Archives: That time there was a World's Fair in north Omaha - Omaha.com
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Archives: That time there was a World's Fair in north Omaha
By Micah Mertes / World-Herald staff writer


For five months in 1898, Omaha was host to the Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition, a 184-acre spread on the northern edge of the city near the Missouri River. (Here's the original map of the grounds).

They built a bunch of big beautiful buildings made of hemp fiber and plaster of Paris. They offered ostrich rides. They even dug a canal. It was gorgeous. By its end, the Expo drew an admission of more than 9 million.

The 1898 expo serves as the setting of Omahan Timothy Schaffert's new book, "The Swan Gondola," which is getting glowing reviews and has some "Water for Elephants-y" qualities that could make it a hit.

To celebrate "Swan Gondola" and its historical Omaha setting, the Omaha Public Library is hosting a special exhibit dedicated to the Expo. The exhibit, which opens at 6 p.m. Friday and will run through Feb. 28, will take place at the Michael Phipps Gallery of the W. Dale Clark Main Library, 215 S. 15th St. At the exhibit's opening reception, Schaffret will be on hand to sign copies of "The Swan Gondola."

OPL's collection of thousands of photos and artifacts (including contributions from The Durham Museum and private collectors) is stunning. You can (and should) see the full collection here.

Below are a few photos I plucked from the archive, with permission of Omaha Public Library. Also included are a few occasionally hilarious Expo headlines and ads from The World-Herald archives.

This. In Omaha.


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I mean, they dug a canal.


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They offered amazing exhibits.


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They incubated babies.


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And had a farm of curious ostriches.


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And made those ostriches pull buggies.


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The World-Herald's archive of Expo-related stuff is pretty paltry in comparison to OPL's, but there's some interesting stuff.

Leading up to the Expo, we covered the Moses out of it.


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The big day eventually arrived.


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And The World-Herald ran some fantastic ads around this time, ads that showed it was an amazing time to be alive in 1898.


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And at the end of October, the gates to the White City closed.


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Contact the writer: Micah Mertes

micah.mertes@owh.com    |   402-444-3182    |  

Micah is an online editor for Omaha.com


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

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