The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898 was an effort by Omaha to advance its promoters’ claims that it was the gateway to the wonders of the West. President William McKinley officially opened the exposition at noon on June 1, 1898, by pressing a button which sent electric current flowing from Washington across the nation to Omaha to set the machinery in motion. The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln), June l, 1898, editorialized on the prospective benefits the entire state might reap from the fair:
“The good state of Nebraska has adorned herself for the opening of the exposition today in a way that must warm the cockles of the hearts of the most fastidious. Never was a landscape more lovely than that presented by our prairies this 1st of June, 1898. It seems a pity that so many of the investors from the east may simply cross the Missouri, see the big show on its banks [in Omaha], and then depart without seeing the greater show that Providence has spread throughout the borders of this great state for the delectation of the eyes of the seasonal eastern people.
“It is to be hoped that the railroad companies will see right away the good policy of encouraging a trip to the interior of the state by the visitors to the exposition.”
Beginning June l, 1998, the Nebraska State Historical Society marks the centennial of Omaha’s Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition with a new exhibit in the Headquarters Building rotunda. Souvenirs, photographs, and printed materials recall the “world’s fair” that attracted some 2.5 million visitors between June l and October 31, 1898. It will be on view through May 31, 1999.