Some of the Amusement Features for the Big Buffalo Exposition
By Edward Hale Brush
North Adams Transcript (June 17, 1901).
When John Milton wrote "L' Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," he but expressed in the imagery of the poet the fact that all life presents two great aspects, the grave and gay. Whether in animal life or in the sphere of human activity, these two phases of existence are sure to be found. The grave and the gay complement each other in the order of life established by the hand of a kind and gracious Providence. There are sunshine and shadow, laughter and tears, comedy and tragedy, and both phases of existence are necessary in order that the scheme of a wise Creator may be fulfilled.
But it is a good plan to emphasize and encourage the gay and more cheerful aspects of life, for, do what we may, the serious and grave will have opportunity enough to impress the character and make a mark upon human affairs.
Even religion can with advantage give expression to merriment and good cheer. In the mediaeval ages this was recognized even more than now, of which we find traces in the sculptured forms in ancient cathedrals, where grinning faces look down at the visitor from arches and columns through the "dim religious light." In the religion of primitive peoples, notably the North American Indians, "Laughter holding both his sides," as Milton expressed it in 'L'Allegro, takes a conspicuous part in religious ceremonies. The Indian as he goes through the evolutions of his semi-religious dance, intended in part to express thankfulness to the good Creator for his kindness to man, grins and laughs and otherwise gives vent to his sense of humor and gayety, a performance which he deems in no wise inconsistent with the religious character of the ceremony.
No great enterprise can be undertaken to represent the broad field of human activity and emotions without making conspicuous the light and gay, and in an enterprise like an Exposition it is fitting that this should have peculiarly conspicuous attention.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." The principle expressed in this famous adage is more and more recognized in all up to date schemes of educational work. The kindergarten is an expression of this fact, and the universal tendency of educators of today is to make all branches of public instruction as attractive to the youthful mind as possible rather than to repel the student and create in him a distaste for learning, by making the task a difficult and repugnant one.
When Expositions, which in the last analysis are but universities upon a magnificent scale, were first instituted, comparatively little attention was paid to the light and gay aspects of life, to sports and amusements, as that word is usually understood, or to illustrations of the quaint and curious customs of the various peoples of the earth. But as Exposition followed Exposition and their managers profited by experience it became evident that they could be made to pay much better when the amusement features and the joyous and gay side of their character were made prominent and that in bringing these to the front there was no detraction from the educational influence exercised by the Exposition as a whole. Thus the Midway became a recognized feature of the great Expositions, and from a mere side show it grew into a splendid aggregation of the quaint and curious, the novel and exciting, the weird and mysterious, the fantastic and picturesque, the strange and marvelous things brought from all quarters of the globe.
While it should not be supposed that the Midway of an Exposition comprises all in such an enterprise that is gay and light hearted, novel and entertaining, it is natural that within that charmed portion of a great fair all this should be found in a preeminent degree.
When the Midway at the Pan-American was proposed, it was determined that it should be the very best of its kind and the greatest thing "that ever happened" if in treating of so light a theme one may be permitted to fall in to the language of the streets. From the beginning an effort was made to cull from the vast number of novel and attractive features offered those which would combine the elements of excitement and entertainment and at the same time impart the kind of educational influence which travel in foreign climes and among strange and unknown peoples is wont to confer.
Thus, with the $3,000,000 being expended upon the creation of the Pan-American Midway and the wisdom in this vast expenditure resulting from the experience of past Expositions, the visitor to the Pan-American next summer can be assured that this part of the great All American Exposition will be not only full of entertainment for him, but full of instruction and profit as well.
The purpose of this article is not to present a catalogue of the numerous features of the Pan-American Midway, but to give the reader an account of what is in store for him which will not weary in the reading and from which he can gauge the character of the programme now in course of preparation.
There is a strange fascination in the Midway -- in the seeming confusion, the grand medley of tongues, music, architecture and customs that one finds in this part of an Exposition and particularly such a Midway as that at the Pan-American is to be. The exhibitions of the Midway will be found on one street, which will have over a mile of frontage, and while in this way everything will be brought into close proximity for the convenience as well as amusement of the visitor the space covered by the various amusement features will be most extensive.
The Pan-American tourist will be fairly bewildered by the "Bally Hooing," the fun caused by the efforts of the "speilers" or announcers to draw the biggest crowds to their respective attractions. There will be a continuous throng of people passing down the main street of the Midway, and on either side of this street will be the dozens of different exhibitions, which will each and every one of them be a pretty good show in itself. Some of them will cost several hundred thousand dollars each for production.
As I have said, this is a $3,000,000 Midway, and in respect to both novelty, expense of production and originality the like of it has never been seen on any continent.
