The Trans-Mississippi Exposition


Photograph by Rinehart.




"IT will be either a colossal success, or a colossal failure," said Edward Rosewater, of Omaha, to a very grave little company of Omaha business men who were discussing the possibility of a Trans-Mississippi Exposition, "and time alone can decide which."

Time has decided one is keeping within bounds in saying the Exposition is a colossal success. Of course, the Trans-Mississippi is not the World's Fair. The visitor may as well give his fancy a hint. The Columbian Exposition concerned itself with the whole world; here is, in the main, an ex-   hibition of the resources of the states beyond the Mississippi. Compared with the displays at the Chicago great fair, the foreign nations, and even the states east of the Mississippi, here, make only a passing allusion to themselves. The Exposition is in fact, as well as name, the display of the productions of the Trans-Mississippi states. Nevertheless, with one exception, it is the finest, the most interesting and the most wonderful, as well as the most beautiful, of American expositions.

And does one consider the meager resources, comparatively, at the command

Photograph by Rinehart.
of the makers of the Exposition, and the enormous and persistent obstacles in the way of the undertaking, the result must give a thrill of admiration for Western energy.

Omaha is a city of under a hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants; and on Omaha, during the critical first months, fell the weight of the enterprise. Moreover, at the time of its inception, the whole country was in the wake of a commercial panic; and Nebraska was scorched by the most in-tense and longest drouth in her history.

The government was cool, the Congressmen were cool, even the Trans-Mississippi states were cool, and thought the time ill-judged; but the plucky Nebraskans argued: "We shall not always have hard times; we are bound to have good harvests some day. By the time the Exposition is ready the people will have money in their pockets to pay to see it; it will be a revelation to the world of what we have and an education to our own people. We know it will be a success; and we think we can pay expenses." Whereupon the business men of Omaha and Nebraska, the great railways and the great manufacturers put their hands in their pockets; and quite as liberally in proportion, the men of small means gave of their savings and their earnings.

Then, when the city was built and the first rough places were past, when states and principalities and powers had been interested, when hundreds of thousands of dollars had been sunk in the project; then —came the war.

This meant that the newspapers which had promised their good word would be too crowded with war news to give any  

Copyright, 1898, by F. A. Rinehart.
  space to the Exposition. But the unconquerable Nebraskans only worked the harder. "The war with Spain isn't going to last forever:" said they; "a little thing like a war with Spain isn't going to distract the American people from a big thing like the Trans-Mississippi Exposition." And they opened punctually on the appointed day.

Really, there is nothing in the Ex-position more typical of the West than the indomitable faith of its managers.

The Board of Managers has some fifty names, prominent business men of Omaha.

There are, also, besides the United States Commission (which has representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Treasury. Interior, State, Justice, Post-office, War, Navy, the Life Saving Service, the Fish Commission and the Smithsonian Institute), an impressive body of Vice-Presidents, from all the Trans-Mississippi states, each state having a Vice-President. The officers of the Exposition are: President, Gurdon F. Wattles; Vice-President (resident), Alvin Saunders; Treasurer, Herman Kountze; Secretary. John A. Wakefield, and General Counsel, Carroll S. Montgomery. The Executive Committee consists of Zachary T. Lindsay, Edward Rosewater, Freeman P. Kirkendall, Edward E. Bruce, Abram L. Reed and William N. Babcock. The Ex-position Manager is Col. T. S. Clarkson. The Bureau of Entertainment is composed of women; and the Bureau of Education is under the control of the Woman's Board of Managers. This has worked very happily. There is no Woman's Building at Omaha; in compensation the women have the entire educational exhibit, which is uneven but very important.

It may be admitted at once, that the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in landscape and architecture is modeled on the lines of the World's Fair. The architecture of the Main Court has the same Romanesque and Grecian features which every American remembers fondly. There are the same free-hand classic treatment. the same combination of the basilica and the colonnade, the same noble domes and graceful porticoes, the same lavish use of sculpture and carving breaking the sky-line with colossal groups and decking plinth and capital and frieze and architrave with fantastic luxuriance of plant and flower and symbol.

