- Those Places Thursday: The St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904
- Amanuensis Monday: 1904 World’s Fair Visit- W. H. Spiggle Letter to Abraham and Rose Green
- Shopping Saturday: Souvenirs from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair
- Sentimental Sunday: More Souvenirs from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
- Those Places Thursday: 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair Souvenirs
Commemorating the Louisiana Purchase Centennial was the theme for many World’s Fair souvenirs. This letter opener has an image of the Cascade Gardens, but also a beautiful eagle, symbol of America. Native Americans are depicted on front and back, and a globe joins the handle and blade, reminding us that the Lewis & Clark Expedition traversed the huge expanse of the lands of the Louisiana Purchase.
[Again, I apologize for the quality of the images. These items are hard to photograph, especially at night.]
Souvenirs might have sentimental meaning in later years, an opportunity to recall pleasant times with family and friends (or perhaps, with NO family or friends around). Many souvenirs held a special place in the home, whether one kept them for oneself or gave them as a gift to the neighbor who fed the dog while one was off traveling, or to a family member who had to stay home. Anna May Beerbower Helbling was one of the latter. May collected silver spoons, and many people brought them to her from many places, since she could not travel in her later years. She had leg ulcers and was often bedridden- the family thinks she probably had diabetes, in the days before insulin. She may have benefitted from the introduction of insulin in 1921 when she was 40 years old, as family remembers her beloved husband G. W. Helbling giving her injections, but the damage of diabetes may have already been done. The lack of good antibiotics at the time also likely compromised her health.
Often silver plate so they were more affordable to the middle class, collectible spoons were common souvenirs around the country, and at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair as well. The spoons in these images were purchased, not a legacy of May Beerbower Helbling. Her collection as I know it did not include a World’s Fair spoon, though she did collect before that date so maybe that spoon ended up with another family member. (It seems strange for her to not have one, but she was a newlywed that year and money may have been very tight.)
Some World’s Fair spoons were a finer quality, and sterling silver, such as this one produced by Mermod-Jaccard, a fine jeweler in St. Louis.
Hatpins were another useful souvenir of the fair. Both hair and hats were very big at that time, and the hatpin would hold the hat on through fairly big winds, since it went through the hat, the big hair, then the hat again (sometimes). Having a souvenir hatpin showed folks back home that you were a well-travelled lady.
These hatpins are enameled, and some of the enamel has come off of the fleur-de-lis hatpin, a symbol of the French settlement of St. Louis and surrounding areas. The red, white, and blue of the pennant reflect the French flag that flew over St. Louis for so many years; the fleur-de-lis sported those colors originally too.
Hatpins became a favorite collectible of mine because of a story told about Anna May Beerbower, discussed above. May was born in 1881, and was probably in her later teens before she started dating. May had gone on a date to a movie, possibly circa 1897-1903, which would have been a silent movie with an organist providing appropriate music for the action. The lights went down and the couple settled in to enjoy the movie. May felt a hand wander to her knee, which was covered by her long dress of the time. She moved the hand gently, since she was a gentle woman who could never even kill a bug. The hand, as male hands are wont to do, returned soon after to her innocent knee. May calmly took the hatpin out of her hat and stabbed the errant hand with it. The movie was finished in silence by the two of them, with hands in their appropriate places. She did not go out with him again.
May and G.W. married in 1904, so I like to think of the two sweethearts strolling through the fair. Maybe G.W. bought her a hatpin such as one of these. They also took friends to the Fair, and there is, somewhere in my treasure chest (but not in my digital images), a letter from their friends, thanking them for the enjoyable visit and tour of the World’s Fair.
Watch fobs would have been very useful souvenirs, too, that also showed one’s sophistication in travel and looking forward to the future, as was the Fair’s theme.
The French fleur-de-lis is seen in the top panel, the Palace of Machinery is next, with the impressive Cascade Gardens below. A U.S. shield with 1904 to denote year of the Fair, and the round medal at the bottom promoted the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase. “1803” is on the left, “1903” on the right. Uncle Sam is on the left with the US Capitol in the background, and France on the right with her Eiffel Tower in the background, handing over the signed Louisiana Purchase documents. (The Fair was planned for 1903 originally, but they waited until 1904 so that more states and foreign nations could participate.) Napoleon, who ruled France at the time of the Purchase, is depicted on the left side of the medal, and President Thomas Jefferson on the right. The words, “Historic Souvenir” make the medal a bit less imposing, I think, but at least no one could try to sell it as an original.
The reverse of the fob begins at the top with the fleur-de-lis, and then showcases St. Louis’ Union Station, which many of the Fair tourists would have passed through as most travelled by train. Union Station had opened in 1894, the largest passenger station in the country. It became the busiest as well, and those of us of a certain age will remember standing at the edge of the many tracks inside, with the acrid smell of the new diesel train engines and the loud hiss of the older but more beautiful steam engines. The station has now become a multi-use hotel-retail-restaurant-convention center, and is a great destination in St. Louis to visit today.
The next panel showcases the 1874 engineering marvel that connects St. Louis to Illinois, the Eads Bridge. It was the longest arched bridge of the time, and made wide use of the new material called steel for its arched trusses, which were considered daring and unproven to handle the weight necessary for such a bridge. The construction of the bridge was novel in that it was the first use of cantilevered support exclusively, and its very deep pneumatic caissons were some of the few used at that time in bridge construction. St. Louisans were very proud of their bridge, and featuring it on this watch fob was one way to tell the world that while St. Louis might be an older city, it was looking forward to the future with advanced engineering and city planning.
The bottom section states, “Louisiana Purchase Exposition St. Louis 1904.”
The metal piece to the upper right above may also have been used as a watch fob, or attached to a bar-pin and worn as a medal. (There may have been a top portion that is missing.)
Many of the US states had a pavilion, and small buttons such as the above would have been procured there. I don’t know if these would have been given out or purchased- more research needed. The pin on the bottom right has some water damage. These pins are likely celluloid on metal backings.
A last few of my 1904 souvenirs will be featured in an upcoming post.
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) Items in the collection of the author, but sadly, they are not OUR family heirlooms, but were those of someone whose descendants did not appreciate heirlooms.
2) St. Louis Union Station- http://www.stlouisunionstation.com/about/
3) Eads Bridge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eads_Bridge
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