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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

The Exposition's Effect on Life in Buffalo

Thumbnail image - By-product of an Exposition.

By-products of an Exposition. "The All Day and Night Cafe on Wheels". Source: undetermined.

The Effects of the Exposition As Seen on Buffalo Streets

A number of newspaper articles reveal the effects of the Exposition on the city and it's residents. Established businesses in Buffalo began to prepare for fair crowds months before the Pan-American Exposition actually opened while new businesses appeared literally overnight. The Buffalo Express article below describes the establishment of new restaurants in the city proper.

Restaurants Spring Up "Like Frogs in a Pond After a June Rain"

Another feature of the preparations is the restaurants. They are popping up like frogs in a pond after a June rain or like prairie dogs when the sun is setting. Vacant stores along Main, Washington, Pearl, Niagara, and cross streets have been rented, furnished with long counters and small . . . tables with white cloth and neat napkins, a cake griddle in the window, a coffee urn by the door, a waitress, a cash register, oilcloth menu on the wall and a sign "Step Inside." There are scores of them. They extend up Main Street to High Street. Prices are rock bottom. Pie is five cents. It is to be hoped exposition crowds are hearty eaters. Otherwise, these bowers of gourmands will be turned to castles of disaster. For 15 cents a visitor will be able to get a meal. For a quarter, he will be able to enjoy a feast. The established restaurants with the best locations will have matters arranged so that no customers need pay less than he desires. In front of some of the restaurants barkers have appeared. They chirp like the robins who arrived before the last flurry of snow. They gain courage with the arrival of the crowds. One of them said yesterday that he could shout "pie" at a crowd when he could not say "beans" to a single passer-by. In most of the new restaurants, and in practically all the old restaurants, the menu on the wall states the price of every article of food, a hungry customer who can add half as well as he can eat will not be overcharged.

Source: The Buffalo Express, 15 January 1901.

While Buffalo and the surrounding region certainly benefited economically from the thousands of visitors who attended to the Pan-American, course, there were "negative" byproducts of the Exposition that were a source of contention among many city residents. Eyesores and establishments of questionable character sprang up in the immediate vicinity of the Exposition and throughout the city.

Some Buffalo Vistas are Cluttered by Eyesores

When the Exposition opened in May you got a very lovely view of the domes and towers across the fields from Forest Avenue. Buffalo congratulated herself on the setting she had given her fair. She spoke too quickly. A little city of quick-lunch kiosks sprang up on that very corner; soft drink wagons and fruit stands; and unspeakably shabby booths for the sale of beer and sandwiches and the irrepressible souvenir, filled the whole countryside obliterating the view of the Exposition. Temporary hotels and perhaps even outside restaurants were a necessary evil. But Bohemian beer gardens were not. The city groaned in spirit as two mighty pavilions of the latter class were run up within a thousand feet of the main gate of the fair. Despite the attraction of beer served among the mummied palms, one of these places failed to draw, and it has been whitewashed and relabeled with a more attractive name. The other, orchid-like, lives on.

Downtown and up, certain harmless little booths offer "Pan-American orangeade," or orange cider, or other pernicious dyed drinks, grateful to the throat of the wayfarer, but scarcely grateful to his aesthetic sense. Fakirs, masters of their art, draw throngs of curious people at every street corner, and hideous night lunch wagons prowl both night and day.

Source: The Buffalo Courier, 20 October 1901.

Image of a "barker"
Orangeaide logo

Orangeade Tradecard. Published by J. Hungerford Smith Co., Rochester, N. Y. Image Source: Kerry S. Grant. The Rainbow City: Celebrating Light, Color and Architecture at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901. Buffalo, N. Y.: Canisius College Press, 2001. From the Collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

The Exposition's Effect on Prices

Buffalo-area retailers hoped to take advantage of the crowds of Exposition visitors to maximize their profits. The Buffalo Express article below describes an increase in the price of soda water, while the fictional Uncle Hank finds that the "bargain price" charged for a room is not such a bargain after all.

Soda Water Will Go Up

Sad News for the matinee Girl
And the summer Man
Exposition Is To Blame


The matinee girls are disconsolate. The summer man is unhappy. The druggists are jubilant and the exposition managers are unconcerned. All because the price of soda water during the summer will be ten cents a glass.

The dreadful rumor has been current for some time, but a brave young woman who questioned the clerk as he deftly filled her glass in a downtown store yesterday had her worst fears confirmed.

"And that isn't all," he said, as he reached under the counter and hung a placard on one of the faucets, which read:

Try the new drink,
"A Buffalo."
Made with 11 ingredients
And costs 11 cents.

"We expect a big run this summer on the new beverage," said the clerk, as he rinsed and wiped the glasses. "I don't know who originated the Buffalo, but I heard it was a soda clerk in a Chicago store. He certainly had a great head. The name itself is going to make it popular, but it is a pleasant beverage that cannot fail to make a hit with lovers of temperance drinks."

"It is made this way: Chipped ice, a dash of vanilla, nectar strup [shrub], lemon juice, sherbet, dash of claret, sprig of mint, slice of pineapple, slice of orange, a little cordial, and French cherries. There's a drink that would make a man leave his happy home, wouldn't it? Any druggist caught selling it under eleven cents will be boycotted by all the Buffaloes in town."

