This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

10 years ago

Centennial of the Pan-American Exposition

  • Poster for the Pan-American Exposition. Photo: UB ARCHIVES

Published: June 23, 2011

Ten years ago this summer, UB joined the rest of Western New York in celebrating the centennial of the Pan-American Exposition.

Hosted by Buffalo, the exposition took place from May 1 through Nov. 2, 1901. UB day at the Pan-Am was observed on Oct. 17.

Buffalo—then the eighth-largest city in the U.S.—had been chosen as the location for the exposition because of its size and its highly favorable railway connections. The grounds, spread across 342 acres, were located between Delaware Park to the south, the New York Central railroad track to the north, Delaware Avenue to the east and Elmwood Avenue to the west. There was a midway and educational exhibits, including some featuring electricity from the hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls.

Included among the distinguished visitors to the exposition was President William McKinley. It was on Sept. 6, while in a receiving line at the exposition’s Temple of Music, that McKinley was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. McKinley was taken to the exposition’s hospital, where he was treated by a number of prominent Buffalo surgeons, including UB medical school professors Roswell Park and Charles G. Stockton. McKinley died on Sept. 14 at the Delaware Avenue home of John Milburn.

The centennial activities in 2001 celebrated one of the great events in the city’s history. UB offered a series of lectures and a two-day recreation of activities from the original Pan-Am midway.

To illustrate the cultural and historical underpinnings of the exhibition, the University Libraries presented “Illuminations: Revisiting Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition, a series of collaborative, on-site and online exhibitions produced by eight UB libraries and Special Collections.

Another exhibit, “Tangible Memories: Souvenirs of Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition,” the largest ever public exhibit of Pan-Am memorabilia, was mounted in the UB Gallery at the Center for the Arts.

The University Archives has extensive holdings related to the Pan-American Exhibition and to the centennial celebration. These include several videos produced in 2001 about the role of women in the exposition, and collections of images and text that were used in the UB exhibits during the centennial year. Stockton’s scrapbook containing contemporary clippings, medical reports and other items documenting the medical and general history of the McKinley assassination also can be found in the University Archives.

Available in the Music Library are “Music Images from the Pan-American Exposition” and the “Pan-American Exposition Sheet Music Collection.”

The University Archives’ most significant resource on the exhibition is the Kerry S. Grant Pan-American Exposition Collection. This extensive collection of printed memorabilia and objects was assembled by UB faculty member Kerry S. Grant while he was writing “The Rainbow City: Celebrating Light, Color and Architecture at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901.” The collection includes original guidebooks, view books, exposition maps, postcards, magazines and newspapers. It also features exposition stock certificates, daily programs, exposition pins and buttons, and an original copy of the iconic poster for the exhibition reproduced above.

Grant, professor of music and a former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented the collection to the University Archives in 2004 because he wanted it to be an “expression of the university’s association and engagement with the city of Buffalo.”

John Edens, University Archives