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1904 ~ The World's Fair: electricity, ice cream cones and cotton candy

by Holly Gerard

On April 30, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair began in St. Louis , Missouri. It was called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair because it fell on the 100th anniversary of the acquisition of Louisiana. People traveled from all over on freight trains to attend the large event. It was a life-changing event for many of the people who attended. The fair was held in 1,576 buildings that were specially built on 1,240 acres. Each building had a specific theme—education, electricity and transportation to name just three. People were continually amazed and intrigued as they wandered from building to building, from exhibit to exhibit and learned of the new wonders and inventions of the age. Ladies had always boiled their jars before canning, but in the education building, they were able to look through a microscope and actually see the live bacteria that would grow if their jars were not sterilized, and therefore, actually know why they boiled their jars. The ladies then were thrilled to learn of the new household inventions that they dreamed of obtaining, such as the tabletop stove, dishwasher and electric dumbwaiters that would make their lives so much easier and time saving. The men wanted to learn all they could about the new electrical wall sockets that were being used for the first time at the fair. Houses had been totally wired for electricity, but had never had wall sockets before.

All of the outdoors for the fair as well as the buildings were equipped with electricity. Thomas Edison was there to oversee the electrical work and function. Workers on the railroads were agog at the huge turntables that were being used for the trains. Everyone was interested to learn of the scientific invention of baby incubators that was introduced at the fair. Working incubators holding premature babies were actually there at the fair and people could watch nurses caring for the babies and learn how the incubators worked. Their admission fees were helping to fund the new invention.

Motorcars were seen around the fair delivering mail and on display—an exciting and unusual site for many, as the usual modes of transportation were freight car or horse and carriage.

There were many food vendors at the fair. One of them was a homemade ice cream vendor, whose ice cream was selling so well he ran out of bowls. Next to him was a homemade waffle vendor. The waffle vendor saw that his neighbor was in dire straits, and thinking quickly, made a waffle, rolled it into a cone, and handed it across to the ice cream vendor. Thus, the "World's Fair Cornucopia" was born, otherwise known today as the ice cream cone.

Several other foods and beverages were introduced at the fair that year. Dr. Pepper was introduced. It had originally been created in Waco, TX, by a chemist, Charles Alderton, who loved to play around with chemicals. He decided to play around with different flavors and created the soda. The store was owned by Wade Morrison, and Wade named the soda that Charles created after the father of the girl he loved. Dr. Pepper went over so well at the fair that it was declared the King of Beverages. William Morrison and John C. Wharton invented Fairy Floss, also called Candy Floss, at the fair. They sold it by the boxful for a quarter a box. Now it is known as Cotton Candy.

People born in 1904: Ray Bolger (Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz), Cary Grant (actor), Pretty Boy Floyd (gangster). Jimmy Dorsey (bandleader), Glenn Miller (bandleader), Dr. Seuss (children's book author), Charles L. Melson (United States Navy Admiral), Peter Lorre (actor), Charles "Buddy" Rogers (actor and Jazz musician) and Count Basie (musician and band leader).

Deaths this year were James Longstreet (Confederate Civil War General), Sir Henry Keppel (British Admiral) and Mark Hanna (US Senator from Ohio).

Join us next month for a look back at 1914.

Holly Gerard is a writer and consultant on elder care.

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