It requires a great deal of inventive faculty -- in fact, something quite approaching inspiration itself -- to create such original exhibitions as many of these on the Pan-American Midway are to be. For instance, let me cite the story of how "A Trip to the Moon" came to, be suggested to the inventor of this Midway feature, Mr. Frederic Thompson.
One day Mr. Thompson was studying on how to create some new and startling effects for the "Darkness and Dawn" concession, in which he is also interested and in which is a representation of Dante's "Inferno" revised and brought up to date. Throwing himself upon a couch in his office and gazing dreamily through half closed eyes at the circles of smoke from his pipe, he was seeking a solution to the problem how to carry his passengers over a deep and almost bottomless gulch he had created in the very heart of the infernal regions. Suddenly he hit upon a grand idea. Starting from his couch, he exclaimed: "I have it! But this will never do for 'Darkness and Dawn.' I'll make it 'A Trip to the Moon.'"
Thus was born the idea which resulted in the construction of the large building one sees among the first on entering the Midway and which is called "A Trip to the Moon." It contains within it some of the most weird and mysterious illusions one could find in traveling the whole world around. Mr. Thompson will carry his visitors to the Moon by the airship Luna. The scientific principle which he has developed in planning this voyage is one which renders it possible to make the trip a very delightful as well as exciting experience.
Strange to say, Mr. Thompson conceived almost the identical ideas of the possibilities of interest in an underground City of the Moon which have been written up in story form by Mr. H. G. Wells in the Cosmopolitan and Strand magazines. Neither of these gentlemen is acquainted with the other nor could have obtained his ideas from the other, so that this merely furnishes another instance of great minds running in the same channel.
The magazine writer has carried his adventurers to the moon and caused them to discover its inhabitants underneath the surface of the earth's satellite instead of on top. Mr. Thompson had done the same thing in "A Trip to the Moon," which will present to Pan-American visitors far stranger sights than they ever dreamed of.
Another strange thing in this same connection is the fact that the "Darkness and Dawn" idea was developed by Mr. Thompson before the same thing was carried out in the series of comic pen sketches in The Cosmopolitan of 1900 portraying the adventures of Hiprah Hunt, Esq., in his trip through the Inferno and the punishments he witnessed devised to fit the crimes committed, even umbrella borrowers, scandal mongers at summer resorts, etc., having to suffer for their sins in an appropriate manner.
Art Young, who made such a hit with these sketches, published some ten years ago in Chicago a little volume called "Hell Up to Date," which made no sensation at the time. Mr. Thompson never saw it until after he had put on at Omaha and other Expositions the "Darkness and Dawn" feature, which depicts in a most graphic manner the experiences of a departed soul in passing through lurid caverns, boiling lakes and other more or less terrible places supposed to be located in Hades and arriving at last where a glimpse is obtained of the region of bliss, from whose gates the non-repentant sinner is turned away.
The millions of people who will throng down the Pan-American Midway next summer will have all kinds of tastes. The illusions, the weird and wonderful sights and the hair-raising sensations of the "Darkness and Dawn" and "A Trip to the Moon" will be very fascinating to some, while to others the historic interest and the romantic sentiment of such scenes as may be witnessed in "The Old Plantation" and "Venice in America" will appeal more strongly. All the romance of life in the fair Southland as it was before the war will be portrayed in the Midway exhibition called "The Old Plantation," and the bright side of slavery day will be seen. That there was a bright side no one can gainsay, and the negroes upon many plantations in those times certainly led lives of comparative happiness. The picturesque scenes in cotton picking times will be most graphically portrayed, and the pickaninnies dancing before the cabin doors and the sweet voiced darkies singing to the accompaniment of their banjos the old time negro melodies will constitute an attraction of which the visitor need never tire. The historic interest of this feature of the Midway will be increased by the exhibition here of the famous Shelby cabin in which Uncle Tom, the hero of Harriet Beecher Stowe's thrilling story, lived.
Even more romantic to some in associations will be the scenes in "Venice in America," which is to be as nearly like Venice in Europe as inventive genius and the art of scenic painters and architects can make it. One enters under the Bridge of Sighs, and our gondolier takes us by the Ducal Palace, the Cathedral of San Marco and other famous buildings of this once great center of trade until we come to the Rialto, where so many of the most famous scenes in Shakespeare's plays have been located and about which, together with the Bridge of Sighs, poets and novelists and descriptive writers of all sorts have penned lines in prose and verse ad infinitum. Everything in "Venice in America" is to be Venetian except the water in Alta Grand Canal, which will come from Lake Erie and will no doubt be much better from a sanitary point of view than the water of the blue Adriatic. There will even be pigeons flying about "Venice in America" very much as these birds have been seen from time immemorial by visitors to the charming and romantic city of Italy.
The electric launch will compete with the gondola and will perhaps seem a little out of joint with the spirit of the Venice of the past, but in this electric age it cannot be expected that the traditional methods of transportation will remain as they have been, even in the cities of the Old World which pride themselves on remaining as they were before America, the home of enterprise, was discovered.
