
  39. ^ "Quiet Street Enjoys a Place in History", by Anthony Cardinale, Buffalo News, March 12, 1989 pB-11
  40. ^ Buffalo History Museum. "Pan-American Exposition: A WorldCat List". Worldcat.org. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  41. ^ "Finding Aid for the Pan-American Exposition Company Records, 1899-1908". EmpireADC. Mss. C65-7. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  42. ^ 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.