By Lavinia Hart
The Cosmopolitan September 1901
The most exhaustive, the most interesting, the most instructive exhibit at the Pan-American Exposition is the exhibit of human nature. This exhibit is not confined within the four walls of an artistic building nor restricted to the products of North and South America. There are contributions from every country of the world, from all the strata of civilized society; and they fill the buildings, cover the grounds, monopolize the waterways and revel in the Midway, till the swaying, changing mass of color, size, form, quality and kind fills one with awe for the grandeur of this human exhibit. There are types so numerous they make the fall-pippin display in the Agricultural Building look meager - so complex, the machinery in the Graphic Arts would in comparison be child's-play to decipher.
There are the cultured types of the East, the crude types of the West. There are "city-broke" men and women who regard the fair as a bit of color or another incident; and men and women fresh from the farm who regard it with wide-eyed wonder, and to these the fair is an era, to and from which all other events shall date. There are women in rustling robes who drive to the Lincoln Park Gateway and view the fair through lorgnettes; and women in short skirts and shirtwaists who come in the trolleys and get much more for their money. There are thoughtful students and giggling girls; tourists who vainly try to see it all; whole brigades of shirtwaist men and short-skirt girls who, with guide-books and worried expressions, follow the man from Cook's. There are brides and grooms who are bored by the crowds, and crowds who are delighted with the brides and grooms. There are strait-laced dames who could not show you the way to the Midway; and tight-laced dames who could not show you the way out of it; and fair American girls who would not know when they were in it; and types from Hawaii and the Orient that make a violent background for American womanhood. There is every type at the Pan-American Exposition that ever was known, and the harmonious blending of them all proves advancement in the material exhibits.
The first type that greets you is the gateman belonging distinctly to the Sphinx species. The second is one of an ambitious squad of boys, who informs you that a daily permit at fifty cents per diem is necessary for your camera. You declare it's an outrage; but you've got the kodak craze, and deserve to pay. Mentally, you resolve to take all your pictures in one day. Actually, you bring the camera every day of your stay, making daily unsuccessful efforts to evade the squad. This type is the detective in embryo, and closely resembles a small animal known as the ferret.
Having paid for the privilege, the only way to get even with the management is to snapshot everything in the grounds. The first subject that appeals is a little old woman whose face is framed in a sunbonnet, which sunbonnet is framed in beds of tulips and orchids from a Long Island exhibitor's hothouses. The little old gardener tells you her name is "Mary," and she lives between the Exposition grounds and the poorhouse, and has one hundred and two plants of her own, which she'll be glad to give you slips of; but things have been running down lately, and the pension's stopped since Johnny died, and Lucy's getting tall and expects to go out in company soon, so she wouldn't like to go to the city to work; and when it come to working in the Exposition or working toward the poorhouse, why, the fair grounds were like play - specially as she always did love flowers so.
Mary is a common type-but Mary's daughter is commoner.
After Mary and her flowers, one observes the Pan-American small boy - the same that we have always with us, except that he is without restriction, and the air of Buffalo agrees with him. He has a way of cutting across the flower-beds to shorten distances; and the state police, who overtake him without demolishing the flower-beds, have a way of propounding the value of tulips and underrating the comforts of the town jail which the small boy never forgets. These state police are a new type to the New Yorker, who is used to beef and brawn on the force. They are long, lean, muscular fellows with military bearing and uniform and intelligent faces. There are also on the grounds camps of state troops and a small army of attaches for the exhibits in the Army and Navy Building. So the Exposition brass-button girl is happy and the type she adores gets the adulation on which it thrives. No building at the fair is so popular with the younger women as the Army and Navy Building; and no girl is so envied as she who happens to know an officer, who does the honors in one of those cozy little white tents, with chests containing everything you don't expect.