For white people of all classes and nationalities the red man possesses a remarkable fascination. His history, revealing so much of injustice and double dealing on the part of the white settlers, brings us face to face with the question of his future, and it is sad in some respects to think that whatever civilization may have in store for him his life as a wild child of Nature has about come to its end. The young Indians of the far West today have no chance left to make names for themselves as warriors, as their forefathers had, for the tomahawk is being made into a hoe, the wigwam is being discarded for the house, and instead of engaging as of old in the buffalo hunt they receive cattle from the government. But even with all these changes the old chiefs who are survivors of an era of warfare are still unreconciled to civilization and its ways, and were they not held in check by the strong arm of the government the chances are they would be just as wild as in the days when the great Tecumseh and his brother planned to drive the whites from this continent. The purpose of the Creator in decreeing that one race should be so different from another is hard to understand. It almost seems sometimes as if there were plausibility in the idea entertained by some Indians that there are two Gods, one for the white man and one for the Indian. We know that the ancient Hebrews believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and it was exceedingly difficult for the Jew to become reconciled to the idea that his Jehovah was the God also of the hated Gentiles. Why blame the red man too much if he thinks that should he desert his God, the God that gave him life and created for his use the buffalo, bear, elk and deer, he might expect that the God of his forefathers, the God who sends his spirit warriors to act as guides for each Indian spirit over the long trail to the "happy hunting ground," would desert him?
What, argues the Indian, does the white man's God know of him and the wants of the Indians? If they desert their own God, they will, so many believe, be like children lost in a wilderness, none to care far them in time of sickness, none should they die to prevent their outcast spirits being driven about by the winds that come from the four corners of the earth. Such being his belief, is it strange that he feels sorrowful and perhaps somewhat sullen when he sits in his wigwam and reflects that the mightiest nation upon earth, the nation that has driven away the buffalo, elk, deer and bear, the Indian's food, wigwam and clothing, is trying to force him to believe in a new God, to tread in the white man's road and discard the old trails traveled for many ages and worn smooth by the spirit feet of the fathers? One must not wonder in view of this at the Indian's antipathy to civilization. Geronimo, Red Cloud, Chief Joseph and other famous chiefs now living are just as wild in spirit today as when they were leading their warriors in battle years ago, and when you see old Geronimo at the head of his band of warriors at the Indian Congress at the Pan-American Exposition you will see the same wily old chief who led his followers in raids through the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona and would do so again had he but the opportunity.
The era of wild Indian life on the plains is fast passing, as I have said, and soon it will be impossible to give such a reproduction of it as is to be a feature of the Pan-American Midway. There will be represented in this Congress 42 different tribes, and the 500 or 600 Indians will live as they do in the West, the Sioux in their tepees, the Winnebagoes in their wigwams, the Pimas in their wickiups, the cliff dwellers in their cliff caves and each tribe in its peculiar abode. The Navajos will be seen weaving their blankets, the Moquis making pottery, the Sioux bows, arrows and stone pipes. Then there will be the daily performances, the reproductions of battle scenes, which will be wild and picturesque in the extreme and in every way accurate and truthful portrayals of Indian methods of warfare. The various dances, which are so conspicuous an institution among the Indians, will also be reproduced, as well as their games and sports. Indeed there will be nothing lacking which is needed to give a complete picture of the American Indian as he exists on the plains of the West today.
One of the most novel as well as artistic features of the Pan-American Midway is called "Dreamland," and an idea of the character of this concession may be obtained from the front of the building, which is a representation of a huge pillow upon which rests the head of a beautiful woman. The pillow is 85 feet long and 60 feet in height, and the face of the woman is 30 feet in length. This is about the size of the head of the famous sphinx in Egypt, and were the rest of the figure shown the woman, to be in proportion to this face, would be about 250 feet high, or about twice as high as the tallest office building in Buffalo.
The face of the woman is finely molded and conveys an impression of repose and dreaminess which one would hardly look for in so massive a figure.
Within the building the visitor finds himself lost in a maze produced by mirrors. He can see apparently a distance of several hundred feet, and the illusion produced by the arrangement of the mirrors brings him up against many startling surprises.
There is somewhere in the maze a hidden woman, and he who finds her will obtain a valuable reward. Glimpses of this woman are occasionally seen, but she is as fleeting and elusive as the fabled sirens of the age of Mythology.
After emerging from the maze the visitor is mystified by a large number of very novel and startling illusions which out-Wiertz the famous Wiertz Galleries of Brussels. The exact character of these illusions will remain a secret until the opening of the Exposition, so that their newness and originality may be a perfect surprise to the millions who will attend it.
