The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the World's Fair of 1904, was planned on a greater scale than any previous World's Fair, at a cost of over fifty millions of dollars. It was headed by one of the ablest men of America, David R. Francis, at St. Louis, who, as many have said, made the World's Fair. Over 1,200 acres of Forest Park were enclosed, and in this space were erected ten large exhibition palaces, greater than any ever before attempted. The Agricultural Building alone covered thirteen acres. These, together with the great State Buildings, with a street of pleasure called the "Pike," aggregated fully 270 buildings. The Intra-Mural Railway, while a relief for weary people, was entirely inadequate and did not at all relieve the crowds that wanted to see the whole show in a few days. It required forty-five minutes to make the trip around the grounds.
This exposition commemorated the purchase by the United States of Louisiana, which belonged to France in 1803; it was found impossible to finish the buildings and be ready for the opening of this Fair in 1903, one hundred years later, so an extension of time was taken advantage of and the Fair was opened on April 28, 1904, and remained open until December 1st, fully six weeks longer than any previous World's Fair. There was spirited bidding for the photographic concession, which was finally granted a year before it opened. The photographic operations were not entirely satisfactory when I visited St. Louis in February, 1904, to look over buggy belonging to the company, it was from the Administration Building that we started and went over the muddy roads, seeing everything which was uninviting, unpleasant, cold and cheerless, but I had the promise of a great workshop, which was never entirely fulfilled.
The outfits on hand at that time were such as would be bought by an amateur, and not at all suitable for the purpose. A complete set of cameras of the skyscraper kind, from 8" x 10" to 20" x 24," specially arranged for wide angle lenses, was secured from Folmer & Schwing, of New York, and an arrangement made with the celebrated Goerz Lens Company for the exclusive use of their lenses. I found the Hypergon lens very valuable where extreme angles were desired without distortion, and would recommend this to anyone who is not already familiar with this wonderful lens.
Our contract with the Exposition Company was such as to keep us on guard regarding- infringements, as for instance, a concession was given to a certain firm for stationery — paper weights are stationery, consequently, a paper weight with a photograph on it was an infringement on the stationery concession, and we were obliged to make a deal with that concession and allow them to either handle our goods or be denied the right of selling them. The original contract with the Exposition Company, contained many absurd provisions, which, if they had been followed, would have been useless blunders. It was, however, a very comprehensive concession as was illustrated by the many applicants who had original ideas as to photographic novelties, which they wanted to put through and handle under the same, one of them being the making of cloth pillow tops, which we found afterward had a ready sale; others wanted to make cheap pictures.
A great part of my time was taken up early and late, talking and interviewing these people, when I should have been allowed the freedom of my own time, to prepare and plan for the great business which was expected.
Kodak's up to 4" x 5" were allowed free admission, without tripods.
The concession of the Official Photographic Company covered the making of every kind of photograph and the handling of photographic supplies, halftone and photographic books, moving pictures, etc., was expensive, and required heavy percentages, which, with the difficulties of protecting the concession, made the risk of money-making great. The freedom given to newspapers to bring in their own photographers did not seem to advertise the Fair as was expected, and gave an opportunity for unscrupulous people to make improper use of this freedom and to carry on business in a way to seriously interfere with the photographic concession. It is my opinion that no future World's Fair will grant a photographic concession, in view of the large number of photographers interested, and the difficulty of handling so large a business in so short a time, and also the heavy expense attending the same.
Our company controlled other concessions, and erected a large building on the " Pike," the second floor of which we used for our workshop. A fireproof room was built in which to store the negatives, and electric light and water facilities were generously arranged for, together with other facilities necessary for the proper manufacture of pictures on developing paper. In this workshop was what I considered a novel room, in which was arranged ten McIntire Printing Machines, which were specially installed by Mr. Schuyler Colfax, the President of that company, to whom a great deal of credit is due for this installation. It made it possible to produce 20,coo prints per day, varying in size from 8" x 10" to 20" x 24." Next to this room was a room for developing, fixing and washing the prints. A very novel arrangement was a cascade of washing tanks, the lowest one being on level with the second hypo tank (all prints went through two hypo baths); the next tank was three inches higher, and so on until the eighth tank, which was reached by a series of gradually rising steps, so when prints were brought out of the printing room they were developed nearest the door entering the room, and followed along from the developer into the acid water, then the hypo, then a second hypo bath, into the washing tanks and out at the end, coming into a large mounting room, where the prints were laid out, sorted, mounted and finished, and sent over to the salesrooms and the sales counters. We had a very large dark-room, into which the numerous operators brought their exposed plates, all the developing being under the care of competent dark-room men, who loaded the holders and supplied them to the operators, who were obliged to keep a systematic record according to a plan outlined for the proper tracing and following up of every order. Details of this will hardly be interesting. The plates were taken into a special room arranged for reducing, intensifying, both locally and otherwise. From this room they next passed into another room, next to the vault in which they were to be stored ; here clerks and retouchers placed the numbers on the negatives, registered them, and started the orders into the printing room.
