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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

Diary Account of Benita Gray's Visits to the Pan-American Exposition


Cover photo of Mrs. William C. (Benita) Gray's Journal

Cover of Mrs. William C. (Benita) Gray's Journal. Source: Kindly provided by Carolyn E. Fix, the grandaughter of Benita Gray.

In August 1901 Mr. and Mrs. William C. Gray of Utica, N.Y. traveled to Buffalo to attend a Prohibition convention and visit the Pan-American Exposition. They were there several days. Then in September, Mrs. (Benita) Gray returned to Buffalo to sing in the winning mixed chorus from Utica during "Welsh Day" at the Exposition when there was an Eisteddfod (music competition) being held on September 20. She recorded her experiences in a travel journal kept for such occasions. Her granddaughter, Carolyn E. Fix, having inherited her journal, has transcribed the Buffalo portion of her journal for its historical value.

Samples of the Handwritten Pages of Benita Gray's Journal. Source: Kindly provided by Carolyn E. Fix, the grandaughter of Benita Gray.
Sample 1 | Sample 2

Buffalo, July 31, 1901.

photo of Benita Gray

Portrait of Benita Gray with her husband, William Gray, of Utica, N.Y. Photo Credit: G.S. Sandford. Source: Courtesy of Carolyn E. Fix.

After some disappointments we started for Buffalo, Will and I, on the Fast Mail at 2:25 P.M. [from Utica, NY]. Nothing of importance transpired and we arrived in B. at 8:10 after riding on four or five different cars. We found Uncle Simon Staley's(?) house at 834 Prospect Ave. They have a boy Arthur about 7 1/2 years old. They are very comfortably situated. They were not expecting us as they had not received my letter. We visited awhile, then went to bed.

Will and I got up at 6 and took a walk out on Front St. to get a glimpse of the Niagara River and Lake Erie; the view was fine. Aunt Sim had breakfast ready when we returned. After eating Will and I went down the street and walked around a little. Then took a car to Con. [Convention] Hall to the National Prohibition Committee. There I saw Dr. Tasely, Mr. L----, Mr. Long and several others whom I knew. At noon we went to Allens restaurant for dinner and then went to the Con. in the P.M. Took a trolley and rode up around the Pan Am. Gate and to the Con. Wrote to Evelina [her daughter, age 6, my mother]. Then went to the Yacht Club home wharf at the foot of Porter Ave. Saw a number of yachts and some large lake steamers. Got back to the house at 11 P.M.

In the morning helped Auntie. Then Auntie, Will, Arthur and I went to the Con. and spent the day there until 12:30 A.M. Then went home to tea and left Arthur. [Then went back to the Con. where] we saw John G. Hutchinson of the famous Hutchinson family who used to give concerts as long ago as I can remember. He sang for us. [He was] almost 90 years old. Oliver Stewart gave an address; also Fred Victor of N.Y. City. In the eve was the Grand National Oratorical Contest, which was good but altogether too long. I got very tired.

Saturday. [August 3]

photo of Electric Tower at Night

Electric Tower at Night. Photographer: Arthur Hewitt. Source: Everybody's Magazine, v. 5, no. 26, Oct. 1901, Pan-American Exposition Number, p. 395. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Auntie, Will, Arthur and I went to the Pan American. Went along the Midway. There were 56,000 people on the grounds, as this was "Midway Day". We went through the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Buildings. After lunch we went with the crowd to the Stadium. There we saw 10,000 homing pigeons liberated, balloon ascensions, races, etc., etc. Went into the Temple of Music where the band was playing. Sat and rested awhile. Ate our supper, then went to the Liberal Arts Building awhile.

photo of Portions of the Midway Day Program

Portions of the Midway Day Program. Source: Official Daily Program of the Pan-American Exposition - "Midway Day" (August 3, 1901). Buffalo, N.Y.: The Exposition Company, 1901.

