Wednesday, April 11, 2018

World's Fair Exhibits

World’s Fair Contributions to Science
The St. Louis Exposition of 1904 
by Martha Rogers

Welcome to the Fair

Palace of Electricity
Many of the inventions on exhibit at the fair were forerunners to items that have become an integral part of our culture today. The Palace exhibited novel applications of electricity and how light waves could be used for communication and medical means were on display. The men behind the exhibit wanted to dispel the misconceptions people had about the dangers of electricity and educate them as to the possibilities for use. This photo is how the building looked in the daytime near the Lagoon and fountains.

 The palace also contained many communications exhibits. These included a wireless telephone or radiophone. The crowds were enthralled with being able to hear spoken messages transmitted from an apparatus in the Palace to a telephone receiver in the courtyard. Alexander Graham Bell invented the radiophone with a transmitter that transformed sound waves into light waves then into a receiver which converted them back into sound waves and became the precursor for the radio and early mobile phones which eventually evolved into our modern day cell phone.

The Fax Machine or telautograph was invented in 1888 by Elisha Gray and improved upon to be displayed at the fair. This was a device which sent electrical impulses to the receiving pen of the device to recreate drawings to a piece of paper at the same time a person wrote them in longhand on the other end.

At night, the fair became a virtual fairyland of light. Here is the Palace as it looked at night.

Palace of Transportation
Exhibits showcased vehicles which would revolutionize transportation for the future. Among them were the electric street railcars, the personal automobile or motor car powered by gasoline, electricity, and steam. 

This is a how the automobile exhibits 
One were arranged.

One of the largest was the locomotive pictured here.

Lee de Forest also exhibited a prototype car radio. The fair hosted the first ever “Airship Contest” and offered a grand prize of $100,000 to an airship or other flying machine that managed the best time through a course set out. Viewers became witnessed to the first public dirigible flight in America. This event led to the city’s nickname of “Flight City.”   

On The Pike
The Pike was a mile long midway much like we see at fairs today. It featured rides, amusements, food, and fantastic exhibitions for fun. Although a primary source of pleasure, many of its features were educational as well. This aerial photo gives a good picture of the length of The Pike.

 The expression “coming down the Pike” originated from this feature because one never knew what to expect. Exhibits included a Blarney Castle, a Parisian fashion show, wild animals, model ships staging a replica of the Naval Battle of Santiago, and a visit to the North Pole.

One of the most interesting was the display of Medical contributions. I was amazed by them. Things like the X-ray machine and infant incubator were on included. Invented in 1895 by German scientist, Wilhelm Rontgen, the machine was developed and perfected by Thomas Edison with his assistant Clarence Dally for exhibit at the 1904 Exposition. The infant incubator was an air-tight glass box with a metal frame.

 Here a nurse is attending an infant in an incubator on display.

This is the exhibit and how people were able to view the babies. 

Constant temperature was maintained by pumping in hot air. This provided a sanitary environment to reduce infection and preserve the lives of children born pre-maturely. The exhibit had ten nurses who cared for twenty-four neo-natal babies in the incubators. Glass walls separated the babies from visitors and prevented germ exposure. Known today as “isolettes,” this invention is a vital component of neo-natal intensive care units (NICU) all over our nation.

The Liberal Arts Palace was a nine-acre building housing some of the world's finest exhibits classified as Liberal Arts. These included models of famous lighthouses, a coin collection from the British Mint, photography, musical instruments and art from around the world. China had a display of ancient books and art from its people.

Researching all the exhibits from around the world revealed more and more fascinating displays.

For a chance to win a copy of my book, Meet Me at the Fair set at the fair in 1904 leave a comment answering one of the questions below along with your email address and be included in the drawing. 

1. What is your favorite part of going to the fair?
2. Which exhibit mentioned in the blog would you most liked to have visited?
3. Does your state have its own fair every year?

Laurel has a tragic past and the rejections of men who can't see beyond her scars keep her from opening up to others, and she keeps the scars well-
hidden. The first time Trent sees her, he is smitten with both her beauty and her delicious candy. When she goes to St. Louis to open her candy booth at the fair, Trent seizes the opportunity to learn more about her. He sees beyond the scars to the intelligent and talented business woman she is, but can she open her heart and trust him to find a love stronger and deeper than any physical scars?

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to four, soon to be five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.

Find Martha at:


  1. I think I would have been most interested in the Pike for its' exhibits...the Blarney Castle? and the Palace of Lights, considering that electricity was "the new thing"! Thanks for the post!!!

    1. The Blarney Castle was part of the Ireland exhibit. :) Imagine how people must have felt in seeing all the electrical innovations in 1904. It was probably like we viewed the space exhibits in 1960's and 70's.

  2. Thank you for sharing your very interesting review, Martha. I would have enjoyed seeing the medical part of the fair where I could have seen the babies. We try to visit the great State Fair of Texas every year. I am no taken by the midway, but the rest of the fair....I love!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

    1. I went to the Texas State Fair every year when I was in school. They had Public School Day and we went in for free. Then I took groups of FHA girls when I taught home economics on 4H, FFA and FHA day. In school days, the Midway attracted us, but as a teacher and an adult, I was more interested in the exhibits. I always had to have a corn dog and a funnel cake though. :) Thanks for dropping by.

  3. 1. Food 2. Palace of transportation 3. both state and county fairs here in Nebraska. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

    1. Fairs are a wonderful place to learn about new things. A lot of new foods were introduced at the fair as well. Fairs were a lot more fun when I was younger. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. My favorite part about going to the fair is the food. We have a fair in my town, but I can't afford to go anymore. Thanks for the giveaway and good luck everyone. princessdebbie1_2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. You'll enjoy next month when I post about the new foods introduced at the fair. I always had to have a corn dog and a funnel cake at the fair. We haven't been to the Texas State Fair for a long time because of the prices. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. This was a great post, Martha. I would of wanted to visit the Medical and Liberal Arts Palace back then. Our county has an annual county fair filled with 4-H exhibits, livestock, textiles, etc, along with rides, tractor pull and horse racing. I enjoy visiting the exhibit halls. Illinois still has a State Fair but I haven't been there for years.

    1. Here's my email address I forgot to add; marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot[com

  6. Thank you, Martha, for this interesting post about the World's Fair Contributions to Science! I think the exhibit I would most like to have seen was the variety of exhibits on the Pike...a Blarney Castle, a Parisian fashion show, and a visit to the North Pole...these exhibits really caught my attention! I would also enjoy seeing the Palace of Electricity! It looks so beautiful, especially at night! The baby incubators would also be fascinating to see! Your book, Meet Me at the Fair sounds sooo good! I LOVE historical Christian fiction!! It's my favorite genre to read. I'm really intrigued to find out Laurel's story! Thank you for a chance to win this book!! ~Alison Boss