Photograph by Rinehart.
Photograph by Rinehart.
This was to be expected: for a long time the Columbian will remain the archetype of our great expositions. But, while on a smaller scale, the latest effort of American architects' imagination has won some new triumphs. There is a proportion in the Omaha Court. a coherence, a large. serene harmony. that is its own. The twenty firms of master builders have worked as if one man. Even the private buildings and the least of the public edifices, such as kiosks and ticket booths, fit into the general design, and have the grace and finish of their classic models. The architects-in-chief, Walker and Kimball, of Boston and Omaha, have wrought with the modern daring and the medieval con-science. Not a corner has been neglected. Therefore it is that the beauty of this exquisite court hardly has full justice at first. It unfolds new delight to every visit. The dream of the makers reveals itself by degrees, by study and patient gazing at details of entablature and pediment and column. The average visitor during his first visits hardly has a chance to focus his attention. Ile is in the case of the worthy country dame whom the writer overheard extolling the Exposition to a friend. "There is one building," said she, "it's jest beautiful; and the statues on it look lovely 'gainst the sky—"

"What building?" asked the friend.

"Why, I dunno 'zactly the name, it's 'bout the middle. On the lagoon. May-be it's the Agriculture; no, I guess it's the Manufactures. It's 'bout the middle. And the statues, they're ahead of everything!"

"What are they—what are they doing?"

"Well, now, I really didn't notice; but it's a man driving—I guess he's a-driving; and some folks trying to stop him—maybe's a runaway!"

It is only as the picture grows familiar and the eye garners bits out of the whole, that the poetic fancy of the buildings, the typical character of all the wealth of ornament, its most careful selection, can have a word for themselves.

As in the World's Fair, the most im-   portant buildings at Omaha are grouped in a rectangle about a lagoon. This lagoon is spanned by a viaduct, a very attractive piece of architecture. The sides of the lagoon rise in green terraces. gorgeously appareled in cannas and altheas. Above on the Court there is a delicious suggestion of old-fashioned gardens in the primly sweet oleander trees. Green settees are scattered along the esplanade. Gondolas. manned by white-clad sailors, skim the water; but there is no melodious boat-call of the gondolier. In fact, these gondoliers whistle "On the Banks of the Wabash" and call to friends on shore in broad United States. Amid the graceful black shapes of the

Copyright, 1898, by F. A. Rinehart.
gondolas, the huge swan snorts and puffs wheezily and trails an odor of naphtha in its track.

The buildings are of white stucco, simulating stone with an amazing deception. They are white, not cream-white, and the atmosphere has only slightly dimmed their dazzling brilliancy. Entering on the south, through the Arch of the States, one catches his breath at the beauty of the scene. The arch through which he has entered is set with shields, the escutcheons of the various states. blazoned in color. At the west is the great Government Building with its golden dome. whereon is poised a noble figure of Liberty enlightening the world. As is quite in keeping, she is enlightening with an electric torch. Colonnades, treated in the Pompeian manner, make a shallow curve on either side. connecting the Government with the Agricultural Building, the most lavishly ornamented of all the great structures, built as if to display the riches of the Renaissance style, on the one hand; and the classic Fine Arts Building on the other, with its stately stylobates, its towering Corinthian shafts and its winged figures topping portico and gables. To the north stands the Administration Arch; and next it the vast bulk of the Manufactures Building, stern and Doric, with wide spaces of unbroken lines and majestic shadows. Facing the Manufactures is the graceful Liberal Arts Building, which recalls the Woman's Building at the World's Fair in its rectangular form, its stylobate first story, its columned windows and the spirited groups which crown the corner pavilions. And the Electricity Building, solid, strong, crested with cogwheels, ornamented in panel and spandrel with conventional symbols of the tools of steam and electricity, crowned with colossal groups of man wrestling with the elemental wild beasts of nature, a tremendous mass with its purpose written on its face, looks across the water at the beautiful Ionic colonnades of the Mines and Mining Building.  

Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
  To the east are fanciful pavilions and kiosks. The restaurants with their balconies and roof-gardens are the property of the viaduct. The plainer, but happily pro-portioned structures of the Auditorium and the Girls and Boys' Building are south of the viaduct. It is a line of palaces in effect. Lawns aflame with flowers relieve the monotony of dull brick walks and brown gravel. Vines wreathe the little toy trees that stud the boulevards: vines clamber the fluted and snowy shafts of the colonnades. Cannas and altheas and geraniums flaunt their piercing beauties amid the greenery, massed in every cunning device.

"Here are cool mosses deep,
And through the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy edge the poppy hangs in sleep."
But more beautiful than all this is the wonderful sky-line-the domes, golden and green, the towers and gables, the titanic groups of white with their exquisite violet shadows, all painted on the sunlit spaces of Nebraska sky. There is a poignant charm in the sight too subtle and too keen for me to drag it down to words; but whoever has seen the Court at Omaha or at Chicago must know it. Who can forget the Peristyle and the lake beyond?
For Chicago—
"Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?"

But I felt that vanished thrill of joy again, as I looked at the Omaha Court. It is not so grand, there is no gateway to the sea; but it is as exquisite. And to compensate in part for the lake, the smaller Exposition has its background of forest and hill.

The Exposition is laid out in three divisions: the Main Court, about the lagoon; the North and Bluff Tracts, at right angles with the Main Court. The Bluff Tract his along the high banks and bluffs overlooking the Missouri valley. The Horticultural Building is the only exhibit building in this tract; but modestly hiding behind a viaduct is a huddle of thin black chimneys above a plain red building where hangs a sign: "Power Plant. Visitors are Invited to Enter"; and here is the "very pulse of the machine." The Horticultural

Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
  the Midway at Chicago. There is a kaleidoscopic jumble of grotesque shapes and flaring colors along the Midway streets. There is a fanfare of trumpets and drums penetrating the ear from noon to night. The voice of the eloquent man exalting the show is loud in the land. The patient camels crouch outside the mimic gates of Cairo. A bizarre procession troops noisily out of the rival Street of All Nations. A tiny German village reminds one of better things at the World's Fair. There are appeals to patriotic zeal, in the shape of a miniature
Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
bombardment of Cuban forts, a cyclorama of the Civil War, and the destruction of the "Maine." Novelties, also, have they in the Midway—chutes; an underground panoramic railway; the miniature railway, hardly larger than a child's toy but complete in every detail; the haunted swing; the maze. and the great see-saw which looms above the highest tower. On the whole, the Midway repays the visitor; although he tires of it sooner. methinks, than at Chicago. The major part of the Midway is on the North Tract. There, also, is the Plaza with its handsome music stand. The red coats of the Marine Band filled the stand during the opening weeks. And Theodore Thomas's orchestra played, at the same time, in the Auditorium. An embarrassment of riches, one would think.

On the North Tract are the Apiary, Dairy and Transportation Buildings, tobacco and cotton plantations, live stock exhibit and freight warehouse.

The Transportation exhibit is small compared with the Columbian's; but it has the same interest in its view of the progress of locomotion. Perhaps the general public seem to be most impressed by the aluminum wagon displayed by Studebaker.

The three great features of the Omaha Exposition are the food exhibit, the electrical exhibit and—the Indians.

I ought, perhaps, to add the Mines and Mining exhibit. In these four features it is simply justice to say that the exhibits of the great Western and Southwestern states surpass anything of the hind in the World's Fair. The exhibit of minerals and mines is stupendous. To pass through the great  

Photograph by Rinehart.
building, simply to pass through it in a jinrikisha or wheeled chair, without tarrying over the exhibits, is to daze one with the spectacle of wealth. The shining black: masses of coal; the streaked ores, the glittering nuggets of gold, silver, platinum, copper, zinc, cobalt, aluminum; the bars and ovals of dull steel ; the sheets and blocks and pipes of iron; the petroleum fuels; the quarry products, including a great range, not only the granite, marble, limestone, sandstone and the like building materials, but ornamental stones, serpentine, alabaster and onyx: clays and clay products: the grinding and polishing materials, emery, grindstones, whetstones; the chemical minerals. such as phosphate rock. nitrates, salt and Fuller's earth : the rocks and fossils, mica, asbestos, graphite; the gems, the beautiful topazes of Utah, the turquoises of New Mexico, the rubies and sapphires of Montana—these speak at an eye-blink of the extraordinary diversity as well as the colossal amount of wealth of the Trans-Mississippi states underground. As interesting is the display of the mining machines and processes. One can descend to a miniature gold mine; one can see, without leaving the floor, the panning out of low-grade placer dirt. Each state, moreover, has its own products in a separate exhibit, showing its own characteristic resources. Even more significant, in this year of plenty 1 898, is the exhibit of the other wealth of the earth, the food products. Every unexpected mosaic of the cereal
Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
  grains, every draping and garnishing and weaving of blossom and husk and flower in decoration of the booths, makes the Agricultural Building softly ablaze.

