The Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo – And The Electric And Rainbow City

Here is the third installment in a series of posts on world’s fairs and world’s expositions that will run periodically on Insights. The first two posts in this series were features on, respectively, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations and World’s Columbian Exposition.

 “That century that has now begun may unite in the bonds of peace, knowledge, friendship, and noble emulation of all the dwellers on the continents and islands of the New World.”

Inscription, by American poet RICHARD WATSON GILDER, on the propylaea at the entrance of the Pan-American Exposition

Buffalo, today, enjoys a resurgence. It is revitalization overdue. There is a lot going on in the “Queen City of the Great Lakes.”

Then, again, for too long, broadly, in our land, Buffalo has been the subject of ridicule and unkind jest.

Buffalo is thought of across America as cold and economically depressed, and tied to that NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, which frequently does well, but never grabs the ring. Buffalo is something of a meteorological curiosity, with its preposterous inches of snowfall, and its images of towering snowbanks transmitted on TV.

Yet, of course, the story of Buffalo and its history is long and broad and anchored in the Industrial Revolution.  Buffalo was a central player in the growth and establishment of the United States as commercially and culturally relevant on a global scale.

Buffalo was a metropolis of extraordinary and highly visible wealth.

In the later stages of the Industrial Revolution, the city held – and still holds today – a great trove of art and design.

The city knew a long episode of manufacturing and commercial greatness and prominence.

As well, recognize that two citizens of the city became president of the United States: Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland.

And that Niagara Falls is, relatively, Buffalo’s next-door neighbor is not touted enough nor nearly as widely appreciated as it should be.

Buffalo’s establishment and rise, and fall, and stagnation, and comeback, is a parable of water and shipping and electricity.

Buffalo became a great city not long after 1825, the year that the Erie Canal – arguably the most significant and extraordinary construction project and engineering feat of the 19th Century – opened, and for the first time provided the nation with a continuous waterway, navigable by ships, between the Atlantic (via the upper Hudson River near Albany) and what was then Middle America.

The western-most port along the 400-mile canal is Buffalo.

Not only was the canal a commercial boon, it was also a busy conduit for migration west.  “Settling the west” owed much to the Erie Canal.

When, in the 1850s, the rich veins of iron ore – the raw material for steel production – in the Appalachians and Upper Midwest started to be mined enmass, Buffalo was in a strategically advantageous position. It was close to the ore, and it held a vital shipping location. Metropolitan Buffalo became a steel manufacturing center.

Buffalo also emerged as the number one grain port in the world.

With the Erie Canal, grain from the Midwest bound for the East Coast and Europe no longer had to be hauled long stretches over land and then transported on barges down the Mississippi, or other rivers, to New Orleans where the grain was transferred to ocean vessels.

Still, even when shipping grain over the Erie Canal, the process was highly time consuming, costly, and labor intensive – for it was a process in which grain-carrying lake boats, which were too big to continue east on the shallower and narrower stretch of the canal, arrived in Buffalo, and then needed to be manually unloaded and the cargo then manually loaded on to other ships.

Innovation transformed the operation when Joseph Dart, a Buffalo merchant, invented the first grain elevator, which mechanized the unloading, storage, and uploading of grain.

Soon a signature aspect of the Buffalo skyline were grain elevators. By 1863 the Buffalo waterfront had 27 grain elevators.

Buffalo’s proximity to Niagara Falls – which in 1886 first had its rushing volumes of water harnessed to generate electricity, and which had grown increasingly and rapidly as hydro-electric power source – enabled it to be the first American city to have street lights, as well as an urban pioneer in the expanse and prevalence of lighting and electric power.

Buffalo took on the nickname, “The City of Light.”

It was a city that held buildings designed by Henry Hobson Richardson — who, along with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, are known today as the “Trinity of American Architects – and parks planned by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture.

(Starting in 1902, several Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings and structures would be constructed in Buffalo.)

In the late 1800s, Buffalo claimed to have the most footage of paved streets on earth.

On the cusp of the 20th Century, Buffalo – particularly its civic and business leaders – felt confident and proud of the city.

To a particular and ambitious and well-heeled coterie of this group, it made sense for Buffalo to make a play for international prominence in developing and presenting a proposal to host a world’s fair

And, why not, this is what America had been doing. It was expected of her. Europe, the Old World, had led with global expositions in which it showed off its technology and culture and advanced civilization.

