Monday, June 17, 2013

Kate Green Paul: Local Participation in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (continued)

Kate Green Paul is #4

Following our pervious overview of local participation in the Chicago’s World Fair at the national level, we continue with the organizations and contributions on the state and local levels. Because of her position on the National Women’s Board, Kate Paul was called upon to take part in local undertakings. Reading the newspapers reports at that time (and today we would find the writing very sexist), the prominence of many women in the preparations for the event was ground breaking. 

An act of the General Assembly, passed on March 4, 1892, created the Board of World’s Fair Managers of Virginia. An appropriation of $25,000 was approved, but no one considered the amount enough to accomplish all the plans. The governor appointed a ten member board to secure exhibits on the resources, products, and general development of the Commonwealth of Virginia to show at the World’s Columbian Exposition. The Board had authority to take all the “necessary steps to secure a complete and creditable display of interest to the state including the solicitation, collection, transportation, arrangement, exhibition of all objects sent to the Exposition.”  

In Richmond on April 6 and 7, 1892, the Virginia committee held an organization meeting. In addition to the ten male members, Mrs. John Paul and Mrs. John S. Wise, National Lady Managers, attended the meeting. At the meeting Colonel A.S. Buford was elected President. The Board approved Mrs. Paul’s resolution to appoint ladies to the local auxiliary boards. In other organizational matters, the Board approved a $50 dollars a month salary for the Secretary, T. C. Morton. The Board asked Mr. Hurt to secure contributions from the railroads for transportation of Board officers and members. The Board, after making executive arrangements, considered the scope of the Virginia exhibits and the assistance to exhibitors in the transporting of their exhibits to and from Chicago. The broadness of the Executive Committee’s thinking with regard to Virginia’s participation in the Fair can be seen in the establishment of and appointments to the following Boards: Building, Agriculture, Mines and Mining, Press and Printing, Transportation, Liberal and Fine Arts, Manufacturing and Machinery, Naval Review, Statistics and Periodicals, and Religious Denominations. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction was also to prepare an education exhibit. Kate Paul served on Statistics and Periodicals and the Religious Denominations committees. 

Throughout the State, enthusiasm for the Fair appeared to be high. In mid-June 1892, the State Board announced that applications for space at the Fair would close on July 1. Also in June, the State Committee asked the public schools to set aside October 12, 1892 as a day for state-wide celebrations of Columbus’s achievement.

The legislation establishing the Virginia Board also gave the Governor authority to appoint auxiliary boards to be composed of one man and one woman from each of the counties and cities in the State – a total of 234 people. In addition to State authorized committees, congressional districts had their own auxiliary board to map out work to be done in their area. Kate Paul served on this Board for the area’s congressional district.

The Auxiliary Board met in Roanoke May 10-12 and delegated the completion of the State Building scheme “to the ladies of Virginia,” (and noting the National Lady Managers, Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Wise) to do their “patriotic duty of raising funds to duplicate Mount Vernon” at Chicago as the State’s building. The ladies were asked to raise $15,000 for the building - about $150 from each county and city. The Board authorized “a handsomely engraved” certificate of membership in The Mount Vernon Columbian Memorial Association of Virginia” to all who contributed a dollar or more to the State building. The Auxiliary Board suggested that the ladies by “means of strawberry feasts, ice cream, oyster suppers, amateur performances, concerts and a thousand other pleasant ways” beguile closed-fisted men to donate money.

In July 1892, the Virginia board for the state building solicited contributions from Virginia publishers and authors and learned societies of Virginia. The collection was to be catalogued (by Kate Paul?) and deposited at the close of the Exposition in the Virginia State Library. (Today the VSL holds many papers relating to Virginia’s role in the Chicago Fair.)
Meanwhile in Rockingham County, a County Cooperative Committee formed to aid in the raising of funds for the State building in Chicago. The raising of funds in the County was organized by magisterial district and within the district by post offices area. A man and a woman served as co-chairs in funding raising effort. The list of the solicitors reads as a “Who’s Who” of prominent area residents and included a Sipe, Keezell, Yancey, Zirkle, Moyerhoeffer, and Byerly. 

A fund raising event in Harrisonburg for the State building was held at the end of August. Mmes. Paul, Ott, O’Ferrall, and Funkhouser were some of the members of the arrangements committee for the lawn party at the Court House yard. In early September 1892, the ladies staged a “grand full dress ball” at the Reeves House. Mmes. Paul, Ott, Harris, Lewis and others managed this event. Tickets were one dollar for a gentleman and lady and $.75 for a single ticket.  

 The need for more funds was not unanticipated and the State Board issued in early 1893 a State-wide appeal signed by the President of Virginia Board of World’s Fair Managers, the Agriculture Board, and the Governor for $10,000 to complete the Virginia exhibits. The Fair’s opening date of May 1 was rapidly approaching. There were reports that chaos reigned at the site in Chicago. In early April the Rockingham Register reprinted an article from the Lynchburg News reporting that none of the buildings were completed and exhibits were jammed-up in railroad yards. The article recommended visiting the Fair after July, preferably a visit in September or October when the weather would be pleasant. The opening date of the Fair was moved to May 15.

In late April and through–out the summer the railroads advertised special excursion rates to Chicago. The Baltimore and Ohio sold tickets at a 20 % discount. The B & O route to Chicago was by the Potomac Valley to Pittsburgh or the Allegheny Mountains. The Chesapeake and Ohio offered a $57.35 tour starting in Staunton at 6:45 pm and arriving in Chicago 5 pm the next day. The rate included rail fare, six days board and lodging and tickets for six venues at the Fair.

During the Fair almost every weekly personal column in the Rockingham Register reported the names of local people who had visited the Fair. When the Fair was over, almost one in every three Americans – more than 25 million people - had visited the Columbian Exposition.

The replica of Mount Vernon was completed and its simplicity contrasted sharply with the Beaux Arts architecture of the main fair buildings and with the other states buildings. A record of those who visited exists at the Library of Virginia. The number of people in Virginia who were in some way involved in the preparations was very large. One suspects, this was by design. People who had a personal and financial stake in the Fair would be more interested in attending the Fair. Kate Paul had a larger role than many people in Virginia. On one hand Kate Paul was “modern” when insisting that women be appointed to the Auxiliary Boards and, on other hand, we find her participating in traditional social fetes. Also her involvement seems to be, not unlike participatory events of today, attending meetings.



 It was disappointing that we found no references in the newspaper on the amount of money collected locally for the Virginia building exhibit. In the preparation of this article, there was not time to search the extensive files on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair at the State Library where this information might be found. 



Library of Virginia Online Catalogue.

Rockingham Register.

1892: April 8; April 15; June 3, June 10; June 19; July 29; August 5; September 2

1893: March 19; April 21; April 28; May 5; May 12; August 25; November 3.

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