It may sound like a boring topic, but the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, was really a global technology Fair. One of the original public-private partnerships, the Fair was funded by the city of St. Louis, private funders from throughout the state of Missouri and the federal government—to the tune of $15 million ($433 million in today’s funds).
Supported by then-President William McKinley, the Fair’s purpose was two-fold—to mark the centennial anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and to bring foreign nations, the U.S. government and the states together in the name of science, civic pride and entertainment. Exhibits included the Civic Pride Monument, The Tyrolean Alps, and the Palaces of Electricity and Transportation. The Fair encompassed 1,270 acres and also featured the 1904 Summer Olympics.
Imagine your city, in the span of eight months, hosting 62 countries and 19.7 million visitors—with infrastructure from more than a century ago. Imagine your city (or our country) rallying around a cause where the latest inventions and creations were the center of the event. Imagine being able to witness the first wireless telephone (“radiophone”), the first fax machine (the telautograph), the first x-ray machine, the first infant incubator; or experiencing the electric streetcar, the automobile or airplane (“airship”) for the first time.
The legacy of this amazing event seems to be fading, unfortunately—but it did, on a recent trip to St. Louis, inspire the question: if we had the chance to replicate this mission and Fair in today’s world, what would it look like—for your city or for our country?