Actually, the advent of what would be called the “industrialization” world’s fairs was the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations  – aka “The Great Exhibition” – held London in 1851.

America jumped in to the competition and celebrations with the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations that New York City hosted in 1853.

Industrial world’s fairs that followed were, in order, the International of 1862, or Great London Exhibition; the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876; the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris; the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893; and Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris.

On the cusp of the 20th Century, America continued to assert itself; it continued to grow and to invent and to develop and create and build.

Indeed, as the Buffalo powers-that-be convened, in America – especially in its industrial Northeast – it was the Gilded Age, an era that had commenced about 1870.

It was Mark Twain who assigned the age its moniker, with his 1873 novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.”

Mr. Twain knew an America, one he artfully described in the book, as one of great industrial progress, wealth building, majestic material consumption, and job opportunity for skilled workers – yet beneath that socio-economic gilding was broad-ranging racial and ethnic prejudice and injustices, and far-reaching and crushing poverty for millions of Americans.


Those Buffalo business and civic leaders planning to make a successful pitch for their city, knew that they would work with a general theme and mission of the exposition that had already been agreed upon an established – Pan Americanism.

Whatever city or region landed the fair would host the Pan-American Exposition.

A movement had been growing in the latter part of the 19th century to forge a more cooperative relationship among all nations in North America and South America.

In 1889, in Washington D.C., established was the Bureau of the Americas, a diplomatic organization, comprised of representatives from countries in the two continents.

Immediately after the Chicago world’s fair, the Bureau started planning a Pan-American exposition.

In 1897, the Pan-American Exposition Company was formed.

The Pan-American Exposition would celebrate the United States and its greatness, its growth, its technology, its advancing culture. It would also host the exhibits and presentations from republics throughout the Americas. An exposition of international cooperation and comity would be this event.

(As it would result, though, exposition organizers would be far more inviting and solicitous of nations to the south of the U.S., and they would be to Canada. It was a snub and lack of courtesy that was widely publicized among the population of the U.S.’s neighbor to the north.)

Actually the Pan-American Exposition was originally scheduled to be held at Niagara Falls – more precisely, at Cayuga Island, an island in the Niagara River and upstream from Niagara Falls. But when war broke out with Spain in April 1898 the fair was put on hold.

In July of 1898, while war with Spain was ongoing, U.S. Congress pledged $500,000 (about $14.5 million in 2016 dollars) to support operations of a Pan-American exposition.

When the conflict with Spain ended in American victory on August 12, fewer than four months after the commencement of the conflict, efforts started up again to plan and fund the fair.

With the Buffalo contingent, bolstered by strong local public support (including financial), making an effective case, the Queen City of the Great Lakes became a viable alternative to Niagara Falls.

Competition between Buffalo and Niagara Falls was intense.

Buffalo won out largely because of its direct links and connections to railroad lines which availed 40 million people the ability to reach the city within a day’s time.

In a booklet produced by the organizers of the exposition, it was explained that, “There are more people who live within a day’s journey of Buffalo, than of any other place in the Western Hemisphere.”

As well, Buffalo, with 350,000 residents, was the nation’s eighth largest city by population.

Grounds Layout for the Pan-American Exposition

Within Buffalo, chosen for the site for the fair, were 350 acres of Rumsey Farm, a primarily flat and barren piece of land that abutted the beautiful Delaware Park, which was designed by Olmsted.

The basics of the grounds layout plan of the Fair is described in this excerpt from the Pan-American Exposition section of the website Buffalo History Works:

The general plan of the grounds was that of an inverted “T” with the cross arm being the Esplanade extending east and west, and terminating at the Propylaea.  The Court of Fountains was in the center of the vertical stem and starting from its four corners was the beginning of the main group of large buildings.

Fair organizers understood that while their plans for exposition grounds could not extend into Olmsted’s Delaware Park – meaning no changes or modifications of the park could be made – what could be done is to extend into the expo grounds elements of Delaware Park’s pastures, its gentle rolls and curves of paths and walkways, its ponds, lack of strict edges and boundaries, and the delicate tie between nature and human imagination.

To achieve that extension of crafted nature, the fair designers made ample use of waterways and paths that were bordered with trees and shrubs and rustic gardens.

Buildings and Structures

“An artistic composition” is how John Carrère, Chairman of the Board of Architects of the Pan-American Exposition, described his vision of what the meeting of the fair’s landscape and buildings and structures would create.