Inside page

Went and sat in front of the Electric Tower. Of all the beautiful sights our eyes ever saw, this beats all we ever heard of. Thought of as dreamed about. In the eve they altogether look like a city of light. We could hardly get away, but we did and sat on the bank of the Lake and watched the beautiful Electric Fountain illuminated by all the colors of the rainbow. Got back to the house about ten. I was quite tired.

Sunday [August 4]

Wrote a little. Uncle, Will, Auntie and I went to Normal (?) Memorial M.E. Church. Enjoyed the service very much. Mr. wrote to Alma after dinner. In the P.M. we all went to Forest Lawn Cemetery to cousin Frankie's grave. Walked around a good deal; met Mr. Wordwell. Saw a beautiful lake with hundreds of goldfish in it and swans. Also some fine monuments in glass cases; one of a little girl, one of a young man that died suddenly just as his mother was handing him a rose. Saw the Crematory (?). Then came back to the house and had supper. Auntie, Will, Arthur and I went back to the same church, visited awhile, then went to bed early.

Monday [August 5]

Will went to find some feather renovators [he was in that business]. We met him at ten o'clock at the foot of Main St. wharf. Took the steamer Superiorand went to Crystal Beach. That is a fine sandy beach on the Canadian side of Lake Erie about 10 miles from Buffalo. There are some fine hotels and a great many cottages there where people are spending their summers. Then we met Mr. and Miss Beechwood of Utica and had our lunch there. The boat was late, so we did not get back to B. till four. Auntie and Arthur went home and Will and I went down to the wharf to see the grain boats and elevators, which was a great sight. Then went through several large dry goods stores and made some purchases. Had soda water in one. Went and sat in the park and rested and ate popcorn. Got home at eight, had a late supper and wrote some.

photo of New York State Building

New York State Building. Artist: Unidentified. Source: From a postcard produced by the Niagara Envelope Manufactory, Buffalo, N. Y., 1901. Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant.

Tuesday [August 6]

Will and I got an early start to the Exposition. Visited the N.Y. State Building, Life-Saving Station, and South American, Cuba, Mexico, Alaska, Puerto Rico, U.S. Government, and Model Dairy [buildings]. Took a ride on the smallest railroad in the world and wrote our names in the biggest book in the world. Met Auntie and Arthur at 1 o'clock, had our lunch and went in the Manufacturers Building. In the Music Hall heard a grand organ recital. It rained. We visited the Electrical Building. Auntie and Arthur went home early. We had lunch and went around and through the Midway. Got back to the house about 9 o'clock. Saw John Royhill.

Wednesday [August 7]

It rained in the morn. About 9 we went through the market with Auntie, then Will and I went to the Pan. Went in the East Amherst Gate. Visited the Canadian, Missouri,Agricultural and Railroad [buildings]. Then we went in the Fish Commission. Saw the famous Tiffany diamond worth 100,000 dollars, also his case of jewelry worth 1,000,000 dollars. Went in the New York State Building, saw a lot on the Midway and got home about eight. Quite tired. Wrote to Mrs. Johnson and Eva Jones.

photo of Venice in America

Venice in America. Photographer: Unidentified. Source: The Pan-American and Its Midway. Philadelphia: J. Murray Jordan, 1901.

Thursday [August 8]

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Got up early. Arthur and I took a walk down on Seventh and Front avenues. Then Will and I went up to the Ex. and visited the Ostrich farm, [and the] Agricultural, Penn., N.J., New England, Chile, Ohio, and Minnesota buildings. Had dinner at the Nebraska Sod House. Saw the Art Gallery. Wrote to [several friends], went in Venice in America, Machinery and Manufacturers [buildings]. Had lunch at the Dairy and waited to see the Tiffany Fountain lighted up. Got back to the house at 9 o'clock. My Auntie had a chicken supper.