The building next in popularity to the Army and Navy is the Manufactures and Liberal Arts. Here women predominate, and it is curious to watch the different types of women linger around those features which would naturally appeal to them. At the shoe exhibit two dainty Frenchwomen gazed admiringly far nearly an hour at a machine which turned a heel a full hand high upon a red kid slipper; at the cloak and fur exhibit there wasn't one dowdy woman in the crowd that pressed against the cases and studied next season's fashions; at the sporting goods exhibit, girls in short skirts and men with muscle leaned upon the railing and discussed "putters" and "brassies" and "remades" ; up at the north end of the building-what was the attraction for the crowd that edged and pushed? There were old women and middle-aged women, neat women and shiftless women, thin women and fat women, and they all had housework wrinkles -- little creases that settle about the eyes and mouth from little frets and worries. They crushed forward, trampling one a another's toes and poking one another's ribs, and their eagerness was of the sort that characterizes a hungry dog's regard for raw meat. I knew it was a household implement before I heard a suave voice sap: " Ladies, it is so simple a child can use it. Other washers tear the clothes; ours will wash lace curtains without pulling a thread, or cleanse a carpet with ease. You can do a six weeks' wash of an afternoon with our machine, and find it as pleasant as a matinee. Come, madam, let me send you one on trial. You look as if you would appreciate it." The woman addressed was small and wiry, and the housework wrinkles looked as if they were there to stay. Her admiring gaze was lifted from the washing-machine to the man's face, as she said earnestly, "it looks like it would be such a comfort. "
"Comfort, madam? Why, our washing-machine is unquestionably the first principle of a happy home. Let me send you one on trial free."
"I guess I'll wait," said the little woman timidly.
"Never get another chance like this, ma'am."
"I'll speak to John about it."
"Does John do the washing?"
"No," drearily, "he doesn't; doesn't have to pay anything for tubs, either."
Whereupon all the women thereabout, who had been following the colloquy with the keenest interest, looked knowing and appreciative of this vindication of their downtrodden sex, and the crowd dispersed in high good humor.
In the center of the Manufactures Building was a gathering which defied classification. All types of women were huddled together, rich and poor, esthetic and commonplace. It was lunch-time, and they were engaged in the work of managing a free lunch. Women whose diamonds were gems and whose gowns were creations elbowed women who might have been their cooks, to get free biscuit made from the "finest baking-powder on earth"; free pancakes made from the only pancake flour that wouldn't result in sinkers; free soup from the only cans containing real tomatoes; free samples of all the varieties of mustard, jam and pickles; free sandwiches of minced meat; free cheese, preserves, chow-chow, plum-pudding, clam broth, baked beans and pickled lobster.
"Ladies," said the girl behind the prepared-flour counter, "you all know considerable about sponge-cake, but unless you have used our flour, you don't know it all. Now, this sponge-cake I am cutting-"
No reflection was intended and no offense taken. The ladies devoured the spongecake, and finished their meal with free samples of seven kinds of lithia water, four highly recommended mineral waters and three brands of unfermented grape-juice.
"Well," said a fat lady from Seneca County, "that meal's the first thing I've got for nothing since I landed in Buffalo."
I knew she was from Seneca County, because she had an altercation with the grapejuice agent.
"You folks don't know how to raise grapes, " she said, sententiously ; " you ought to come down to Seneca County to learn about vineyards."
"Madame," said the grape-juice agent with a superior smile, "we have hundreds of acres devoted to-"
"Don't care how many acres you've got," said the fat lady, smacking her lips; "we've got the grapes. And our grapes jell, that's what our grapes do. I tried yours once - had a crate sent down from my sister Susie's. Tried 'em six days. Jell? They never showed the first symptoms. On the seventh day I rested, and gave the whole mess to the hogs. No, sir, your grapes can't jell in the same kettle with Seneca County grapes, " and the fat lady took a third glass of grape-juice and passed on.
All of the fifty thousand people who visit the Fair daily don't patronize the advertisers' free-lunch counters, however, or the manufacturers would have to go out of business. Some bring luncheons in boxes and baskets and spread them on the benches or beneath the trees near the Delaware Park entrance; and the wise ones, who find it hard enough traveling even without luggage, go to the beautiful buildings on the fair grounds and take chances on hardboiled eggs at five cents or make sure of them at ten. And these wise ones have a relish with their luncheon which is all the sweeter for being unsuspected. The young women behind the counters are of a type they've long been waiting for -- angular, sharp-featured, spectacled, aggressive, the schoolmarm type that instilled into their childhood all the bitterness it ever knew.
A gentleman of sixty swung on a high stool before a counter where presided the perfection of this type. Perhaps a strong resemblance made vivid the memories of half a century back and goaded him on. For forty minutes he wiped out old scores and made the schoolmarm miserable. Why wasn't the chowder hot? How many times had the beans been warmed? Did the lady forget to put tea in the pot? Was that slipshod fashion the way to make a sandwich? Didn't the lady know her business, anyway?
