Exhibits that Might Have Been
Frederick W. Taylor, Director of Concessions
The organization and bringing together of the features now known under the generic name "Midway," for the amusement, edification, and instruction of the public, has become so great a factor in Expositions that nowadays that Department is considered one of the most important, and requires many months of strenuous labor in order that satisfactory results may be worked out. Take the most recent case in point as an instance: at the Pan-American Exposition the Concessions Department was created and the Director put in charge of its work only a month less than two years before May 1, 1901, the date set for the opening of the Exposition.
If you ask, " Whence come all the varied and wonderful things to be seen in the Amusement Department?" the reply will be, "They were chosen by means of a most careful selection from over five thousand that were offered."
Five thousand applications for concessions, mostly from cranks, furnish an assortment of suggestions which, were it attempted to carry them out, would surely land the experimenter in a retreat signed for the mentally unbalanced, more properly, overbalanced.
A RAINBOW OF FAST COLORS
It was early decided to call the Exposition the " Rainbow City," and an early mail brought a proposition to erect a genuine live amateur rainbow, four hundred feet high in the middle and half a mile long. It was explained that cars could be run over the bow, making it productive of revenue, as well as a thing of beauty. The construction was to be of steel throughout. It was not explained whether it was to be suspended in its proper place in the firmament by means of balloons, nor was it made clear how the wind pressure was to be met and tamed. In fact, the projector looked upon questions which evinced such a lack of poetry and soul as little less than impertinent.
SOME IDEAS CONCERNING HEAVEN AND HELL
Another scheme presented in those early days came from a resident of that good of fashioned and substantial portion of the world known as Canada. His scheme would probably be classed as "Religio-Educational." It contemplated the establishment of a large series of caverns, preferably underground, away from the glare and frivolity of the shallow surface-attractions. In this subterranean retreat, with surroundings in every way worked out along strictly realistic lines, were to be separate rooms, each bearing over its door the legend, "Hell according to the ideas of the Rev. Dr. So-and-So." This would give the painstaking and conscientious student of creeds the first earthly opportunity to see in a leisurely manner what the Rev. Father Patrick of the Roman Catholic Church saw in store for wanderers from the path of rectitude. Across the hall would be the Rev. Dr. Brown's rendering of the same theme from the Presbyterian point of view. Each important denomination was to be given an opportunity to present a demonstration of its special claims for consideration, from the viewpoint of its most eminent divine. It was even claimed that numerous D.Ds. had been approached and had expressed themselves as entranced with the idea, and willing to furnish the material for their respective denominational exhibits. A perverse and unsympathetic Director, backed up by Committee little in touch with the newest and most advanced methods of expressing religious convictions, declined to admit the graphic and instructive picture.
A UNIQUE BARBER SHOP
One of the applicants for a barber shop proposed to charge for hair-cuts as follows: full cut, twenty cents; half cut, ten cents; fringe, five cents, thus giving the bald or partially bald an advantage which might in some degree counterbalance their affliction.
AROUND ROBIN HOOD'S BARN
Ohio of course supplied its full quota of patrons willing to serve their fellow-citizens in various capacities. One of these addressed a letter to His Excellency, the President of the United States, asking that he use his influence in securing for the aforesaid patriot the right to sell Buckeyes in the Ohio Building. The President referred the letter to the Director-General of the Exposition, who referred it to the Director of Concessions, who consulted with his Committee, and then referred it to the Chairman of the State Commission. It is not on record whether the Governor, Senators, and Representatives in Congress from Ohio were consulted, but in due time an intimation was given that there was no official objection to the sale of the well-known emblems of that great commonwealth in the Ohio Building, and the necessary arrangements were accordingly made.
SQUASHES, HOGS, AND CHICKENS.
An Iowa contribution to the offers of the strange and marvellous consists of a " petrified squash weighing fifty pounds," while, Illinois offers" the largest hog in the world, mounted." Whether gold-mounted or silver-mounted, is not stated.
