October 29, 2022 | Last updated Jun 12, 2023

World’s Industrial and Cotton Exposition

The World’s Industrial and Cotton Exposition opened in New Orleans on December 16, 1884. As the largest world’s fair held in the United States to that date, it attracted international attention. Many nations, including England, France, China, Japan, Austria, and the South American countries, had exhibits. The Nebraska display was largely the result of the efforts of ex-governor Robert Furnas and a small group of volunteers.

The Nebraska State Journal of March 25, 1885, included a March 20 letter written from the New Orleans exposition by “J.D.C.,” likely J. D. Calhoun, a former Southerner, and Journal editor. He described what he felt were the highlights of the fair for Nebraskans who planned to venture this far South just twenty years after the close of the Civil War. He also described points of interest around New Orleans for out-of-towners, including “a large collection of beautiful alligators for the benefit of the curious” at Spanish Fort. He concluded with practical advice for the cost-conscious:

Obtain quarters above Canal street, the nearer the exposition grounds the better. You will be required to pay from $1.50 to $8.00 per day for a nice room with two meals a day–breakfast and dinner, the latter at 5 or 6 p.m., and the former at 7 to 8 a.m. A lunch should be taken between. . . . Don’t be in too much of a hurry to go to the grounds. Six or seven hours in the middle of the day is sufficient for either pleasure or information. Study the programme which appears daily in the morning papers, and take advantage of any special feature you may desire to see. Don’t fail to hear the Mexican band on the first opportunity. As for the exposition generally, adopt no plan but be guided by circumstances. Buy none of the so-called guidebooks. They were printed to sell, not to benefit the buyer. . . .

Sit down at no restaurant table where you cannot obtain a bill of fare with all the items of cost plainly printed. You can buy many articles in the way of notions and dry goods cheaper here than at home, but by the time you pay charges for hauling your trunk around the profit will be eaten up. Never pay the price, first asked for an article in the exposition booths. You can get it cheaper. Prices there are extravagantly high for such little souvenirs as you would like to take away with you.

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