Monday, December 29, 2008

New Orleans 1885: Closing of the Exposition.....

On May 31st, 1885 the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition came to a close, $470,000 in debt. The 5-1/2 month-long exposition had been plagued with financial difficulties since its December 16th opening, and also greatly suffered from under-attendance. Of the four-million visitors originally projected by exposition management, only 1,158,840 actually attended. On March 3rd, Congress had appropriated an additional $335,000 for the struggling exposition, with the understanding that the funds were to be used to pay outstanding debts to persons, firms, and corporations not living and doing business in Louisiana. An additional amount of $15,000 was also appropriated for the Woman's Department. Congress made it clear that the funds were "final aid", and that the money was a gift, rather than a loan. On May 20th, amidst the continuing controversy over exposition mismanagement, Major Edward A. Burke resigned the office of Director-General, and was replaced by Samuel H. Buck for the remaining eleven days of the exposition. In addition to financial and attendance problems, weather conditions during the exposition period had also been unpredictable. In early May a severe rainstorm struck New Orleans, and the storm's intense winds toppled the three sheet-iron smokestacks on the exposition Boiler House. One of the falling smokestacks collapsed a portion of the roof, which caused a boiler to explode and extinguish all steam and electrical power on the exposition grounds. Fortunately, only one boiler mechanic suffered minor injuries, and repairs to the Boiler House were completed within several days. Since May 31st was to occur on a Sunday, exposition management decided that the official closing ceremonies should be held on Monday, June 1st. The brief ceremonies were held outdoors, along Live Oak Avenue, and several speeches were addressed to the large crowd that had gathered for the closing day. A probable re-opening of the exposition in the autumn, under new management, was alluded to and greeted with loud cheers. The vast crowd then dispersed, amidst the bustle of workers dismantling and packing-up exhibits throughout the exposition grounds.

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