Pan-American Exposition

Aerial view print of Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Official logo for, by Raphael Beck
Pan-American Exposition by Night

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 (1.4 km2) 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 President William McKinley.


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 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—the city was within a day's journey by rail for over 40 million people. In July 1898, Congress pledged $500,000 for the Exposition to be held at Buffalo. 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 miles (40 km) away at Niagara Falls.

Assassination of President McKinley

McKinley's last speech delivered September 5, 1901.

The exposition is most remembered because President William McKinley was shot 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.

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

"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."[1]

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.

Buildings and exhibits

The Electric Tower, "the crowning feature of the Exposition"

Buildings and exhibits featured at the Pan-American Exposition included:[2]


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.[4]


When the fair ended, the contents of the grounds were sold to the Chicago House Wrecking Company[5] of Chicago for US$92,000 ($2.28 million in 2016 dollars[6]).[7] 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.[8] Prior to its demolition, an effort made via public committee to purchase and preserve the original Electric Tower from the wrecking company for nearly US$30,000 ($855 thousand in 2016 dollars[6]). However, the necessary funding could not be raised in time.[7]

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.[9]


The New York State Building, located in Delaware Park, was designed to outlast the Exposition and is now used as a museum by the Buffalo History Museum. 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.[10] Included in the Library collection are the records of the Pan-American Exposition Company.[11]

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.

The original Electric Tower, although demolished, was the inspiration and design prototype for the 13 story, Beaux-Arts Electric Tower, built in 1912, in downtown Buffalo.

A boulder marking the site of McKinley's assassination was placed in a grassy median on Fordham Drive in Buffalo.[12]


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. "The Last Speech of William McKinley". American Experience – America 1900 – Primary Sources. PBS; WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  2. Arnold, Charles (1901). Official Views of Pan-American Exposition. Retrieved 2011-08-06.
  3. Heverin, Aaron (December 14, 1998). "The Architecture". buffalohistoryworks. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  4. "Lina Beecher Obituary". Batavia Daily News. October 6, 1915.
  5. "Exposition Buildings Sold". San Francisco Call. 24 November 1901. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  7. 1 2 "News from 1902 (March)". Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  8. Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition Arcadia Publishing. (1998), page 23. Retrieved 2011-8-5.
  9. "Quiet Street Enjoys a Place in History", by Anthony Cardinale, Buffalo News, March 12, 1989 pB-11
  10. Buffalo History Museum. "Pan-American Exposition: A WorldCat List". Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  11. Buffalo History Museum. "Finding Aid for the Pan-American Exposition Company Records, 1899-1908". Mss. C65-7: University at Buffalo. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  12. 42°56′19″N 78°52′25″W / 42.9386859°N 78.8735908°W, Google Maps Street View of the memorial marker on Fordham Drive.
  13. 1 2 Peterson, Harold (2003). "Buffalo Builds the 1901 Pan-American Exposition". Buffalo as History. Retrieved 2011-08-05.

Further reading

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