Another Western State supplies the following:
"I wish to ask a favor of you and as I am an invalid and haft to go on a rowling chair to make my living and as I have a 4 leged little chicken I want to know if you will allow me the free privilege to come and make what I can at your fair, if you will sot allow me to do so will you take my 4 leged little chicken and make what you can for me in a sid exhibit:'
A NATIONAL PUZZLE
A gentleman representing varied interests wrote that he owned three papers in which he would thoroughly advertise the Exposition, provided he could have space on which to exhibit the best artificial leg ever invented, and a register in which to enter the name of every one-legged visitor. To make good count he also wanted to show and to sell a national puzzle, whatever that might be.
A MYSTERIOUS DOLL
Ladies sometimes have designs upon Expositions, as witness the following extract verbatim, literatum et punetatim:
"As I have a lady hear in my Studio that makes dolls by modeling and has good reference from people all over the U. S. for her grate work of them and orders also from difference parts of the wound to make them. She has some process of her own to meke them and she claims that no other person knows how she makes them and she is very anxious to have me send one to your Exposition and I am very anxious to have her to have them their too would ask you what arrangement we could make to have one their on exposition and what it would cost me to have it their. The doll is one of her own make and her own idea of her own and she told me that it is the only one of the kind made."
In this world, composed largely of separations from what you most love, it is quite natural that persons may desire to meet long-lost friends. In the following cordial language one affectionate brother touchingly asks for information regarding a long-lost friend. For obvious reasons we withhold the names of both of these gentlemen.
"Will you please let me know if there is a certain old fakir calling himself ________in any medicine, show case or show business on the midway or elsewhere the Exposition. He is an old gambler, dead beat and swindler. His picture is in the Rogue's Gallery here and he is wanted on several warrants by the Central Detective office ________. The old "fake" ran away with all my property and several hundred dollars in money. He is about 65, tall and scragly, blue eyes, side whiskers, dresses flashy, parts his hair in the middle. He is an all around crook. Please notify chief of police."
AN INTERESTING GALLERY OF “FREAKS”
The five thousand and more requests for concessions covered 652 subjects. Some of these were rather unexpected. One name chosen from the list under each letter may be of interest as showing the cosmopolitanism of the whole:
African Jungle, Belgian Devil, Chiropody, Destruction of the Maine, English Transformation, Florida Everglade, Giantess, Hamburger Baby Farm, Incubator, Jinriksha, Kit Carson’s Last Trail, Log Rollers, Mareorama, Natatorium, Old Paris, Panodrome, Quartz Crystal, Reptiles, Sausages, Topsy-Turvy House, Unicycle, Vesuvius, Wire Worker.
The office of the Director of Concessions contains a fairly good museum collection of the models or pictures of the things offered or suggested for use as concessions. There are seven different tops, three kinds of clock dials with wide variations from the one in general use – one intended to provide for a twenty-four-hour indication in one revolution of the hour-hand, another having no hands and a revolving dial and an indicator at the top, while the third contemplates the use of one hand only.
There are crystals from Colorado which the sender wished to make into a South Dakota Crystal Cave. A crayon sketch of a fisherman sitting on a post, with underneath the legend, “Do not keep me on the post unless I am to catch the fish,” is supplied by an anxious searcher after a concession.
There is a clock having for a dial a plate around the edge of which are the coats of arms of all the American republics, and instead of figures the letters from the word “Pan-American,” with an additional one for good count.
The story became current that some great freak was wanted to properly accentuate the concessions portion of the Exposition. Some of the offerings under this supposition were weird and peculiar. One was to erect a buffalo two hundred feet in height, and with room among his vital organs for a restaurant-service for thousands, on various floors. The beautiful effects were to be supplemented by electric searchlights of a few million candle-power from each eye, with which a newspaper could be read at midnight in Quebec, El Paso, or on the Minnecadusah.
