The Concessioner

From "Snap-Shots of the Midway of the Pan-Am Expo"

Men follow expositions as a business. The running of these mammoth shows has almost become one of the professions. In the principal departments the line of advance is as surely marked, and the progress of an able man as certain, as it is in any of the experienced walks of life.  Expositions now come so often that a man may find almost continuous employment with them, and there is about the same fascination about it that there is about theatrical enterprises. The publicity attained has a glamour in it, and spectacular success finds sure reward in some  more substantial employment. And there is also the lottery of it. No one can tell just what an exposition will do; no one knows how far a  man may reach if be has the cunning or the luck to strike the right gait.

The business men of the Midway are frequently of consequential origin, and are regarded as quite an estimable factor in the affairs of the exposition proper. During the opening months of the Pan-American it was a case of the tail wagging the dog, for the Midway jumped to the fore in the matter of prominence in the minds of the public. This resulted mostly from shrewd advertising, but was not entirely without its merit, for the street possesses the most varied and extensive list of amusement devices ever offered at one time to any public. It is as a show that an exposition chiefly appeals to the masses, and as the Midway is its show end it is not to be wondered at that it should strike the popular fancy. The Midway Day, managed by the Midway men and filled with their specialties, and, more than all else, advertised by their methods, brought the largest attendance that the Exposition had throughout its first half.

The Midway concessioner is an ingenious and a shrewd man, and in several cases he is extraordinarily resourceful. Like all showmen he is fond of big type and superlative adjectives, and loves the roll of the "aire " with which he usually announces his interest in a concession. He is a "concessionaire," a sonorous something that is very much more important than a plain showman.

Among the concessioners there are several men who have distinct claims to other consideration. There is the professional designer of Midway attractions, such as Frederic Thompson or Edward J. Austen. There is the illusionist, such as Henry Roltair, and there is the man who has made his reputation along other lines and who brings to the Midway a wealth of experience and a valuable personality. Such a man is Frank Bostock, the owner of the animal show. The director of amusements, such as Frederic Cummins of the Indian Congress, is a necessary part of the layout, and the capitalist certainly is. Most of the Midway's capital, which amounts to more than a million dollars, is subscribed by Buffalo business men, but some comes from the concessioners themselves. The most monied man on the Midway is Skip Dundy, who started at Nashville, cleared a good deal at Omaha, and came to Buffalo with enough to equip a half dozen shows. It is his money, mostly, that built A Trip to the Moon and Darkness and Dawn, and he entirely owns The Old Plantation, the Ariocycle, the horse Bonner and The Fall of Babylon, besides additional interests in several other places. E. W. McConnell is the general manager of eight of the largest and most expensive attractions, known as the Red Star Route. The history of H. F. McGarvie is an unusual one. He was the director general of a San Francisco exposition held seven years ago, and at Omaha was the director of publicity through the concluding months of the fair. He came to Buffalo to take charge of the Bureau of Publicity, but fell out with the management, and in a moment of inspiration conceived the scheme of The Streets of Mexico.

Most of these men began small at other expositions and have now become influential. Frederic Thompson was an employee at the World's Fair in Chicago; in Buffalo he has designed all but five of the Midway shows and is one of the chief men. There is the concessioner of small bits, who waits until the last half of the show, when he knows the crowd is coming, and who then rents some jagged piece from a big concession, costing perhaps thousands of dollars, puts on a show costing a few hundred, and takes out more money at the end of the season than is earned by his neighbor. Such a case is that of Rhodes and Milligan, spielers for the Indian Congress, who rented a small space in front of the Spectatorium of Jerusalem, spent $300 on scantling and bunting for the decoration of a booth for the exhibit of "She," charged ten cents for a sight of her, and took in more money than did the Spectatorium, whose cost was $30,000, and whose front is twenty times that of " She." These are the little men of the Midway. In time they may be as mighty as the big ones.




* Inventor of the Aeriocycle, inventor and manager of the Ship Luna and the Trip to the Moon, architect of the following Midway buildings: Darkness & Dawn, Moorish Palace, Glass Works, Streets of Mexico, Old Plantation, Around the World, War Cyclorama, Cleopatra, Beautiful Orient, Hawaiian Theatre and Volcano, House Upside Down, Dreamland, Gypsy Camp, Philippine Village, Johnstown Flood, Baby Incubators, Wild Animal Arena, Venice in America, Chiquita, Esau, Jerusalem - The Crucifixion, with Pabst's and Lownie's thrown in.



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