The form and design of the buildings and structures represented a fundamental shift from the neoclassical style and chalky white color of the Columbian Exposition.

It was a new century, and the exposition was a celebration of America and its industry and culture, and also of the promise of a sunlit future.

Visitors to the Pan-American Exposition would tour not the White City and strict incorporation of classical antiquity of Chicago eight years prior – but a venue that was planned in a style that was Renaissance married to elements of Gothic – and which was expressed in many colors of many shades and hues, and which integrated and allowed for individual national character.

The Pan-American Exposition was more modern … and even ethnic … in look.

Almost all the buildings of the Pan-American Exposition were intended to be temporary. They were largely made of frames of iron and wood slats over which was spread a substance called staff – a mixture of plaster, gypsum, and hemp.

Although the structures were temporary, the materials and methods used to construct them allowed extensive opportunity for creativity in design and style.

Overseeing the development of colors and painting of the buildings was
C.Y. Turner, who had been Assistant Director of Decoration for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Mr. Turner’s title for the Pan-American Exposition was, most fittingly, Director of Color.

There was extensive and detailed practice and experimentation on painting a miniature model of the exposition to find the desired mix, blend, integration, and color tones.

Among the 90 structures and buildings constructed for the Pan-American Exposition, among the most prominent were the following:

  • The Triumphal Bridge (architect: John M. Carrére): Magnificent and grandiose in decoration, it spanned the Grand Canal. It also was the path from the Fore Court to the Esplanade.

As described at the “A Souvenir of the Pan American Exposition “ section of the website The Buffalo History Works, the Triumphal Bridge was a “splendid gateway” of “four gigantic piers, upon which mounted standard bearers hold aloft the national emblem, and about the bases are trophies of peace and war, and numerous other pieces of statuary, each expressing some phase of national greatness.”

  • The Electric Tower: Designed by John Galen Howard, the all-star edifice, of the Pan-American Exposition – a 395-foot beacon of electricity and light. At the pinnacle of the tower was a golden-colored figurine, The Goddess of Light, which was set up on a cupola.

At night, 44,000 bulbs illuminated the tower, and contained within the cupola was a powerful and roving searchlight that cast a powerful beam at a slightly downward angle. At the base of the Tower ran a waterfall into a basin that extended perpendicularly from the Tower, and in which were embedded cascades and fountains.

  • Electricity Building (architects: firm of Green & Wicks): Within this building was the transformer that converted incoming electricity from Niagara Falls into forms that could be used for lighting the fair, and other means.  As well, in the Electricity Building there was a telephone switchboard staffed with operators.
  • S. Government Buildings: There were three of these buildings. Across these three buildings were represented the departments of the War and Navy, Post Office, Agriculture, Treasury, and State Department
  • Machinery and Transportation Building: A showcase for recent invention and innovation, including in the areas of the manufacture of bicycles, automobiles, heavy machines, and steam engines. B. Green (a partner in Green & Wicks) designed this building.
  • Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building: Exhibited were the products that mills and factories manufactured. Food and food production exhibits were featured in this building.
  • Agriculture: At a time in America in which close to 40 % of the U.S. labor force was engaged in farming (compared to less than 1 % today) – and, with that percentage significantly higher in all other countries participating in the exposition, save Canada – in this building (designed by George Shepley) farmers viewed exhibits that displayed and explained labor-saving farm innovation and technology, and methods to improve growing of crops.
  • Ethnology Building: Housed exhibits on Native American history, and the lives of people from world regions that had remained undeveloped.  (Please see, further down, more discussion about the Ethnology Building in the section “On Matters of Race and a Changing Society.)
  • Horticulture: A big draw of this building were the variety of fruits and vegetables, available for tasting and sampling, from many of the countries participating in the Exposition. This building housed a large refrigerator plant.
  • The Mines Building: Exhibited in The Mines Building (architect: Robert Swain Peabody) were the tools and devices of mining and metallurgy
  • The Temple of Music: Within this building, designed by August Esenwein, was an auditorium that could seat 2,200. A central feature and utility in The Temple of Music was one of the biggest pipe organs that had, to that date, been built in the U.S.
  • New York State Building: George Cary designed this building, which was intended as the only permanent building of the exposition. Grecian-Temple in style, and made of white marble, today it is the home of the
    Buffalo Historical Society.
  • The Stadium: This stadium was modeled on the style, and was a scaled down version, of the venue in which were contested the original Olympiads in Ancient Greece.  Many different types of amateur and professional sport competitions were held in the expo stadium. Also held in the stadium – which was 680-feet long and 450-feet wide, and had a seating capacity of 12,000 – was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
  • The Art Building: Exhibited within were beautiful works of painting and sculpture.
  • State and Foreign Buildings: On display and presented within were the industries and cultures of states, a U.S. territory, and Pan-American countries. State buildings were Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio. There was also a New England building. Puerto Rico, a new (1898) U.S. territory had a building. Countries with buildings were Canada, Ecuador, Honduras, and Mexico.

