st. louis world's fair

Madam C. J. Walker

Featured in Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen


The first child in her family born into freedom, Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919) overcame being orphaned and widowed before the age of twenty to become America’s first female self-made millionaire. Her success is even more extraordinary given that it occurred in the face of the worst Jim Crow laws of the time. As a single mother, she worked for $1.50 a day as a laundress and cook so she could send her daughter to school. Lacking access to regular bathing facilities, she started losing a great deal of hair. At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, she met a woman, Annie Malone, who was selling cosmetic products for African-Americans. Among the products was “The Great Wonderful Hair Grower.” Madam Walker quickly became a client, and then a sales agent for Malone. A year later she relocated to Denver for family and started her own namesake hair product line.

There’s debate as to whether Annie Malone or Madam Walker was the first to cross the millionaire line, but there is no arguing that Walker had the advantage of being a marketing genius. She sold “The Walker System” of hair products and with them, the image of a new lifestyle and hair culture. For example, she used black women in the before-and-after photos for her product—prior to her ads, the after photos would show a white woman. Within five years, she expanded her company to include over three thousand sales agents, and her detailed training pamphlets taught them skills to develop a refined personal image. At her business conventions, she gave awards to not only the top sellers but also the saleswomen who gave the most to charity. She became the first large employer of African-American women and was a generous philanthropist during her life and after—she left two-thirds of future net profits of her estate to charity.

Haunting images reveal the human zoos where spectators would gawp at Black and Asian families caged in enclosures just 60 years ago

03/17/17

The horrific reality of America and Europe’s human zoos has been uncovered in a shocking series of snaps. Here, a young Congolese girl is handed food at a Belgian exhibition in 1958.

Children were not spared the savage treatment. This child, believed to come from Asia, was exhibited in Chicago in 1891.

Among the more tragic tales was that of Congolese man Ota Benga. He was finally released when public opinion turned against his cruel treatment.  But Ota struggled to adapt to American life and committed suicide six years after he was released.

Filipino men were required to perform dances for gawping spectators during the grim exhibitions.

Native Americans were pictured as zoo attractions at St Louis’s World Fair in 1904.

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When I first saw this “postcard” I thought it was just a plain envelope. However, once I opened it up I discovered that it actually unfolded to show pictures of eight different buildings from the 1904 World’s Fair. Included is the Palace of Transportation, the U.S. Government Building, the Palace of Electricity, the Festival Hall, the Palace of Manufacturers, the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy, the Palace of Liberal Arts, and last but not least, the Machinery Building. Though it isn’t a traditional postcard, I really like how it unfolds to show many different buildings, instead of just featuring one. This is the final installment of the 1904 World’s fair mini-series, I hope you all enjoyed it.

-Emily

World’s Fair Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa

MSC0840

Jessie Tarbox, Photojournalist, about 1905

From Wikipedia: Jessie Tarbox Beals (December 23, 1870 – May 30, 1942) was an American photographer, the first published female photojournalist in the United States and the first female night photographer. She is best known for her freelance news photographs, particularly of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and portraits of places such as Bohemian Greenwich Village. Her trademarks were her self-described “ability to hustle” and her tenacity in overcoming gender barriers in her profession. 

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This postcard from the World’s Fair collection is probably my favorite. At first glance it looks a bit boring. However, unlike most postcards that are made of paper, this one is wood. The message on the back is my favorite part, if you read closely you’ll notice that it’s full of tree related puns. 

-Emily

World’s Fair Collection, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

MSC0840

AUGUST 2 - MAUD WAGNER

Circus performer Maud Wagner began her career as an aerialist and contortionist. She met tattoo artist Gus Wagner at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where he billed himself as “the most artistically marked up man in America”. The two married several years later, and she learned how to give traditional “hand poked” tattoos as his apprentice. Through these lessons, she became one of the first known female tattoo artists in the United States.

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Here we have two more postcards from the World’s Fair Collection. One is of the Main Lagoon and the other is of the Liberal Arts Building. The Liberal Arts Building, also known as the Palace of Liberal Arts, housed displays categorized as Liberal Arts. Included were displays on fine photography, a coin collection from the British Mint, and different musical instruments.

-Emily

World’s Fair Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa

MSC0840

3

For our next postcard from the World’s Fair Collection, we have a postcard featuring a picture of the Festival Hall at night. Designed by Cass Gilbert, the Festival Hall was where many of the plays and music performances took place. It had a huge auditorium and housed the largest pipe organ in the world at that time. I think it looks amazing with all the different colored lights.

-Emily

World’s Fair Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa

MSC0840

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The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair, took place in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. This is a postcard from the Fair with a bird’s eye view. I really love the detail on this postcard, especially the little people in the streets. 

-Emily

World’s Fair Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa

MSC0840