WikiStamps:1901 Pan-American Exposition Commemoratives
The series is a showcase of technological advances from the turn of the last century. Though identified as commemorative today, they were not considered "commemorative" in 1901. Most of these early stamps, like the Columbian and Trans-Mississippi Exposition stamps, were issued as promotional items. They were meant to reinforce the Exposition and World's Fair's purpose ---to highlighted the technical achievements playing a role in America's new, twentieth century.
The Pan-American stamp designs are large in comparison to the size of the stamps themselves. When reviewing the quality of these stamps, pay special attention to the top and bottom edges which have a perforated edge. There were no straight-edges at left or right, but even then the stamp may have been reperforated to hide a flaw. There are six stamps in the series, the 1¢ Fast Lake Navigation, 2¢ Fast Express, 4¢ Automobile, 5¢ Bridge at Niagara Falls, 8¢ Canal Locks at Sault de Ste. Marie, and 10¢ Fast Ocean Navigation.
The Pan-American Exposition was organized by the Pan-American Exposition Company, formed in 1897. Cayuga Island was initially chosen as the place to hold the Exposition because of the island's proximity to Niagara Falls, which was a huge tourist attraction. But when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, plans were put on hold.
After the war, there was a heated competition between Buffalo and Niagara Falls over the location. Buffalo won for two main reasons. First, Buffalo had a much larger population — with roughly 350,000 people, it was the eighth-largest city in the United States. Second, Buffalo had better railroad connections — the city was within a day's journey by rail for over 40 million people. In July 1898, Congress pledged $500,000 for the Exposition to be held at Buffalo.
Another helpful factor was that Nikola Tesla had recently invented a three-phase system of alternating current power transmission for distant transfer of electricity. This allowed designers to light the Exposition in Buffalo using power generated 25 miles (40 km) away at Niagara Falls.
The exposition is most remembered because U.S. President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, at the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901. McKinley gave an address at the exposition the previous day; his speech included the following words:
Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancements. They stimulate the energy, enterprise, and intellect of the people, and quicken human genius. They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty storehouses of information to the student....
The newly-developed X-ray machine was displayed at the fair, but doctors were reluctant to use it on McKinley to search for the bullet because they did not know what side effects it may have had on him. Also, ironically, the operating room at the exposition's emergency hospital did not have any electric lighting, even though the exteriors of many of the buildings were covered with thousands of light bulbs. Doctors used a pan to reflect sunlight onto the operating table as they treated McKinley's wounds.
When the fair ended, the buildings were demolished and the grounds were cleared and subdivided for residential streets. A boulder marking the site of McKinley's assassination was placed in a grassy median on Fordham Drive in Buffalo. The sole surviving structure, the New York State building, was designed to permanently outlast the Exposition and be used by the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society as a museum. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, it can be visited on Nottingham Court.