Though the Midway will be chiefly an exhibition of strange and curious men and things, the brute world will not be overlooked, and the fact that the wild animal exhibition of the famous animal trainer and collector, Frank C. Bostock, is to be shown is ample assurance that this feature of the Midway will be one of the most interesting of all. Mr. Bostock now has in training 20 African lions which will take part in the entertainment, to say nothing of the numerous other animals to be included in the collection. The mammoth building in which this collection is to be shown will be one of the most conspicuous features of the Pan-American Midway.
One of the most dramatic and pathetic incidents in American history was the terrible flood which swept down the valley of the Connemaugh and overwhelmed the city of Johnstown, Pa., in the year 1889. Over $4,000,000 was contributed for the relief of the suffering survivors of this great catastrophe, and the sympathy of the world was drawn upon as had seldom occurred before. To picture the scenes of this flood in a graphic manner is the object of one of the most ingeniously devised exhibitions of the Midway. The "Johnstown Flood Scenograph" has been described as from a mechanical standpoint "an evolution from the cyclorama, the diorama and the scenic theater, the best features of each being retained and many novel features being added which the development of electrical devices renders possible." "The Scenograph" is 140 feet across in elliptical form, with a depth of 50 feet from the front edge to the back drop, and the spectators are seated and see the action from the outside of the scene instead of being in the center of a building and seeing all around, as in a cyclorama. The Scenograph will represent at the beginning Johnstown as it appeared the day before the awful flood, and then gradually and imperceptibly, the scene will change, presenting in succession all the acts in the tragedy. The storm and the succeeding flood are terribly realistic, and throughout the performance the picture literally lives. The angry torrent seems to create actual devastation before one's very eyes, and yet by a seeming miracle the terror of the scene passes away, and the final picture shows Johnstown rebuilt and restored, risen from the flood more prosperous than ever.
There is a sentimental sort of interest in the War Cyclorama akin in a way to that of the Johnstown Scenograph and yet different, too, and appealing especially to veterans of the war for the Union and their sons and daughters. Members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Sons of Veterans and Daughters of Veterans and indeed of all other patriotic societies should make sure to see this vivid representation of the battle scenes of the Civil War. The panorama of the battles includes pictures conveying a most graphic idea of the exciting experiences through which the old soldiers passed during the days when the fate of the nation hung in the balance. The scenic work of this production has engaged the attention of such well known scenic painters as Eugene Bracht, Karl Roechling, George Loch and Conrad Lessing.
Speaking of painters and paintings reminds one that the Pan-American will have some new achievements by the famous painter, Ashley D. M. Cooper, whose "Trilby" has been exhibited to over 3,000,000 persons. Mr. Cooper is at work on canvases illustrating the romantic story of Egypt's famous Queen, Cleopatra, which he hopes will surpass in artistic merit anything he has yet achieved. They will be shown in a building especially designed and furnished for exhibiting them appropriately, to be known as Cleopatra's Temple. Its architecture and interior embellishment will be characteristic of Egypt, and in beauty of architecture and color decoration it is likely to earn the title of Gem of the Midway.
I have not space to tell in detail of the startling and original illusions of the House Upside Down, which has been built contrary to all the laws of nature by the well known illusionist, Roltaire, and fitted out completely with house furnishings all topsy turvy; or of the Panopticon, with its numerous historic groups in wax; or of the Beautiful Orient, which will comprise what the Streets of Cairo did at the Chicago World's Fair and a great deal more, making in all the most interesting and instructive collection of the quaint and picturesque life of the Orient ever presented.
It would be pleasant to go at length into the curious, fascinating and historically interesting features of such Midway exhibitions as the Streets of Mexico, representing a country whose remarkable progress is now attracting a great deal of attention, or the Hawaiian Village and the Volcano of Kilauea, representing the Paradise of the Pacific, which has so recently become a territory of the United States.
Our latest important acquisition, the Philippines, will also be illustrated in the Philippine Village, and the life of the Eskimo and of the wild blacks in Africa will be pictured in the Eskimo and African Villages respectively. The quaint scenes of a German town of the Middle Ages will be reproduced in "Old Nuremberg," one of the largest of the Midway concessions, and different visitors will find especial fascination in such exhibitions as the "Colorado Gold Mine," "Jerusalem on the Morning of the Crucifixion," "The Diving Elks," "The Scenic Railway and Rivers," "The Incubator," "The Japanese Village," "The Miniature World's Fair," "The Glass Factory," "The Cincograph," "The Gypsy Camp," the "Captive Balloon" and the "Aerio Cycle," which will be to the Pan-American what the Ferris Wheel was to the Chicago Fair, only "more so," as they say.
Life is too short to say all that might be said about the manifold features of this $3,000,000 Midway. There is going to be a world of entertainment and instruction in it, and the opportunity of seeing such an exhibition of the strange and curious things of the universe is not likely to be presented again in the twentieth century.