To access more comprehensive information on Pan-American Exposition buildings, please click here to be taken to a section of an area at the University of Buffalo website where is maintained an excellent and highly valuable database of research, commentary, articles, and scholarship on the exposition

Sculpture widely adorned and vastly populated the exposition, including 500 statues.

It was all beautiful and awesome – the buildings and the landscape … and the colors.

And it would be the bringing together and wedding of architecture and design and color – with monstrous voltages of efficiently flowing electricity, allowing for a galaxy and constellations of light – that resulted in a transcendent and historic aesthetic.

The Electric and Rainbow Cities

The Pan-American Exposition opened its doors on Wednesday, May 1, 1901. Admission cost for that day, as it would be on every other day but Sunday, was 50 cents ($7.00 in 2017 dollars). On Sundays, admission dropped to 25 cents.

Visitors entered a metropolis within a city.

It was a city described with an artful palette of colors across the exposition, and multiple colors and light and electricity forging powerful and engaging energy and optics which commanded and compelled that the Pan-American exposition would be nicknamed The Rainbow City.

Yet prior to The Rainbow City there was The Electric City – and the Electric City was Buffalo.

A precursor to The Rainbow City had to be The Electric City.


Power from the rush of water at Niagara Falls first started generating electricity some 16 years prior to the Pan-American Exposition. Yet it would not be until 1895, with the opening of the Edward Dean Adams Power Plant at the falls, that it became possible to harness this electricity on a grand scale and send it the 22 miles to Buffalo in a form that could be used to burn lights and move streetcars and power other operations.

That the electricity produced at Niagara Falls could, for the first time, travel to Buffalo was primarily owed to the mountainous genius of the Serbian scientist and engineer Nikola Tesla. For it was Tesla who developed the plans – plans on which the generators at the Adams Plant were based – to produce alternating current (AC) electricity, a form that allows for electricity to travel great distances and be modulated into different power voltages.

Alternating current and its use to power Rainbow City is a milestone in what is called the “Battle of Currents” or “War of Currents,” which pitted AC against Direct Current (DC), with Tesla the general for AC and Thomas Edison the standard bearer for DC.

The city of Buffalo, and the Pan American Exposition, were the earliest beneficiaries of the alternating current electricity that flowed from Niagara Falls.

Alternating current powered the lights – including almost a quarter-of-million eight-watt bulbs – and colors of the Pan-American Exposition.

And about those lights and those colors – they were employed to tell a visual and insensitive story of the transition and improvement of man from the uncivilized to the civilized.

On the outer edges of the exposition the buildings were lit with harsh reds and oranges, intended to express barbarism and savagery; traveling further and further into the fair the colors became quieter and more pale until one arrived at the Electric Tower – again, the signature edifice of the event – one whose primary luminescence was creamy white with blue and gold trim, the hue of modern civilization.

Light and color and electricity were, therefore, put to work to tell a story that was in parts racist and in parts xenophobic.

On Matters of Race and a Changing Society

In 2001, a Buffalo civic group, multiracial in makeup, ran a centennial commemoration of the Pan-American Exposition.  Given strong attention and openly discussed in the centennial event were the expressions and displays of racial stereotypes and insensitivity at the exposition.

Yes, for sure, this unhappy and negative aspect of the fair is mentioned and discussed in histories of Pan-American Exposition.  This aspect is also … frequently … not addressed.

The Pan-American Exposition was held 46 years after the end of the Civil War, the costliest in lives lost in the nation’s history.

It was held 11 years after the slaughter of 300 of the Lakota people at Wounded Knee, SD, and as skirmishes between Native Americans and the U.S. Army continued.

