Questions, Anyone?

World’s Fairs

Q. Reader Brenda Hawkins would like to know more about World’s Fairs.

A. The American World’s Fairs celebrated America’s transformation from an agrarian, producer-based rural society into an industrial, consumer-driven urban one, according to the Missouri History Museum. The four Fairs described here by the History Museum show American society between reconstruction and the Great War.

The first World’s Fair was in Philadelphia in 1876.

“The planners of Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition wanted to “celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the American Independence, by holding an International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and mine, in the city of Philadelphia, and the State of Pennsylvania, in the year eighteen hundred and seventy-six.” In other words, the centennial exposition was made to celebrate everything America had come to stand for in the century since her independence.

“The 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis were the largest of the fairs that followed. These fairs commemorated historical moments – Columbus’ discovery of America and the Louisiana Purchase – but mainly served as a means to express America’s pride in her accomplishments.

“The 1893 Exposition in Chicago, celebrating the fourth centennial of Columbus’ discovery of America, furthered the image of the United States as a modern, industrialized nation … In Chicago, a World’s Fair for the first time contained a purely concessionary area: the Midway Plaisance, designed for people to simply have fun.

“Buffalo’s 1901 Fair was designed to celebrate not a historical event, but instead the unity of all the American countries. The assassination of the U.S. President William McKinley on September 6, 1901, has become the epitaph of Buffalo’s fair.

“The grandest of all World’s Fairs, held in St. Louis in 1904, celebrated America’s progress in the century since the Louisiana Purchase. This fair, however, did not focus on the economic or technological aspects of progress as earlier fairs had. It instead focused on the all-around superiority of western and especially Anglo-Saxon civilization, through exhibits, intellectual discourse and the Olympics.”

More smoke

Q. What other areas were affected by the Ontario fire and smoke that caused Alpena at noon on May 30, 1948, to be as dark as night?

A. Texas and Washington, D.C., were both reported in newspapers and websites as having smoke-darkened skies. Descriptions follow of the Mississagi River Fire in northeastern Ontario, which is considered “the most destructive forest fire in Ontario’s history.”

“Canada’s largest fire in modern history was the Chapeau-Mississagi fire of May and June, 1948 in northeastern Ontario. … Smoke from the fire was dense enough in Texas to cause streetlights to turn on during the daytime in some cities.”

“At the fire’s apex, the United States Weather Bureau reported that it was the cause of a gigantic smoke cloud traveling south. According to the North Bay Daily Nugget, “the air over Washington (DC) appeared to be filled with haze ranging from light to dark gray and the early sun was ringed with a bright red halo.”

Beginning as two separate fires which later joined, “Both blazes were the by-products of human error – a poacher’s negligence and a construction accident – but the government simply called it “the long black arm of human carelessness.”

An aerial photographer first spotted the fire. “The date was Tuesday, May 25, 1948.”

“Over the next three months, the fire burned with over 1,538 extra fire fighters working to put it out. On Aug.31, 1948 it was officially pronounced history – a total of 323,520 acres of land had burned in the Mississagi Region.”

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