The great millers display the flours and meals; and the great packers have a bewildering display of meat—but these latter are in the Manufactures Building. Very interesting is the sugar-beet display; and the pomology display by states.

Second in its richness to the food exhibit is the exhibit of the textiles in the Trans-Mississippi states—flax and wool and cotton.

Probably, however, the feature of the Exposition which has attracted most enthusiasm in the West has been the electricity exhibit. Naturally, it far surpasses that at Chicago, for the simple reason

Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
that it is made five years later; and electricity is a swiftly growing science. In the Electricity Building (which is also the machinery building and shows machines of every kind from stone-crushers to watches, except only machines for tilling the soil, which have their own special exhibit near the Transportation Building) sits the wonder-worker of modern life, the chained and harnessed genius from the skies, in-finitely more capable than Aladdin's slave—sits and purrs and fans, and works with equal ease a mortar and a glove cleaner. There is the apparatus that transmits the living voice thousands of miles; and there is the apparatus that causes to live again on the ear "the sound of a voice that is still." The kindly slave can be studied fighting our battles in one section and tending our kitchen fire in another; while in a third he is at the service of the surgeon or the dentist. It is a wonderful building, wonderful and terrible, saying much in its inarticulate way, and hinting infinitely more. To go through the electricity department is to feel a thrill of realization of the awful power of man over nature. I have seen men come out of that grand vestibule silent, solemn, with a touch of awe in their bearing. It was the unconscious, involuntary homage to the possibilities of the human soul.

In the building one may see the power of electricity-; outside, in the open air, every night, is its poetry. Then, ten thousand incandescent lights make Court and Plaza and Park and Midway streets like softened day; and the lagoon mirrors palaces penciled in fire, and the lilies at the foot of the tall shaft of Nautilus bloom into flame, while the fountains rain a jeweled shower, opals or rubies or sapphires or emeralds or diamonds—a scene that no one who has seen can ever forget. So light is it that the clouds show in the deep-blue vault amid the stars; and the statues are painted tenderly against that wonderful background. Above the Government Building, Liberty waves her gigantic torch. The lagoon is gemmed with light. The music of the band playing on the Plaza floats "like sweet sounds in a dream";  

Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
Photograph by Rinehart.
the barbarous cymbals of the Midway are softened into a far-away hum. There are thousands of people sitting on the steps of the buildings and around the lagoon; yet there is no noise of voices. The boatman's song; rings mellow and sweet—for the boatman is a negro. Even the swan-boat is enchanted by the hour and the light into something fit and fair—being at a good distance. This is what science can do for art.

