Thanks to the intrepid Eve Kahn for her feature article on my book and the Pan American Exposition: Echoes of an Exposition, and an Assassination.
BUFFALO — THE Pan-American Exposition of 1901 was meant to celebrate America’s ingenuity and dominance over the Western Hemisphere — you know, when America was “great again.” Eight million people paid about 50 cents each to see buildings edged in light bulbs, sprawled across 350 acres at the suburban northern edge of this city. They also flocked to the nearby Niagara Falls to watch daredevils try to survive the rapids.
And then there was the assassination of the nation’s 25th president, William McKinley, at one of the fair’s gilded plaster palaces, the domed Temple of Music.
To study the expo’s twists of fate and surviving traces, I spent three days following around experts assembled by Margaret Creighton, a Bates College professor and the author of a new book, “The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City: Spectacle and Assassination at the 1901 World’s Fair” (W. W. Norton). Ms. Creighton and I met with scholars who are excavating artifacts and scouring archives connected to the 1901 events, and she offered insights into the fair’s amusements and philosophical framework, not the least of which were its undeniably racist overtones.