The 1901 Pan American Exposition
In the year 1901, the city of Buffalo, New York hosted the Pan American Exposition. The Expo served both the United States government as a place for welcoming Central American countries after the recent Spanish American war and it gave the City of Buffalo and New York State a platform to advertise their new science and technology in the production of hydro-electric power. The opening festivals included a speech by Theodore Roosevelt, then Vice President of the United States.
The Niagara Power Company had been installing power lines for several years by 1901. Buffalo city administrators and businessman realized a great opportunity with their local electric technology and decided to showcase this new science throughout the Exposition. By 1901, the city had electric street lights, an electric trolley system and was lighting a few of their large public buildings. Buffalo was a growing sprawl of urban development with key industries in Grain and Flower, Steel production and many forms of manufacturing. In conjunction with the famous Erie Canal and having a great train station, it had become a major shipping center between Chicago and the great midwestern wheat belt, and Atlantic shoreline cities such as New York, Boston and Baltimore.
The Exposition was sometimes called “The Rainbow City” because of the way strings of lights of various colors covered the many buildings. A central focus was the massive “Electric Tower”, which was designed by John Galen Howard. This tower measured 391 feet tall and acted as a great light beacon. It functioned as a place to view not just the Exposition itself, but also the great “Niagara River” in the distance, the same river that Nikola Tesla had dreamed about harnessing as a young boy. Inside the Tower building was a large 18 foot tall nude statue of a winged angel holding a torch. She was named the “Goddess of Light” and she truly seemed to be a monument representing the success and genius of Nikola Tesla.