It was a dramatic opening for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition on April 30, 1904, easily the most anticipated day ever in St. Louis.
The seven-month run was a smashing success. At least 12 million visitors paid to get in, and 20 million is the often-cited total attendance.
Some of the popular exhibits spoke to racial mores of the times. Today the exhibits would be viewed as insensitive or even abhorrent.
Fairgoers were fascinated by the huts and habits of the “primitive” Igorrote tribe of the Philippines and living portrayals of “model schools” for Native Americans. Geronimo, the great Apache warrior and captive of the American government, charged a dime for his autograph.
But the most popular display - and most controversial - might have been the dancing Batwa Pygmies of Africa.
The Pygmies arrived in St. Louis on June 30, 1904 and from the start were treated as anthropological curiosities rather than as distinguished guests.
On August 11, 1904, things hit a new low when an An "anthropological athletic meet" was held in conjunction with the fair. The Pygmy part of that competition: pelting each other with mud.
These clippings from the Post-Dispatch provide a glimpse of that treatment.