It wasn't the lady's business. She would have him understand she taught school in the Berkshires.
The gentleman hadn't doubted she taught school. But why was she here then?
She was working her way through the fair, and intended lecturing on it next winter.
The old gentleman looked sorrowful. Such a pity! The field was overrun with people who were used to it and knew how. She probably never would get an engagement. It was for the best, however. What would the dear children do without her? - they must love her so! But the experience would count. If any one should ever ask her to marry him and keep house for him, she'd find her knowledge of beans and boiled eggs would come in handy. How much was it? Two-twenty! It was well worth it. The old gentleman laid an extra quarter on the counter.
"For you, my dear," he said, "and don't squander it. You'll need it toward a trousseau, in case he ever turns up. "
When he got to the door he turned back, and met a glare that fifty years before would have frozen him with terror. The old man chuckled. He had outlived the age when birch and hickory rods troubled his dreams and smarted in his waking hours.
Another variation of the schoolmarm type held forth in the Horticulture Building. She occupied a booth decorated with spheres, charts, maps and tracts, and tried to convince Pan-American visitors that the earth's habitable surface is concave instead of convex. The crowd, whose tongues take on a kind of Exposition looseness, chaffed her considerably and asked vital questions at the wrong moment, each time necessitating a fresh start. When the young woman at last was permitted to reach the end of her argument -- which, fortunately, no one understood -- an old lady asked pertinently what difference concavity or convexity would make to the folks living on the earth, anyway.
"It will make this difference," replied the young woman: "we can prove that the earth is concave, while Copernicus never proved, but only supposed, the earth to be convex. Now if you start with a supposition, you have no solid foundation for your science, astronomy, religion or the relations of God and man. But if you start with knowledge-"
"What's knowledge got to do with religion?" interrupted the old lady. "Didn't the Lord say all you needed was faith?"
"Oh, faith is all very well," replied the expounder of "Koreshanity" "but knowledge is better."
"Humph!" said the old lady. "You ain't married, be you?"
"No, indeed, " replied the young woman. "Do I look it?"
"No," said the old lady critically, "you don't: and you don't talk it. If you was married, you'd figure that little knowledge and much faith was the surest road to happiness. I reckon the Lord knew what he was talking about."
The women laughed, and the men - where were the men? All over the fair grounds there seemed to be a dozen women to every man.
From the Horticulture Building to the Graphic Arts to the Temple of Music, the Ethnology Building, the United States Government Buildings and across the beautiful Esplanade with its flowers and fountains, there were women, women, everywhere - old women in sedan-chairs propelled at fifty cents an hour; tired women in rickshaws pulled by Japs at a dollar an hour; athletic women in calfskin boots at only the cost of leather per hour.
"Don't think much of that line of trout, " said a man with chin-whiskers. "Why, up near our camp in the Adirondacks, we don't think anything of hauling them in weighing twenty to thirty pounds. "
The man with the side-whiskers nodded absently and reckoned the trout on exhibition were as big as most trout grow.
"The bass are rather cheap-looking, though," he admitted. "We've got an island up in the St. Lawrence, and the bass up there certainly are wonderful! Great big fellows, and so plentiful they rise up in schools and bound over on the island, waiting to be cooked for breakfast."
"Yes," assented a clean-shaven boy, who was his son, "I've seen 'em come right alongside a brushwood fire outdoors and lie there till they were broiled.''
The man with the chin-whiskers looked meditative.
"Well," he drawled at length, "I'm not much on bass. Angling for trout's the real sport, and the stream near us is just packed with 'em -- great speckled beauties; and I never did see fish multiply so. Two years ago I caught a fairly good specimen. Managed to get it in the boat, but the head and tail hung out both ends. It was the end of July then, and we leave up there in September. I knew we couldn't finish eating that fish before we went back home, so what was the use killing it? I resolved to put it back in the stream; but before doing so, I tied a big blue ribbon in its tail. Now, do you know, that fish has grown to the size of a human in two years, and multiplied the trout in that stream by two or three thousand."
He of the side-whiskers stared and his son gasped quickly. "But you can't prove all those fish are the result of that same trout?"
"That's just what I can, " said the man with the chin whiskers, profoundly. 'Every one of those trout has a blue ribbon tied to his tail.''
Father and son gazed vacantly into space, and the latter remarked presently, "The tackle exhibit is the finest I ever saw."
