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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

Ethnic Music at the Pan-American Exposition


Performance of music from other cultures was a very popular feature of the Exposition. Musical performances from Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii, Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Africa, and the Middle East could be heard throughout the Midway and cultural exhibits. To the biased ears of contemporary Western listeners these performances must have ranged from new and exotic to bizarre. However, to serious musicians and anthropologists the performances presented an unprecedented opportunity to hear music from these cultures performed by native musicians on native instruments.

Band of Mexican musicians in McGarvie's Streets of Mexico in the Midway. Photographer: C. D. Arnold? Source: Kerry S. Grant. The Rainbow City: Celebrating Light, Color, and Architecture at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo 1901, p. 87. Photograph from the Collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

Band of musicians in the Philippine Village. Photographer: Unidentified. Source: The Pan-American and Its Midway. Philadelphia: J. Murray Jordan, 1901. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Mexican marimba players in McGarvie's Streets of Mexico in the Midway. The four players are identified in the Sept. 27, 1901 Buffalo Courier as brothers Henrique, Julius, Carlos and Adolphus Olivar. They are performing on three marimbas comprising high, middle, and low registers. Photographer: Unidentified. Source: The Rand-McNally Hand-Book to the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Co., 1901. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Hawaiian musicians with John Philip Sousa. Photographer: Unidentified. Source: Cosmopolitan, vol.31, no. 5 (September 1901) p. 504.



Musicians in the Streets of Cairo and Beautiful Orient on the Midway

Drummer in the Beautiful Orient section of the Midway attracting customers for a vendor. Photographer: C. D. Arnold. Source: The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated, by C. D. Arnold. Buffalo, N.Y., 1901. p. 90. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Musicians and dancers in "Akoun's Beautiful Orient". Photographer: Unidentified. Source: The Pan-American and Its Midway. Philadelphia: J. Murray Jordan, 1901. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Dance and musical troupe in the Beautiful Orient section of the Midway preparing for a performance. Photographer: C. D. Arnold. Source: The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated, by C. D. Arnold. Buffalo, N.Y., 1901. p. 89. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Musicians and dancers in the Streets of Cairo. Photographer: Unidentified. Source: The Pan-American and Its Midway. Philadelphia: J. Murray Jordan, 1901. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.



Musicians in Akoun's Beautiful Orient

The Entrance to Akoun's Beautiful Orient. Photographer: A.R. Dugmore. Source: Everybody's Magazine, v. 5, no. 26 (October 1901) p. 435



African musicians in procession through the streets of the Midway. Photographer: Carlos E. Cummins. Source: Courtesy of Buffalo Museum of Science.

The African Village in the Exposition's Midway was temporary home to ninety-eight natives of Africa. Fortunately, many of the instruments from African nations were deposited at the Buffalo Museum of Science and are still part of their collections. The collection includes drums, bells, rattles, thumb pianos, a marimba, harps, and guitars from countries that include Dahomey, Gabon, South Africa, and the Congo.


Guitar (Congo?). Photographer: Unknown. Source: Courtesy of The Buffalo Museum of Science.

Single Headed Drum - (Dahomey) Photographer: Unknown. Source: Courtesy of The Buffalo Museum of Science.

Single-headed drum (Dahomey?). Photographer: Unknown. Source: Courtesy of The Buffalo Museum of Science.


8-stringed Harp (Gabon). Photographer: Unknown. Source: Courtesy of The Buffalo Museum of Science.

Detail from single-headed drum (Dahomey?) Photographer: Unknown. Source: Courtesy of The Buffalo Museum of Science


All of the African Village images are courtesy of the Buffalo Museum of Science.


Musicians at the Venice in America site in the Midway. Photographer: unidentified Source: Pan-American Exposition Scrapbook [n.p., 1901?]. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.