Greetings from Vacationland

World's Fairs

For many Americans, traveling to see a world's fair was a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime event. An estimated 27 million visitors attended the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, a marketing opportunity that publishers seized by selling official souvenir postcards. The large number of postcards from subsequent fairs in Buffalo (1901), St. Louis (1904), San Francisco (1915) and San Diego (1916), as well as regional expositions attest to the enduring connection between attending a fair and buying postcards.

As showcases for emerging technology and innovation, world's fairs had a profound influence on American tastes. The fairs helped popularize architectural styles (Beaux-Arts) and introduced visitors to new foods (ice cream cones). Postcards were a convenient way for visitors to document their experience at world expositions. Many of them emphasized the monumental spectacle that greeted fair goers, while other cards featured more exotic tableaus or captured a carnival atmosphere that drew as much attention as the official pavilions. In Chicago picture postcards were still a novelty, but by 1904 in St. Louis, exposition cards had mass appeal and fed an international demand for collecting. Postcards had become a routine expectation for fair visitors, and they were not disappointed by the choice of subjects and styles when the time came to buy a pictorial souvenir.

Blimp flying over St. Louis Fair

"I cannot begin to describe the beauties of the Fair,
it is grand, each building is a Fair of itself."


World's Fair, St. Louis, MO, 1904

Entrance Palace of Liberal Arts

Palace of Liberal Arts, World's Fair

Corner Palace of Varied Indusries

Corner Palace of Varied Industries

Missouri State Building

Missouri State Building, World's Fair

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, World's Fair

Palace of Electricity at the World's Fair

Palace of Electricity, World's Fair

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Il, 1893

The electrical building

The Electrical Building, Exposition

The agricultural building

The Agricultural Building, Exposition


Official Ticket, Exposition

The fisheries building

The Fisheries Building, Exposition

World's Fair, San Francisco, 1915

Main exhibit palace

Pan-Pacific International Exposition

Night illumination

Night Illumination, Pan-Pacific International Exposition

Panoramic view

Panoramic View, Pan-Pacific International Exposition

World's Fair, Buffalo, NY, 1901

Temple of music

Temple of Music, Pan-American Exposition

World's Fair, San Diego, 1916

street view

East Gate, Pan-California Exposition