Friday [August 9]

Got up at 6 o'clock, packed my satchels, bade them goodbye. Started for Niagara Falls at 9:35. The sight is a grand one that I shall never forget. Took a ride on the Maid of the Mist; had to wear rubber cloaks. Then Will and I took a ride on the wirtrell (?) Railroad. Also took the Grand Gorge Route, it was a grand ride. Saw the Suspension Bridge. Then went to Lewiston and saw the head of Lake Ontario. Then went back to Niagara Village and took a walk out on the grand bridge to Goat Island. Got our lunch. Took the 3:45 train back to Buffalo and expected to leave for Utica at 5:15, but could not 'till 7:10. Nothing of importance transpired on the homeward stretch, except a hard thunderstorm and a minor accident which detained us about 30 minutes. Arrived in Utica about 1:20 A.M. Sat. morn and at home sweet home at two. Found all safe and sound.

Utica, the next Monday

Carry Nation Carry Nation

cousin Ruth Broadwell and daughter Creta (?) Merriman came and stayed until the next Friday. I went with them. Mina, Evelina and Alma came from Lebanon Sat. the 10th to tea at Edwina's., [to] Mrs. Chas. Griffins of 8 West St. and then to Mrs. Miller at 233 Rutger St. E. [Edwina?] and I went as far as Rome with them and spent the day with Eva [Evalina?]. When we arrived home [201 Howard Ave.] we found "Carrie Nation" and her hatchet at our house. She spent the night with us. [She was the famous radical prohibitionist who traveled around chopping up liquor bars with her hatchet. Therefore she was not welcome in many hotels and had to stay in private homes. My grandmother was also an ardent Prohibitionist.]

The Philharmonic Society gave a supper in the Auditorium. I went and when I got home I found Mrs. Pratt here from New Haven. She stayed a week. The next Tuesday, Glen Leigh came, she stayed 'till Friday. Wed. Mrs. Barker came from Oneida Castle, she stayed one night. Then Mrs. Rowlands spent the P.M. Mag. and a Mrs. Celingman (?) of Chicago called. Nellie and Evelina started for Rome and did not get back 'till Sat. 11 A.M. Aug. 31.

Sept. 2. Labor Day. Henry Lee(?) and wife of Webster, Ia, came. They stayed 'till Thursday. Spent most of my time with them.

Friday [Sept. 6]

President McKinley was shot and wounded at the Pan. Am. In Buffalo.

Leon Czolgosz

Leon Czolgosz, assassin of President William McKinley. Photographed September 5, 1901 by the Department of Police, Buffalo N.Y. Copy courtesy of the Buffalo and Erie County Histoical Society.

President William McKinley

President William McKinley. Photographer: Francis B. Johnston. Source: The Life of William McKinley, Including a Genealogical Record of the McKinley Family and Copious Extracts From the Late President's Public Speeches, Messages to Congress, Proclamations, and Other State Papers . New York, P. F. Collier & Sons, 1901.

[Sept. 10]

Was my 46th birthday and also my 23rd wedding anniversary. The Philharmonic Society gave a concert at the State Hospital. Friday eve we gave a grand concert at the Auditorium; made our two hundred dollars. President McKinley died at the Milburn House in Buffalo at 2 A.M. Sat. morn., the 14th of Sept.

Buffalo, Wed. morn the 18th

The Philharmonic Society started for Buffalo at 8:58. The 125 members arrived at our destination at 2:30 P.M. [We then] went to the Ansteth Hotel on the corner of Grant and Military. Later Edwina, Leroy Jones and I went to the Pan American and visited Machinery Hall and the Temple of Music. The Brooks Marine Band [i.e. Thomas Preston Brooke's Chicago Marine Band] was just playing The Sweetest Story Ever Told when we went in. Then we saw the Tiffany Fountain. Met Roy and Lee, had lunch together and went down to the Midway. Went back to our hotel at 11 o'clock and had coffee.

Thursday [the 19th]

Funeral cortege of President McKinley

Funeral cortege of President McKinley on Delaware Avenue, Buffalo. Photographer: Unidentified. Source: A Buffalo, NY newspaper clipping from September 19, 1901.

