Industry and Industriousness at the St. Louis World's Fair

Dublin Core

Title

Industry and Industriousness at the St. Louis World's Fair

Description

By Mary Wise 

University of Iowa Professor Charles Nutting, curator of the then new Museum of Natural History, and Professor William Patterson arrived in St. Louis in early November.[1]The St. Louis World’s Fair was closing and fair administrators planned to sell the immense anthropological collection. Fair visitors dwindled; rapacious museum men replaced them.[2] Our duo purchased nearly six hundred items from the Philippine Reservation.[3]  Strikingly, Nutting was enthusiastic about acquiring models, particularly of industries in the Philippines.[4] Imagine what Nutting and Patterson saw: Moro textiles that featured the most vibrant colors, impossibly intricate Bagobo bracelets, and more. And Charles Nutting was most excited about models? Why? 

According to the colonial anthropological narrative at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the presence of western industriousness signaled civilization; its absence signaled primitivism.[5] Using anthropological exhibits, including the Philippine Reservation, imperial anthropologists tried to convey one coherent narrative that justified continued intervention in the Philippines. William McGee, head of the Anthropology Department at the Fair, displayed humans at several points along a unilinear evolutionary axis to reinforce imperial notions of progress, development, and industry.[6] But, a coherent narrative that reinforced the imperial narrative never emerged from the Fair.[7] Instead the Philippine Reservation undermined imperial assumptions about industry, industriousness, and modernity. While imperial anthropologists believed the Philippine Reservation convinced visitors the Philippines was on a precipice and that only with American intervention could they successfully industrialize, fair visitors, and our own rapacious museum men, bore witness to a completely different Philippine Islands than the one described by imperial anthropologists.[8]


[1] Charles Nutting William MacLean, November 10, 1904, William MacLean Correspondence Records, University of Iowa Archives.

[2] Ibid,  November 26, 1904.

[3] See the correspondence of Charles Nutting, William MacLean through beginning November 10 through December 3, 1904. William MacLean Correspondence Records, University of Iowa Archives.

[4] See Charles Nutting William MacLean, November 26, 1904, William MacLean Correspondence Records, University of Iowa Archives.

[5] See McGee, W. J. “Anthropology at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition” Science, New Series, Vol. 22, No. 573 (Dec. 22, 1905), 815.

[6] Ibid, 824.

[7] Please see Kramer, Paul. “Making Concessions: Race and Empire Revisited at the Philippine Exposition, St. Louis, 1901-1905. Radical History Review 73:74-114.

[8] Ibid, 80-81. Also, the objects themselves speak to this fracturing of the colonial narrative. See Taylor Finch’s piece for more information on how the objects work to undermine the colonial narrative. 

Creator

Unknown Photographer

Publisher

St. Louis Public Library

Date

Summer 1904

Rights

Public domain

Files

Citation

Unknown Photographer , “Industry and Industriousness at the St. Louis World's Fair ,” History Corps, accessed January 16, 2018, http://dsph-dev.provost.uiowa.edu/historycorps_sandbox/items/show/236.