Another type of man patronized the barns and stockyards. His boots squeaked, his clothes were light-colored and storemade, his shirt was "biled" and his cheeks were tanned.
"’Prize Pulled Jersey,' " remarked one of these, reading a sign over a white-and-buff cow. "Humph! No better’n our Bouncer. "
"S'pose it's on account of those white spots, Hiram?" suggested a woman in a print frock, at his side.
"Gosh ! that's just like a woman. Spots can't put no cream in the milk, kin they? It sez `Prize Pulled Jersey,' and I guess it means it's got a pull, sure enough. I reckon no sech critter's thet could walk off with the prize of two cont'nents, and American cont'nents at that, without a pull. I ain't been farmin' forty year for nothin', and I know a choice head of cattle when I see it."
Whereupon Mr. and Mrs. Hiram linked arms and inquired the shortest cut to the Midway.
Three-quarters of the people at the Fair had followed the same route. From the Beautiful Orient to the Indian Congress the streets were black with people - whites, blacks, Indians, Mexicans, Hawaiians, Japanese, Americans; all packed so closely together they merged into one composite type, whose chief characteristic was curiosity, whose motive-power was deviltry.
The atmosphere of the Midway is not conventional and a few inhalations produce immediate results, which are, first, a realization that Buffalo is a long way from home; second, a hallucination that nobody one knows will be met in this place, which seems so far removed from America; and third, a conviction that much knowledge may be gained from these representations of foreign countries and not one detail of the outfit should be overlooked.
In front of one of the theaters in the Streets of Cairo stood two elderly men with whiskers, studying the posters.
"Fatima - La Belle Fatima !" muttered the one with the green carpet-bag. "Does that sound like French to you, Deacon Lindsay?"
"N-no," replied the other slowly; "it couldn't be French, in the Streets of Cairo, could it? French things are apt to be pretty wicked. I wouldn't go in, if I thought 'twas French."
"But you think 'tain't French, eh, Deacon?"
"No, 'tain't French."
A long pause. Then the deacon said thoughtfully: "Course 'tain't goin' to make any imprint on me, but I'm thinkin' 'bout you. Do you s'pose it'd demoralize you?'"
The man with the carpet-bag swung round with something of a swagger, and his eye emitted a gleam due to Midway inhalations as he said: "Say, Deacon, I've been listenin' to M'randy's jawin' for nigh on twenty-two years, and I hain't got demoralized; I guess I'm proof agin Fatima's charms. Let's go see what she's like."
She was like - but that's another story.
There is considerable sameness about all the foreign types exhibited on the Midway, and they give a keen advantage to the American girl, who in figure, features, poise and intelligence is infinitely superior.
In the "Alt Nurnberg " where the American girl gathers in force for dinner and nibbles imported frankfurters at forty-five cents each, she looks like a bit of dainty Dresden china compared with the buxom Bavarian lasses who warble their native songs for her edification.
At the Indian stockade of the Six Nations is the keenest instance of human progress exhibited in the whole fair. She is an Indian girl of twenty, tall, straight, bright-eyed, in well and well-dressed. She is one of a numerous type, and a product of the Female Indian School.This particular Indian girl keeps a booth filled with Pan-American souvenirs and Indian gewgaws in the Six Nations stockade. Young men who pass that way look, then look again, and finally join the group of admirers outside the booth.
One afternoon the booth was deserted, except for a youth of the freshman-year type, whose devotion was impetuous.
"Winona," he said softly, when every one seemed to be beyond hearing distance, "you've got wonderful eyes."
The wonderful eyes remained fixed on the distant horizon.
''Winona, I've been at the fair six days, and got no farther than the tribes of the Six Nations. Won't you look at me?"
But the wonderful eyes only glanced coldly at the ardent face which rose above the fraternity pin.
"It is my wares you should admire, not me," said the girl, with a very fair English pronunciation.
"Hang your wares, Winona, " said the youth; "it's you – it’s your eyes that move me."
"They have not yet moved you to buy."
The girl raised her straight black brows and gave her admirer the full benefit of a glance from her "wonderful eyes," and the boy bought a pair of baby's moccasins, giving them back to her with a laughing "For your first papoose."
The Indian girl quickly grasped them.
"Ah!" cried she delightedly, "and they will just fit!"
Whereupon she pulled a very dirty Indian baby from beneath the counter and proceeded to do the moccasins on its feet.
The original American girl of the redskin type was never destined to be a flirt.
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