"The soda season," continued the clerk, "is a little backward this spring on account of the extreme cold weather, in former years the business was in full blast all over town by April 15th, but this year some of the fountains will not be started until May 1st."

"One of the new drinks is a carnation flip, with or without a hatchet. It is made with chipped ice, pine apple, strawberry, and raspberry strups [shrubs] , ice cream, plain cream, and an egg. A little nutmeg is sprinkled on the top. If the customer wants a hatchet in his flip, he winks the left eye, and we just add a dash of brandy to flavor it."

In Buffalo nearly all the drug stores have soda fountains. Some of the stores in the crowded downtown districts do an immense business from May 1st to September 1st and even to October 1st, if the weather continues warm. From two to five clerks are kept busy at a great many of the downtown stores.

"Of late years the sale of medicines is merely a side issue of the drug business at some of the big pharmacies," said a well-known druggist. A drug store at a prominent corner will take in from the soda fountain $100 day from May 1st to September 1st. Some of them, I am told, take in on an average $125 a day from the fountain. That amount is far in excess of money taken in for drugs and toilet articles. I venture to say that the drug stores in Buffalo that have soda fountains will average $10 a day during the heated season from the sale of beverages. Of course, there are a great many in the outskirts of the city that don't take in over $2 a day, but the average will reach $10.

I don't think there will ever again be a drink so popular as the milk shake that came out a dozen or more years ago. It spread over the country like wildfire, and it is no exaggeration to say that millions of dollars were spent the first season for a beverage which all America was drinking.

Source: Express, 28 April 1901.

Thumbnail image - Fleming, Thomas. Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, p. 148

"A High Room"—(Around the Pan, p. 148). Source: Fleming, Thomas. Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, p. 148. Courtesy of Stephanie Huthmacher.


Uncle Hank realized that he would have to make several journeys to the Exposition, and, wishing to be nearer to the grounds, he had one morning secured a room in one of the many private residences thrown open to Pan-American visitors by the frugal residents of Buffalo.

A placard on the door announced:

Rooms to Let,
$1.00 Up.

He concluded this about suited his pocketbook, and after an interview with the sharp-featured landlady, paid her a dollar, on the assurance that she would have a nice room ready for him on his return from the Exposition.

After ringing the door bell of his new quarters several times, the door was finally opened by a frowsy-headed maid-of-all-work, who recognized him immediately, and ushered him in.

"You're the gent as hired a room this mornin'?" she inquired.

"I'm that same individool thet paid yer mistress a dollar fer a room; is she to hum?"

"She's gone ter market, but I kin show ye up. This way, please." And she led the way up several flights of wheezy, creaking stairs to the top of the house.

Uncle Hank was out of breath when he reached a small attic room close to the roof.

"This be'ant what I bargained fer. I want one ov them rooms down stairs; I paid what yer sign called fer, a dollar fer a room."

"I guess you didn't read the sign right; it reads $1.00 up, and this is up as high as ye can git," and the girl grinned from ear to ear, and then suggested that he could get one of the rooms down stairs by paying more money.

He soon realized that he was in for it, so resolved to make the best of his bad bargain, and as he was very tired he was soon lost in slumber, disturbed only by the onslaught of an army of Pan-American bedbugs that would surely have taken first prize had they been placed on exhibition in the big show. …

[Source: Thomas Fleming. Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, pp. 148-150.]

The By-products of Questionable Character

In addition to the "eyesores" described in the Buffalo Courier article reproduced above, the Exposition brought numerous drinking establishments, gambling houses and other institutions "questionable character" to Buffalo. Many of the "gin mills" sprang up on the "Free Midway" immediately outside the Exposition gates. More were established at various locations throughout the city, namely Main Street. Below, we see that Uncle Hank ventures into one of the Free Midway's "beverage dispensaries" as he travels "Around the Pan."

Thumbnail images - Fleming, Thomas. Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, p. 191

If Drinking Interferes with Your Business, ...Give Up Your Business - (Around the Pan - p. 191). Source: Fleming, Thomas. Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, p. 191. Courtesy of Stephanie Huthmacher.

…The next day Uncle Hank concluded to take a look at the "Free Midway" just outside the grounds of the Exposition.

Just opposite the entrance, a wild Western mining town celebrity, styling himself Cheyenne Joe, had a cabin fashioned after the style in vogue in mining communities, in which he dispensed various beverages of more or less poisonous qualities; to attract votaries he had emblazoned the walls of the aforesaid cabin with strangely worded devices which carried double meanings, very amusing to the initiated: one in particular attracted Uncle Hank's attention. It occupied a prominent place on the wall and read as follows:

If Drinking Interferes with Your Business, Give Up Your Business.

This was too much for Uncle Hank, who remarked to the attendant behind the bar: "Young man, ye'd better take daown thet sign. It's well understood among men ov your craft thet a wise man never drinks behind ther bar so ye'd better giv up yer bizness er take daown yer sign."

[Source: Fleming, Thomas. Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, p. 189-191.]

By-product of an Exposition - A scene of Main Street

By-product of an Exposition. A Scene of Main Street. Source: undetermined


The image of the "barker" located to the left of the Orangeade Tradecard is an illustration by Thomas Fleming, found in Fleming's Around the Pan with Uncle Hank: His Trip Through the Pan-American Exposition. New York: The Nut Shell Publ. Co., 1901, p. 55.