At the Pan-American Exposition, in the Exposition Building there were exhibits that played up and promoted the notion of people of different color, living in far off lands, being barbarians and savages.

There was The Old Plantation, a depiction of an antebellum cotton plantation in which blacks and whites lived in harmony with each other. In the African Village exhibit there was, as Exposition literature describes, a “collection of some 35 different African native tribes with their supremely ancient weapons, household gods and primitive handicraft.”

Depictions and treatments of Native Americans were insensitive.

Geronimo, the great Apache leader, was transported from his federal imprisonment in Oklahoma to the Pan-American Exposition where he was among the fair’s biggest draws.

Members of Native American tribes from the American Plains were brought in to participate in reenactments of battles against Union troops, with the Indians losing yet again.

Yet, as well, the Pan-American Exposition evidenced progress on matters of race.

An example of this progress is that, in a break from the practices of world’s fairs that had preceded it … and many that would follow … the Pan-American Exposition gave a platform and forum for Latin American countries to hold their own events and to produce their own exhibits.

Innovation on Display and on Exhibit at the Pan-American Exposition

The use of electricity at the Pan-American Exposition was central and fundamental to the success of the fair, and was its ongoing most impressive exhibit of invention and innovation.

The University of Buffalo maintains an excellent online database of research, commentary, articles, and scholarship on the Pan-American Exposition.

Following is an excerpt from an article, archived at the University of Buffalo database, titled, “How to See the Pan-American Exposition,” by Mary Bronson Hartt, in which is described the omniscience and prominence of electricity at the fair:

This is an electric exposition; the electrical exhibits cannot be contained in a single building; they are everywhere. Niagara power drives the trolley which carries you to the grounds; turns the wheels of the countless machines in Machinery Hall; whirls the electric fans which cool the theatres in the Midway; illuminates the cycloramas and other electrical effects and illusions; makes possible the powerful search-light on the Electric Tower which sends signals to Toronto ; glows in the blended colors of the Electric Fountain, and blossoms in a whole firmament of electric stars which make up the glory of the Pan-American illumination. All this makes of supreme interest a modest little working-model of the Niagara Power House, near the western end of the Electricity Building. A portion of the outer wall is removed to allow you to see the wheel-pit and penstocks, and the turbines spinning in the rush of water, revolving the humming dynamos in the power-house above.

Please click here to read the full article, published in the October 1901 issue of Everybody’s Magazine.

Other newly developed technologies on display were the portable x-ray machine; the electrograph, which was a device that transmitted pictures over a wire; a voting machine; a typesetting machine; improved phonograph; and infant incubators, with real infants inside.

Indeed, and we make mention of it again, that the great world’s fairs and industrial expositions were kin and ancestors of the tradeshows and exhibitions of today.

These expositions were prominent and high-profile, and effective, methods and venues for companies, countries, and states to tell the stories and advertise and brag about their achievements.

And, for sure, the Pan-American Exposition was an extravaganza worthy of much  storytelling, advertising, and bragging.  It was an event fully worthy of the moniker of world’s fair.

Yet the Pan-American Exposition and its remembrance in posterity, would be one cloaked in darkness and tragedy.

For it was on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition that the president of the United States was murdered.

Assassination of the President

On September 5, President William McKinley, immensely popular and in his second term as chief executive of the republic, began a scheduled two-day four of the fair.  A crowd of 116,000 attended a day-time speech he delivered in the big open-air stadium

President McKinley’s speech included these words:

Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world’s advancements. 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.

That night there was a massive fireworks display in his honor, which culminated with the pyrotechnics spelling out, ““Welcome President McKinley, Chief of our Nation and Our Empire.”

After the fireworks, the president and First Lady, Ida McKinley, were taken to Milburn House, the stately and expansive home of Pan-American Exposition president John G. Milburn, where they would spend the evening.

The next afternoon, the president made an appearance – a meet-and-greet – at the Temple of Music.

Among those standing in the receiving line, and moving closer to the president, was Leon Czologosz, a 28-year old mentally unstable man who was driven and consumed with the belief that government was to blame for injustice and socio-economic inequality. Mr. Czologosz identified the president as the leader of a great system of oppression.

Leon Czogolosz had traveled from his home in Ohio to Buffalo with the intent of assassinating President McKinley.

As he neared the president, Leon Czologosz had concealed beneath a handkerchief in his right hand a .32 caliber revolver. The handkerchief appeared as a bandage over a wound.

