The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was opened by President William McKinley on June 1, 1898. The Omaha Evening Bee of that date reported at length on the two-mile-long parade which marked the opening in Omaha.
There had been some concern that the outbreak of the Spanish American War several months earlier might adversely affect plans for the exposition opening, including the parade, but the Bee reported: “If the procession was lacking in the display of military that Omahans have long been used to seeing in the great pageants the place was adequately filled by the appearance of a number of goodly appearing, excellently drilled companies” of those too young for military service, students, and civic and fraternal societies.
The parade had four divisions. The first consisted of military style groups, the Transmississippi Troopers, representing Omaha’s business interests, in “their regulation uniform, consisting of silk hats, dress coats and white leggings”; University of Nebraska band and cadets; and sixty zouaves in their colorful uniforms.
The second division consisted of exposition officers and dignitaries, including Gurdon Wattles and William Jennings Bryan. The third division was made up of secret society drill teams and Omaha letter carriers. The fourth and last section was devoted to the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, and included what must have been one of the parade’s most spectacular floats, featuring a giant horseshoe labeled with the words “Good Luck” above a “History of the World” opened at the date June l, 1898.
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. The exhibit will be on view through May 31, 1999.