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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Oct 26, 2021

The 1904 World's Fair had many wonders, and it brought over sixty countries from around the world to showcase their technologies and their cultures in Forest Park. One of the most popular exhibits was the Chinese Pavilion, a huge structure modeled after a summer palace in China. Prince Pulun, the heir apparent of China, actually lived in the pavilion for several months during the fair and, himself, became an attraction. Just press play to hear the whole story. ------

Click on search links to explore episodes with related content:  Adam Kloppe, 1904 Worlds Fair, Forest Park,  People of Note, Asian American - Pacific Islander American History, ------


Podcast Transcript: I’m Adam Kloppe, public historian at the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on eighty eight one, KDHX. ------

In 1904, St. Louisans were excited about the World’s Fair for many reasons. Some were excited about going on heart-stopping rides while others wanted to see the latest scientific breakth

roughs. And others still were excited to use the Fair as an opportunity to see the world. At the Fair, over sixty different countries were represented. For St. Louisans, it must have felt like the world got dropped in their backyard. ------

But perhaps no nation’s display at the 1904 World’s Fair was as popular as China’s. China had never put on an official display at a World’s Fair before, and the Qing dynasty went all out in putting together an impressive presentation. China had a presence in many of the different palaces around the Fairgrounds, including the Palace of Fine Art, where they displayed a 17 foot tall portrait of the empress dowager. The heart of the Chinese display at the 1904 World’s Fair was the Chinese Pavilion, a huge structure modeled after a summer palace in China. ------

The pavilion contained about 6000 pieces of hard-carved woodwork and its grounds also contained a rose garden and goldfish pool. The pavilion was a huge hit with fairgoers. ------

Most fairgoers also hoped to spot Prince Pulun, who at the time was considered next in line to become the emperor of China. Pulun spent some four months at the Fair, living at the Chinese pavilion and entertaining guests and dignitaries. Pulun was photographed seemingly everywhere he went on the Fairgrounds and he became something of a media darling in St. Louis in 1904. Reporters tracked where the carriage he had been gifted by Adolphus Busch was spotted around the city, and also took every opportunity to express delight whenever Pulun complimented St. Louis, the Fair, or any aspect of American culture. ------

Pulun had his own reasons to be complimentary of the Fair—after all, he was trying to improve the diplomatic relationship between the US and China. But his efforts found limited success, especially back in China. Newspapers in China reported heavily on the fact that Chinese laborers and merchants had been denied access to work on the Fairgrounds. They also claimed the displays did not accurately represent China. After the fair was over, most of the Chinese pieces displayed at the fair were not sent back to China, but instead were sold off and used as decoration in homes around St. Louis. ------

Here’s History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. I’m Adam Kloppe and this is eighty eight one, KDHX, St. Louis.