When Mr. Czogolosz made it to the front of the line, a little after 4 p.m., the president reached to shake his hand. Mr. Czogolosz slapped the hand away, and pointed the gun at the president’s midsection, and fired twice. One bullet deflected off the President McKinley’s rib cage and did no damage. The other bullet tore through the president’s stomach, kidney, and pancreas, before settling in his back.

Doctors immediately attended, on site, to the president. A tragic irony ensued in that on the property of a world’s fair which touted and celebrated the wonders and modernity of electricity, those physicians who first treated the president did so without the assistance of electric light, for the Temple of Music was not wired for electricity.

Almost as soon as the president was shot, a telegraph message was sent to Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital, to the renowned surgeon, Dr. Roswell Park, chair of the University of Buffalo Medical School’s Department of Surgery.  Dr. Park was in the middle of a surgery.  On hearing that President McKinley had been shot, Dr. Park finished the operation and jumped on a train that took him back to the exposition.

Word was also dispatched to Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who was vacationing in Vermont.  The vice president immediately set out for Buffalo.

President McKinley was transferred to the exposition hospital. After an evaluation – conducted without electric light – it was determined that surgery could not wait until Dr. Park arrived; it had to be done immediately.  Chosen to perform the operation was Dr. Matthew Mann, a gynecologist and obstetrician.

Approximately an hour to the minute after the president was shot, Dr. Mann began the surgery, with the benefit of the illumination of a rigged up electric bulb.

In an attempt to locate the bullet, fairly invasive was the investigation of the 58-year-old president’s abdominal cavity.  During the surgery, an aide to the president sent out a request to have the x-ray machine at the fair brought to the expo hospital.  The machine was not sent, however, as the medical team assessed that using the machine might cause undue stress on the president, and that the x-ray may not prove of much value even if taken.  Dr. Mann, not able to find the bullet, cleaned the wound and sewed up the incision with black thread.

In early evening, President McKinley, awake, was transferred in an electric ambulance to Fuller House.

Over the next few days, the president seemed to rally.  He was awake and conversational.  Doctors were optimistic – so much so that on September 9, Vice President Roosevelt left for the Adirondacks to continue his vacation.

Yet the president did not continue to rally; he became sicker and started to fade.  Gangrene, a bacterial infection, grew along the path of the bullet and poisoned the president’s blood.  By the morning of September 13, it had become obvious that the president would not survive his wound.  Vice President Roosevelt was summoned from the Adirondacks.  President McKinley recognized that he was dying, and said to those at his bedside, “It is useless, gentleman.  I think we ought to have a prayer.”

At 2:15 in the morning on September 14 President McKinley died.

While still in the Adirondacks, Mr. Roosevelt was informed of the death of President McKinley.  The vice president took a train to Buffalo and was sworn in as the 26th president of the United States.  In that he took the oath of office at 42 years old, Theodore Roosevelt became (and remains) the youngest president in U.S. history.


Within about year and half following the closing of the Pan-American Exposition, the buildings and edifices of the fair had been almost totally demolished.

An effort to raise sufficient money to preserve the Electric Tower was unsuccessful; however, the design of the structure served as a prototype for the Electric Tower in downtown Buffalo, which opened in 1912.

When the exposition concluded, the New York State Building became the headquarters of the Buffalo Historical Society (renamed the Buffalo History Museum).  In the 1987 the home of the Buffalo History Museum was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Today the property on which the Pan-American Exposition was held is a mix of residences and small businesses.


 It cannot be ignored that the legacy of the Pan-American Exposition – a world’s fair that was exceptional, grand, magnificent, and awe-inspiring in so many ways – is tarnished by the assassination of President William McKinley.

Yet it is only proper that the great achievements … and they are great … of the Pan-American Exposition, and the contributions of the City of Buffalo to those achievements … be remembered and celebrated and chronicled.

And is fitting, and it is a major public service, that so much scholarship and civic effort and resources are committed to remembering and documenting and telling the story of the Pan-American Exposition.

This memory, this history, this knowledge, is a catalyst and serves as emotional energy and inspiration for Buffalo, and all of Metropolitan Buffalo, as this urban area continues its resurgence.

 Recommended for further reading, The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City:  Spectacle and Assassination at the 1901 World’s Fair (2016, W.W. Norton & Company) by Margaret Creighton, and the website “Doing the Pan … “.