The Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, meant to herald the twentieth century, went tragically, spectacularly awry.
In 1901, Buffalo was the eighth-largest city in the United States, and its leaders had big dreams. They would host a world’s fair, showcasing the Americas, and bring millions of people to western New York. With nearby Niagara Falls as a drawing card and with stunning colors and electric lights, they hoped the fair would be more popular and more brilliant, literally, than Chicago’s White City of 1893.
The Exposition opened with fanfare; its wonders, both strange and magnificent, dazzled the public. Then tragedy struck. In the early autumn of 1901, an assassin stalked the fairgrounds, waiting for President William McKinley. That was shocking enough, but there were more surprises in store. A female daredevil captivated crowds by trying to ride a barrel over Niagara Falls. Apache leader Geronimo startled visitors with a controversial performance. And a showman called the Animal King, the self-proclaimed star of the Midway, announced that one of his acts, the smallest woman in the world and the fair’s “mascot,” had been kidnapped. Then he staged the attempted electrocution of an elephant.
In this extraordinary account, Margaret S. Creighton lifts the curtain on the assassination of McKinley as well as on the fair’s lesser-known battles, involving both notorious and forgotten figures. In a story that is by turns suspenseful, heartrending, and triumphant, she reveals the myriad power struggles that not only marked the Exposition but shaped the new century.