Another feature was a large stock room, in which was stored Kodak's, Kodak supplies, card mounts, and everything that pertained to our photographic department. Unfortunately this room, while planned on a generous scale, was not nearly large enough. Our stands, placed in and through the various buildings, were supplied from this stockroom, and a corps of clerks and assistants were looking after the supplies and salespeople who had to be furnished with goods every day. Both of our dark-rooms —the one for developing the plates and the other for the developing of prints and washing the same —had the floors covered with pitch and a special double floor laid, so if there was an overflow it could not come through and damage the lower floor.
The Cooper-Hewitt Electric Company installed an equipment of mercury vapor lamps, which we expected to use at night in order to help out the business of the day, and to bring in visitors who could not be reached during the day. The work of this light was eminently satisfactory.
A studio and salesroom was built on the Plaza St. Louis. In this a portrait studio was established on the second floor. The first floor was taken up with the sale of pictures, books, souvenirs of all kinds on the one side, and Kodak's films, and photographic supplies on the other. The splitting up of the business in this way was unfortunate, as it made it extremely troublesome, expensive and unsatisfactory. This, however, was planned in the beginning, and there was no time to make the change when I reached St. Louis. Neither of these buildings were finished for a considerable time after the opening day, and we were obliged to work under extreme disadvantages of light and water in rooms in the Administration Building, which was placed at the disposal of the company before our own buildings were ready. We were given peremptory orders to leave a certain time, and were obliged to move into an unfinished workshop, which was full of plaster, fire-proof paint, and all the materials that accompany the putting up of a new building, and did not even have a table on which to place our plates or outfits for at least a week or two. It was impossible to make any headway, and, in the midst of it all, the plumbers went on a strike, and we were unable to get water. Under these ad verse conditions it was almost impossible to carry on business, and for a time it seemed as though it might be preferable to close the whole plant until our workrooms were in condition. Furthermore, owing to the high price of living in St. Louis, it made salaries higher, and having to deal with many unknown people of doubtful ability, it was very difficult in the beginning to get real good helpers. Then, again, owing to the immense size of the grounds, it necessitated the use of horses and wagons to get our equipment of heavy outfits from place to place in accordance with engagements made for the work. Following
photographic concession which held us from making pictures in the Philippine Reservation.
The St. Louis Fair had probably more statuary than any previous Exposition of the kind, there being more than five hundred. We started making a series of pictures of these, but owing to the lack of unity the matter was abandoned, just as the making of the series of the peoples of the world.
A special tower, forty feet high, was built in the Grand Basin, from top of which a panoramic view was possible of the Festival Hall, Cascades, and Terrace of States, for from no one point this, many contradictory orders were issued by the Department of Works which interfered with the bringing in of the teams in the mornings and the taking of them about through the drives, excepting under certain restrictions. It was finally settled just what we would be allowed to do, but not until the Fair was about half over.
There was a great opportunity for pictures of various races of peoples, showing them in costumes, as representing a great many nations of the globe. I intended making a full series illustrating these people, but among other difficulties learned that the Philippine Exhibit had within it another could this entire view be obtained. I made a panoramic picture on a cut film, 18" x 47", but owing to the fact that the Festival Hall faced almost due north, we were obliged to arrange for a special run of the cascade for photographic purposes, as it usually did not begin to run until eleven o'clock, running for one hour, and stopping an hour during the rest of the day, until ten o'clock at night.
As a great many of the representative men of the world came to the World's Fair, we should have had great opportunities for the making of portraits in our studio, which was quite a prominent place next to the Intra-Mural buildings when windows were apt to come immediately over the exhibit.
We made a great many pictures from tripods ten feet high, which of course necessitated ladders, and it required a great amount of ingenuity and time to arrange for the operators to make suitable connections with the various exhibitors, in order to satisfy them in making suitable pictures of their displays. Our orders for exhibits began before we were in proper condition to handle the work, and during which time our building was unprepared and it caused so much confusion that one of my best assistants almost lost his reason and gave up his position and fled in the middle of the day. I soon found it was necessary to follow up the details of the workshop, owing to the difficulties of securing thoroughly first-class reliable persons to handle it. This naturally took my time away from the business end to a very great extent, and lost many thousands of dollars worth of orders which could have been secured from the representatives of the various States and foreign governments.
We had a special department for the making of groups which was under the care of a manager who arranged with the secretaries of all the conventions which came to the Exposition as well as the officials of the various States, so that on State Days and Convention
Days groups could be made. This should have been a very profitable department, but owing to the difficulty of reaching the people after they once scattered, even though we were prompt in getting our proofs out, it was very expensive and did not give the profits which were expected.
The Fine Arts Department was under the administration of a gentleman who was most careful that no photographs should be made in the Arts Buildings, although various publishers did give us orders for the making of pictures of a selection of paintings. The British Commissioner ordered quite a number of paintings copied, but allowed no prints to be made from them, taking the plates with him to England. In all of this work, in the copying of paintings, our results were most successful with the double-coated orthochromatic plates, and with the various suitable color screens, the best opportunities for photographing in the galleries were on Sundays.
Now that it is all over I am satisfied that notwithstanding all the annoyances, anxieties and cares, and the deviltries which accompany the handling of a great proposition like this, under the adverse conditions as we found them, that the St. Louis World's Fair was more thoroughly and better photographed than any previous World's Fair.