Pieces of Our Past
May 20, 2013
Artifact: Louisiana Purchase Exposition Materials
Significance: The three-day dedication of the buildings of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (known to many as the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair) was held April 30 to May 2, 1903. (The fair did not open for another year to allow for construction of additional buildings.) This fair celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) has several artifacts and papers from this World’s Fair, some of which are simply general souvenirs collected, but others actually deal with the Synod. This exposition was the first in which the Missouri Synod hosted an exhibit – one on Lutheran schools.
About the Schools Exhibit: A booklet in CHI’s Louisiana Purchase Exposition materials titled
“Descriptive List of the Lutheran School Exhibit of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other States” provided both information and statistics about the Synod’s school system as well as a list of items that were contained in the exhibit. Over fifty percent (438) of the Missouri Synod schools where teachers served in the classroom were represented in the exhibit with written work by pupils; where pastors served as teachers, twenty-two schools were included. School work on exhibit included the following subjects: English language (grammar, spelling, composition), U. S. History, Geography, Arithmetic, Penmanship, Religion, German language (Grammatik [grammar], Diktat [dictation], Aufsatz [essay writing], Brief [letter writing]), Drawing, Physiology, Zoology, Botany, Shorthand and Algebra. In addition to school work from elementary schools, the exhibit included 809 photographs of school buildings and classes.
The Synod’s institutions of higher learning were also featured with photographs, textbooks used and catalogues. Walther College, a high school in St. Louis at the time, also had a full exhibit. Another portion of this Lutheran School Exhibit presented a collection of schoolbooks and aids prepared and printed by Concordia Publishing House. The booklet noted that a comparison of the older schoolbooks with more recent ones in the display demonstrated the Synod’s constant efforts at improvement.
Apparently the Missouri Synod was given an award from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, conferring a gold medal to the Synod in the Elementary Schools Division of the exhibits.
In addition to the Synodʼs exhibit on Lutheran schools, Concordia Publishing House had its own exhibit in the area of printing and publishing and received a grand prize for “excellence of workmanship and materials.” The exhibit featured the Saint Louis Edition of Martin Lutherʼs work in German.
About CHI’s Exposition Materials: Besides items specifically related to the Lutheran School Exhibit, the Institute has paper materials including souvenir booklets, special event programs and maps to official photographs and postcards. The library holdings also include a 500-plus-page bound official catalogue for the German Empire Exhibition held at the fair. This book is interesting, as it was No. 68 of only 300 special numbers issued of the catalog. The CHI collection of museum artifacts includes two porcelain beer steins.