Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

Search library resources
Pan-American Exposition of 1901

Food Company Exhibits

Mellin Food Advertisment

The Pan-American Exposition was an opportunity for food and manufacturers and distributors to promote and advertise their goods. Exhibitors distributed literature in the form of tradecards, and provided free samples of their products. In addition, products were judged and medals awarded. Those companies fortunate enough to be awarded medals at the Pan-American Exposition took full advantage of the honor as can be seen in the Mellins advertisement at right. Click the image to see contemporary advertisments of some of the more prominant food exhibitors at the Exposition.

Lowney's Chocolate Building Lowney's Chocolate Building. Photo credit: C. D. Arnold. Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition Illustrated by C. D. Arnold. Buffalo, N.Y., 1901. p. 26. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Most food company exhibits were housed in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building although the Agriculture and Dairy Buildings held numerous exhibits of food and agricultural products. The buildings commissioned by individual states and countries also provided for space to exhibit the foods and agricultural products specific to their respective regions. For instance, the Chile Building displayed foods native to Chile while the Mexico Building exhibited not only the foodstuffs of that country but also the agricultural technologies used to produce and harvest those products.

Many companies commissioned their own buildings for exhibits. One of the more impressive of these was the Lowney's Chocolate Exhibit Building. The Pan-American Official Catalogue and Guide describes this building:

"Situated on the north side of the Canal Bridge which approaches the Horticulture building from the east and Midway side. The building is three stories in height, the first floor being devoted exclusively to the sale of Lowney's cocoa, chocolate and chocolate bon-bons. On the second floor is located the exhibit of Lowney products, ladies waiting room and office. The upper floor is a beautiful roof garden, which is well worth a visit for the fine view obtainable."

Another medal winner at the Pan-American Exposition was The Natural Food Company of Niagara Falls, N.Y., makers of Shredded Wheat. The 1901 Buffalo Times article below, describes the company's elaborate exhibit.1

The Natural Food Company of Niagara Falls: Home of Shredded Wheat

The Natural Food Company Exhibit
Exhibit of The Natural Food Company of Niagara Falls. Photo credit: n/a. Source: The Cosmopolitan , v.31, no.5 (September 1901) p.468. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

"A theatrical exhibit of animals living in natural settings leads to the main exhibit of Niagara Falls' Natural Food Company exhibit. This initial display is known as the 'theatorium.'

In the theatorium a squirrel appears, its teeth showing, its fur all soft and glossy, a beautiful creature. In the theatorium is a man who almost makes animals talk. It is explained that the squirrel proves precisely what the exhibitors claim and demonstrates the efficacy of the principle underlying their process for the manufacture of food products.

The squirrel is not alone in the theatorium. There are woodchucks, porcupines, raccoons, weasels, minx, prairie dogs, wolverines, wild cats, English hare, jaguar, Rocky Mountain lion, wild bear, tiger and many more. Herman Grieb, the taxidermist, also prepared the grizzly bear, deer and horses. The display is not limited to beasts. . . Each beast and bird is shown in all the grace and charm and beauty of its natural life, free to roam and wander, relying solely on Nature for food to maintain life and supply the material out of which the symmetry and perfect form are molded and developed. . .

The natural Food Company factory
The Natural Food Company Factory. Source: Deutsch-Amerikanische Historische und Biographische Gesellschaft, Buffalo un sein Deutschum [Buffalo? : Die Gesellschaft], 1911-1912.

Natural food does it, states the voice for the beasts and birds. There is no separating or taking from or adding to in their diet as they find it in the fields and forests, laid before them by the hand of Nature. Obviously, therefore, the voice points out, man should profit by this lesson to be found in he beasts of the fields and the fowl of the air. The animals that live under the ground, the animals that live on the ground and the birds that live above the ground all prove that naturally organized foods make possible natural conditions. It certainly is a unique and engrossing entertainment. Crowds gather before the theatorium and enjoy the novelties and beauties of the display. It all is very realistic and effective in the theatorium and the audience gathers early in the day, while the performance is continuous until the close of the exposition in the evening.

From the theatorium it is only a step to the exhibit of the products made by the Natural Food Company, the shredded wheat biscuit, the wondrous utilization of the pure, whole grain of wheat for food purposes, with nothing added and nothing subtracted. They are neatly, attractively arranged, and also placed so that visitors do not have to stumble over obstacles to reach them or inspect them. Their freedom from adulteration or alteration of composition during the process of manufacture is explained clearly and precisely.

Then come the demonstrators with their electric cooking service, as well as their old-fashioned stove ways of cooking. They take the food products and make them into almost every conceivable article of food from soup to ice cream. They show them in salads, vegetables, dressings, jellies, puddings, every form of food known. They explain as they go, and that explains the fact of the continued attendance of women, mothers and housewives in the audiences and crowds of sightseers and visitors around the exhibit."

Contemporary "proof" of the "healthful benefits" of Shredded Wheat:

With the Help of Shredded Wheat, Law Student M. J. Cronin Walks to Buffalo's Exposition from Nebraska2

..."After I had accustomed myself to my diet, I scarcely ever suffered from hunger. Four Shredded Wheat biscuits, four eggs and a pint of milk at each of my daily meals, completely routed my craving of appetite. Toward the latter end of my walk I have been on the road for eight hours without eating, and then gone to the hotel and the same meal has satisfied my hunger. As I was out longer I also found that my thirst did not bother me nearly so much as at first, and frequently I have walked ten miles without taking a drink of any liquid."