Another, which was also a startling innovation in its way, proposed a gigantic watercraft of uncertain nomenclature, which was to convey a thousand passengers at a time from Niagara Falls to the nearest point on the Niagara River to the Exposition grounds, whence the amphibious craft would mount on wheels, artfully concealed up to this moment, along tracks laid for that special use to the grounds, which would be majestically entered and the human freight discharged
A MIDWAY FOR SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
Nearly a year after the Concessions Office had been
established, and after the largest concessions had for the most part been granted,
a letter was received from another New York State city asking, " Can I arrange
with you for placing a first-class Midway on your grounds? " The Director replied
that it was not expected that one man or firm would be able to handle the entire
amusement section, as to do so would require a very large outlay of money. The
applicant cheerfully replied that he had ample " backing," and could readily
raise seven or eight thousand dollars. The humor of this becomes quite apparent
when is remembered that several of the amusement features have an investment
of from fifty to one hundred thousand dollars each, the whole series having
value little, if any, short of two million dollars. charged.
A CANDID FRIEND.
A thrifty New England gentleman sees way to turn an honest penny as follows:
"I am convinced we can make money by purchasing a set of views and giving a lecture not in favor of, but telling the people facts about these Exposition and their money being squandered in the manner it is. Of course it is time a halt was called, as some of our senators declare, and the people are in touch with such a halt, and there is just one thing prevents our lecturing along that line from now to November 1. However, we are not fully decided yet we will talk to several thousand people a week, and you can depend on one thing, we would save to the people a great many more thousands of dollars, of course you know this as well as I do, if you do not you travel with me one week and you would then know it. I am willing to do the fair thing if I am treated as I should be, considering my position to do good work for the Pan-American Co."
N0 MORE DEATHS, AND YET A NEW SCHEME FOR DEATHS DISPOSAL.
A grave proposition was the one from the representative of a syndicate, as yet not organized, who desired to show a full working-model of a scheme for disposing of human bodies by desiccation instead of burial or cremation.
The man who had for sale a recipe for a beverage which promoted health in the human user, but put to instant death the microbes of all known diseases, thus rendering the drinker immune, and in the enjoyment of health and strength sufficient to enable him to study the exhibits by day and the Midway by night, called early and offered his secret for sale, cheap.
EGGS AS ADVERTISING MEDIUMS.
To the Advertising Department was referred the proposition to secure the cooperation of all the egg dealers in the United States, in providing that every egg offered for sale in the entire country should be carefully marked with a rubber stamp " Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901."
CASTLES IN THE AIR.
A feature proposed by a New Yorker offered food for thought and an excellent way to spend money. It was to construct a " Babylonian Hanging Garden," 150 feet square and 150 feet high.
Towers and globes without number are always promptly offered to an exposition, or rather schemes contemplating their erection at the expense of the exposition are presented.
Occasionally one of these suggestions presents some novel features of real worth, but for the most part they simply propose some slight variation from conventional forms.
LOG ROLLING DEMONSTRATED.
A Michigan lumberman desired to secure ground on which to erect a chute to illustrate "log rolling " in all its varied phases. It was feared that should this concession be granted a misunderstanding might result, and the authorities be accused of having entered into politics.
OVER THE WALLS OF THE EXPOSITION.
A far-reaching proposition suggested that a great derrick be constructed from Prospect Point at Niagara Falls, which should convey people out into mid-air and then lower them, just clear of the falling water, to the lower level of the river. Some special arrangement was asked under which the daring derrick-traveler might receive a coupon granting a special reduced rate of admission to the Exposition.
A CHINESE PUZZLE.
As an illustration of English as viewed from a Chinese standpoint, the following telegram is specially lucid
"The Concession of Buffalo of Pan-American exposition which for Chinese I do not want it."
For a year before the opening of the Exposition the Director of Concessions saw on an average over fifty people a day, his negotiations being conducted continuously from nine in the morning until six at night, a cup of tea and a sandwich at his desk answering instead of a midday meal. Each day brought its own assortment of people, schemes, and correspondence.
But enough illustrations have certainly been given to show something of the vagaries of the human mind, as well as to indicate that the Concessions Department had occasional opportunities to smile both during and between work hours.
to Pan-American Midway