Everything closed on account of the President's funeral We had a rehearsal in Dearborn Street Baptist Church. Then most of the chorus went to Niagara Falls. Edwina and I went up on Prospect Ave. to call on Aunt Staley(?). Found her sick in bed. Went downtown and had dinner at the "Acorn". Went to the top of Ellicott Sq. Then went to see the Milburn Home where McKinley died. Spent the P.M. and eve at Emma Ayres at 128 Norwood Ave. Had a very pleasant time. Got back to the Ansteth at 10 o'clock.

Temple of Music Interior

The Temple of Music Interior. Artist: Esenwein and Johnson, Architects. 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.

Friday morn [the 20th]. Edwina, Leroy, Miss Philpott and I took a car for the Ex. Had a lot of fun. Visited the N.Y. State Building, Mines, Horticultural, Government, and Dairy [exhibits], and several State buildings and ate our lunch near the [Nebraska] sod house. Spent most of the P.M. in the Temple of Music at the Welsh Day Eisteddfod [music competition]. Our Cecilians Ladies Chorus of 32 voices won first prize of $175.00. Miss Philpott and I went in Agricultural Hall and then had a boat ride on the Canal. Met E.[Edwina?], had our lunch and went to the Temple of Music for the evening session. Our Haydens [male chorus] won second prize of $75.00, our Helen Griffith first prize of $10.00 for alto solo and the pieces we [the chorus] sang were "We Never Will Bow Down" [by Handel] and "God So Loved the World" [by Sir John Stainer]. Prof A-------, Adjudicator.

Welsh Day Program for Eisteddfod. Source: Official Daily Program of the Pan-American Exposition - "Welsh Day" (September 20, 1901). Buffalo, N.Y.: The Exposition Company, 1901, p.2

Utica Newsclipping: "The Philharmonics". Source: The Saturday Globe, October 8, 1901.

Prof. I. T. Daniel was our conductor [and Daniel Protheroe conducted the Eisteddfod]. And last but not least our mixed chorus of 125 voices, the Philharmonic Society of Utica, sang and won first prize of $1,000.00. (This is the chorus to which I belong). And all of the jollyfications I ever saw, that took the lead. We had coffee and did not go to bed 'till the wee small hours. The house did not quiet down 'till 4 A.M.

Temple of Music

The Temple of Music. Artist: John Ross Key. 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.

Buffalo Courier, Sept. 19, 1901

Sat. morn. Edwina, Leroy, Miss Philpott and myself took a car downtown, had breakfast at the "Acorn" and did some shopping. Edwina left us to start for Utica. The rest went to the Ex. and visited the Forestry, Indian Village, and Fish Commission [exhibits]. Then we took dinner at the Nebraska Sod House and went in Manufactory Hall. Saw Miss Libbie Ansleth Alaske(?) and met Leroy. We then went to the Johnstown Flood Bazaar and up and down the Midway. We left the grounds early, went to the Hotel and dressed in a hurry. We gave a grand concert in the Convention Hall in the City of Buffalo, which was a "success". Did not get up very early.

Sunday. Packed our baggage and breakfasted. Leroy and I took a car and went to the Lake Erie front. Most of our chorus went home early Sunday morn. Called at Auntie's. She and Arthur went back to the Ansteth [Hotel] as she and they [the Ansteths?] were old friends and they had a turkey dinner. Then all hands had our pictures taken by J.P. Williams in back of the house. We started for Utica at 3:10 P.M. Arrived here at 9:15 all safe and sound. Took a bath and went to bed at 11. Very tired and with quite a hard cold Utica, N.Y. Philharmonic Choir, 1901

The Utica, N.Y. Philharmonic Choir, 1901. Photographer: Carl K. Frey. Source: Utica Newspaper Clipping. (Possibly the Saturday Globe?)

Benita Gray is visible in the photograph directly behindthe woman in the first row with a dark waist-tie (just to left of center gentleman).

Tuesday eve, Oct 1. Had a meeting called to give Prof. Daniel $100.00, Miss Utter, our pianist, $25.00; Bert White Sect. and Mr. William Tree(?) $10.00 each. The balance was then divided equally among the 125 singers [which figures out at $6.84 each]. [The average annual income in 1900 was $400.]