"I had some funny experiences along the route getting served when I went in for my meals. In some places they did not have Shredded Wheat and in others they didn't have eggs. When either was lacking I merely took the other. But as I came East I found no trouble in getting service. I met a peculiar vegetarian over in Ohio and I laughed good and hard when he told me of an experiment which he was undertaking. He is endeavoring to hybridize milkweed and egg plants to produce a plant that will grow custard. I spent several days of my time visiting in some of the cities through which I passed, as Omaha, Chicago and Sandusky. At this latter place I had to stop from the exactions of circumstances. I was walking along a trestle across the bay and saw a train coming toward me. I immediately stepped over onto the other track and then from behind me I heard the rumble of another train. It was rather sudden, but there was nothing for me to do but jump, so I dropped into the bay and swam ashore. Then I had to proceed to a secluded spot and dry out my clothes -- a task that required seven hours, as the day was rather damp."

"I had three dogs while I was on my trip and none of them was able to follow me more than 100 miles, which struck me as rather peculiar. I understand, however, that a man can always outwalk animals and these dogs could not stand the cinders on the railroad tracks very long before their feet became sore. The trip has been worth all the effort that it has taken and although I have not been out to the Exposition yet, I am sure that I will have a great time there during the next two or three days. I am going from here to Niagara Falls to view the wonders there and also, incidentally, the new plant of the Natural Food Company, which manufactures Shredded Wheat. I've become interested in that commodity now and I wish to see how it is made."

"I expect to leave the latter part of this week for Lincoln to resume my studies at the University of Nebraska. I'm going back by train though, because I have walked all I care to for a while, although I am going to continue the same diet right along as a steady thing."

Mr. Cronin will walk from Buffalo to Niagara Falls some afternoon, after he has visited the Exposition and will take the train home from there.

Tradecards & Samples

Companies with exhibits at the Pan-American Exposition took the opportunity to distribute literature and free samples of their goods. Most of this literature took the form of tradecards, which were relatively small and easy for visitors to carry or simply place in a bag. While most of these advertisements were about the size of a postcard, some were larger and more elaborately designed, often taking the form of a pamphlet or small booklet. Below are a few of the tradecards distributed at the Buffalo Exposition. Many of the names are still recognized today. [Click on the /pan-am/img/ below to view larger versions.]

Cottolene tradecard

Cottolene "Tradebook". The image shows the front and back covers of a multipage booklet. Published by the N. K. Fairbank Company, Chicago, Ill., [1900?] Printed by the American Lithograph Company, New York. 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 N. K. Fairbank Company was also a large distributor of meat products an produced numerous pamphlets and broadsheets for distribution at fairs and expositions. See their tradecard for beef and hogg products.

Heinz tradecard (girl)

Heinz Tradecard (girl). The image shows the recto and verso of a tradecard 5 1/2" x 3 3/4" in. Published by the H. J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, Pa. [1901?] Printed by the American Lithograph Company, New York, 1900. Image courtesy of B. Battleson

Libby's tradecard - "Are you a Buffalo?"

Libby's Tradecard. The image shows the front and back covers of a trade card measuring 3"x 5" when folded.Inside the card is printed information about the Libby, McNeill & Libby company. [See below for the full text.] Published by Libby, McNeill & Libby, Chicago, Ill., [1901?]. Image courtesy of B. Battleson.


FACTS AND FIGURES about Libby, McNeill & Libby's PLANT.

Space occupied by plant, 6 acres; floor space, 25 1/2 acres. Capacity of cutting floor, 250 cattle per hour. Slaughtered weekly, 15,000 cattle.

Our stables contain 75 teams of a uniform bay color, many of them prize winners.

Eighteen boilers are in use in our powerhouse and our refrigerating plant has a capacity of 750 tons per day.

We prepare numerous varieties of ready-to-eat foods in this: also supply choice meats of all kinds to hotels and restaurants in all parts of the United States. We also produce large quantities of Smoked Beef, Hams, Bacon, Barrelled Meats and Sausages of every variety.


Number of people employed in Chicago Plant, 2,500. Annual payroll (about) $1,000,000.

We operate our own refrigerator car line.

Branch houses in all the large cities of the United States and Canada, and in each of the principal import centers of the world.

Monthly output, 5,000,000 cans.

Number boxes of tinplate used annually, 150,000.

Whenever exhibited, Libby's Canned Foods have secured highest awards for purity and excellence, receiving gold medals at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893; Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition at Omaha, 1898 and Paris Exposition of 1900.

Pan-American Exhibit-Manufacturers' and Liberal Arts Building, Section 11.

Libby, McNeill & Libby, Chicago, U. S. A.

Heinz pickle tradecard

Heinz Tradecard (pickle). Published by the H. J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, Pa. [1901?]. 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 Story Behind Heinz's "57 Varieties."

Orangeaide tradecard

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.

Nelson Morris-Fairbank tradecard

Nelson Morris & Co.-Fairbank Canning Co. Souvenir Tradecard. The image shows all pages of a single 3 3/8" x 5 1/8" folded trade card. Printed by the U.S.P. Company of Brooklyn. [1901?] Image courtesy of B. Battleson

The "letter" inside states:

Chicago May 20 - 1901
Dear Cousin
Owing to an engagement to contribute to the product of Nelson Morris & Co. and Fairbank Canning Co. (the great packers) I shall be stuck in Chicago and be unable to meet you in Buffalo. To show how fat and healthy I am I send you my photograph on the opposite page.
Yours truly
Berkshire Hog

The N. K. Fairbank Company also distributed Cottolene shortening products and published the Cottolene tradebook for distribution at the Exposition.

Swifts pinback advertisment

Swift & Co. Souvenir Pinback. Swift & Company, Chicago, Ill., [1901?]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.

Enterprise Mfg. booklet


1. The text is reproduced from the (Buffalo) Times, 20 October 1901. The images did not appear in the original article and are from other sources.

2. Excerpted from "Remarkable Test of Endurance.", featured on a Buffalo History Works web site.