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Dakota Datebook

Lewis and Clark Exposition


In the days before the internet and mass media, huge fairs provided entertainment and educational opportunities. The White City of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair attracted people from around the world. The St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 was immortalized in Judy Garland’s film “Meet Me in St. Louis.” And on this date in 1905, the Lewis and Clark Centennial American-Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair was in full swing in Portland, Oregon. 

Located on the west coast, the Lewis and Clark Exposition presented business opportunities of tremendous magnitude. North Dakota was anxious to participate. The state’s exhibit was located in the Agricultural Building. People who knew nothing of the Great Plains would become familiar with the state and its products. An article in the Hope Pioneer detailed the effort that went into the North Dakota exhibit. The newspaper boasted that the Wyoming and Montana exhibits, located directly across the hall, could not draw as many spectators as North Dakota. Even Oregon, which took up fully half the building, could not compete.


The centerpiece was Teddy Roosevelt’s cabin. This drew a great deal of attention. President Teddy Roosevelt sent an autographed portrait to hang on the cabin wall.


Large glass grain jars displayed the grains produced in the state. The display was called “the most original as well as the most beautiful work” in the building. The agricultural exhibit was augmented by prairie chickens and jack rabbits.


The display of North Dakota pottery made from the clay near Dickinson surprised many spectators. Businessmen were anxious to get more information about the clay.


There was an impressive flour exhibit from mills across the state, and with Asia beginning to open up, the mills hoped the exhibit would broaden their market overseas.


The railroads also helped boost the state. Since many people returning east after the fair would travel through North Dakota, the railroads offered “stopover privileges,” allowing passengers to spend time in North Dakota before continuing on their journey at no extra cost. That had folks asking about interesting places to do some sightseeing.


Additional excitement was expected later in July when it was North Dakota Day at the fair. The paper said it was sure to “attract the attention of every person on the grounds to North Dakota and her exhibit.”


Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher



Hope Pioneer. “North Dakota at Portland Fair.” Hope ND. 6 July 1905. Page 3.

Young Architect. “Lewis and Clark Exposition.” https://youngarchitect.com/2015/11/25/the-1905-lewis-and-clark-exposition/  Accessed 5/26/2020.

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