And while we look down the vine-wreathed colonnades and the glittering facades at this flower of civilization, almost within earshot the Apaches are yelling and dancing around their fires. If the Westerners are most affected by the electricity, the Indian Congress appeals the most vividly to the Eastern imagination. But to any one there is something dramatic in this idea of a great meeting of a vanishing race. The Indian Congress (rather a misleading name, by the way) is intended to be a representation of Indian life in all its phases. Indians from every considerable tribe in the United States will be present. They will live precisely as at home on the plains, so far as their domestic life, industries and sports are concerned. There are, now, several hundred Indians encamped in the fields to the rear of the Transportation Building. Their tepees, wickiups and wigwams are scattered in tribal settlementsamong the cornfields. Houses have been built for the most civilized and for their white guardians. The Indian Department has placed at the disposal of the Exposition management its office force and held employees. Congress has appropriated forty thousand dollars for the exhibit. Dances, religious rites, sports and industries will all be represented. It is not a Wild West show, but a serious ethnological exhibition. The Indian at Omaha is living his own life; and probably making acquaintance with his own race in a very interesting manner. Meanwhile the tribes embroider their leggins and shirts and bands, or make their birchbark canoes, or plait baskets and weave and dye blankets. The Indian band sits in its rude stand and plays "There'll be a hot time in the old town to-night," or The Stars and Stripes," with as good success with its brasses as any village band. Painted braves in war-bonnets and wampum are shouting and dancing war-dances around the drums in the field, near by, while the ponies graze peacefully, and a buffalo meditates on the other side of the fence. There are Sioux, Omahas, Winnebagoes, Sacs and Foxes, Crows, Blackfeet, Cheyennes. Piutes, Apaches, Zunis, Navajos. Moquis, Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Digger Umatillas, Comanches, Poncas, Delawares, in camp at present, or shortly to be there.


Let us consider. It s a strange page, this, in the blackest and ghastliest chapter of our annals. the story of the red man's wrongs and reprisals. "Cæsar, we who are about to die, salute you," the gladiators called; the Indians who are dancing in the smiling Omaha fields would fitly salute us in such phrase. since they and their customs are doomed. I looked from the swaying, painted warriors in the ring to the handsome young Indian in his smart tweed suit who was holding an umbrella attentively over two Indian maidens in civilized finery, and a

Photograph by Rinehart.
voice at my elbow said, "Say, Jim, why ain't you painted up like them. an' dancing?" to which came Jim's scornful reply, "I wasn't ever painted in my life, or (lanced, neither!" He seemed to me speaking the doom of the old ways. Meanwhile. it is a spectacle full of interest, full of sadness. But the Indians themselves are not sad. They wander in squads through the Exposition streets, smiling and buying candy and cigarettes. I had the privilege of buying of the much-wronged Poncas some red and white candy and peanuts. The chief proffered me a dignified and sticky hand. After what has passed in the matter of the Poncas. I did not feel that I could decline it, had it been covered with tar. So we shook hands solemnly, and the ceremony so inspired the other Poncas that they also shook hands with me. Later in the (lay I discovered that they were not Poncas but Sacs from Iowa. However. our dealings with the Sacs are not impeccable; I do not regret the incident.

It cannot. whatever the other aspects of the congress, work anything but good for red men and white to have an opportunity of meeting under new conditions.

Of course, there are many sides to the Omaha Exposition which one cannot touch for lack of space. There are uncommonly

Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
  attractive bits of exhibits, corners of the great buildings which one finds after many days. There is, for example, a forestry exhibit, notably that of Oregon, worth half a day although one were in a hurry. The exhibits in the Government. Building are superb; and those of the Post-office, War and Interior Departments are of remarkable interest. The Smithsonian Museum and the Fish Commission make a noble showing. There are models of farm buildings and systems of irrigation that one may
Copyright, 1898, F. A. Rinehart.
pass unheeded, because they are not large and showy, but if one once stop, he will find it easy to linger for a long while.

The Liberal Arts has innumerable exhibits of interest and beauty. The Fine Arts Building contains a good many French paintings of distinction, and some few others. But the real art of the Exposition, the art which is touching the American imagination, is the art in the buildings and the grounds. And this art will leave its impress after the glorious Court is in ruins or quite obliterated. Every village carpenter who shall see it must carry away lifting of his ideals, "and by the vision splendid be on his way attended" ; and he will build better shops and cottages for his days at Omaha. Very likely the American who has his fancy fired by our great expositions will go wild at first, and there will be queer things in Southern and Western architecture. But the end will justify his quest for beauty. The time is coming when Americans of all classes will be a beauty-loving people. They will love it with some of the ardor which they now spend on the getting of money. Then. our art will be the expression of no copied raptures or borrowed ideals, but of the yearning and the needs and the hopes of our own soul. And nothing has done suer; service to art, in this country, as our great expositions. Among these the Exposition at Omaha takes an honorable place. In all respects it is of high merit; in some, it has exceeded all its predecessors.