Though the State and Nations buildings were made out of stone, wood, etc. and were sold or moved after the Fair, the tremendous palaces were constructed from a more temporary and less expensive material. They were finished and ornamented by a special mixture called “staff,” a conglomerate of lime plaster and cement, containing glycerin and dextrose. Construction workers added shredded Manila hemp fiber, (a main ingredient in rope), to strengthen the bond and make the material withstand the elements.
Poured into molds to mass-produce fine details and sculptural effects; when hardened the staff material could be sawed, hammered, cut, and even whittled like wood to produce unique artistic designs for the building facades.
Lee Gaskins' AT THE FAIR The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair