Historical Trivia

Spotlight Artifact: 129 Year Old Piece of Cake

President_cleveland_weddingOn June 2, 1886, President Grover Cleveland and Miss Frances Folsom married in the White House’s first wedding ceremony. Folsom, only 21 years old, was well-educated, beautiful, and charming, endearing the new First Lady to her American Public. 2013 Valentine ClevelandWhile critics of the President considered the May-September marriage scandalous, the public was enamored by the First Lady’s youth and beauty, likening the White House romance to Royal nuptials. The President’s handlers also capitalized, using France’s age as a positive image for the 40-year-old Cleveland. Today, 129 years after America’s first “royal” wedding, the Buffalo History Museum shares in its memory by displaying a small slice of wedding cake. Guests attending the ceremony were given cake boxes, holding small groom’s cakes. These cakes were dark and soaked in alcohol which may account for its excellent state of preservation. grovercakeIn 1886 it was not uncommon to receive a piece of wedding cake as a parting favor from the wedded couple. Tradition dictated that if one placed the cake under their pillow they would dream of their future spouse. – Rebecca Justinger, Registar   *This article was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of “The Album”


Celebrate Grover Cleveland’s Birthday & learn more about our only president to serve two non-consecutive terms tonight at 6pm. 
Visit http://www.buffalohistory.org for more details. 

Buffalo’s Julius Francis and Mr. Lincoln

JuliusFrancisJulius E. Francis came to Buffalo in 1835 from Connecticut and ran a successful drug store business for nearly 35 years, mostly at 268 Main Street. The photo above is of his store at 16 South Division St. Beginning in 1865, with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Francis became absorbed in preserving and promoting the martyred President’s memory. He collected much Civil War and Lincoln memorabilia, but determined that there must be a national observance of Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. A bachelor, he declared that this cause was “my wife and my life.” At his own expense, Francis held the first of seven annual observances of Lincoln’s birthday. Each year until his death in 1881, he rented a hall, arranged the speakers, poets, music, essayists, and invited the public to attend free of charge and honor Abraham Lincoln.

PAB_11.14.2007 Lincoln-His two attempts to persuade Congress to establish a national Lincoln’s Birthday holiday failed and he died in 1881, having founded the Buffalo Lincoln’s Birthday Association which continued the work. In his will, he made the Association heirs to his house and lot at 145 East Eagle Street, and six $1,000 bonds. In 1901, the Association contracted with New York sculptor, Charles H. Niehaus, to create a statue of Lincoln that would grace the new Buffalo Historical Society in September, 1902. Their Francis legacy had grown to $10,000 ($221,556 in 2005 dollars), of which they spent $6,000 for the 1,200 pound bronze statue. At least one copy of this statue exists, in a park in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The chair is a copy of Lincoln’s “chair of state,” stored at the Smithsonian.

The original location of the statue was in a portion of the new Buffalo History Museum building named, “The Lincoln Room.” That room also contained the Francis Lincoln memorabilia collection. In the early 1930’s, the statue was moved outdoors in front of the South Portico of The Buffalo History Museum, where is remains today.

Lincoln’s Birthday was never designated as a national holiday (unlike George Washington’s), but was approved as a legal holiday in a number of states. Today, most people assume incorrectly that President’s Day nationally honors both Washington and Lincoln.

2006 is the 132nd year during which observances have been made in Buffalo for Lincoln’s birthday. The ceremonies are carried on in Julius Francis’ memory, also, for having the passion and the vision to celebrate one of the greatest American Presidents.

Article written by Susan Eck and featured in “Western New York Heritage Magazine”

Join us this Sunday, February 15th for President Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration!

Discovering the Howard D. Beach Collection: A Journey Into History

This is the story of discovering of the Howard D. Beach Photographic Studio Collection through the course MST 623 Digital Collections. Made possible through generous donations and the joint efforts of Dr. Conides and Noelle Wiedemer at Buffalo State College and The Buffalo History Museum.

TBHM    beach1

Figure 1 & 2: Welcome to The Buffalo History Museum, the home to the Howard D. Beach photography studio collection of glass negative plates.


Figure 3: Here is where the collection is currently being housed. Our class consists of 13 Graduate students, who are unearthing images that have yet to be viewed by anyone in almost 100 years. We are the first class to have our hands in this collection under the guidance of our professor Noelle Wiedemer. It is truly an exciting time!

The collection was found in the basement of the Howard D. Beach home and photographic studio when it was sold. Negatives, Paintings, Prints, Records, and Receipts were found in various states. From pristine condition to varying degrees of decay.beach3

Figure 5: These boxes represent a small smattering of the “other” items found among his collection besides the glass negatives. Some of the materials have been destroyed by time and weather, while other items are in almost pristine condition.

beach4 Figure 6: A yellowed image, clearly a very old print. Just one of many treasures waiting for their history to be revealed.

Figure 7: Some images, apparently frobeach5m first glance the images seem to be charcoal or pastel on paper, approximately, 16” X 20”. At this point, there are more questions than answers.

What are these? What were they used for? Did he use them somehow as back grounds that he super imposed in his photographs? Only time and looking further will tell.

beach6Figure 8: Walking into one of the rooms that store the Beach colbeach7lection, classmates are looking through a box of 6 ½” X 8” glass negatives box and showed me this; Figure 9: Excited to see H.D.B. (Howard D. Beach) showing women utilizing books in his photographs has set my mind in motion. I can’t help but wonder what year this photograph was taken nor what else might be uncovered with each box that is opened. It is hard to imagine 60,000 glass negatives. To help give the reader perspective, consider that each box in the background of Figure 9, contains 6-8 boxes containing approximately 12-16 negatives each.

beach8Figure 10: Today I opened the bankers box marked 42400-42700. As I had randomly selected a box of the 8” X 10” negatives, I had no idea what I would find inside! My mind raced about the possibilities of the hidden treasures that lay within; Gloves applied, equipped with pen, paper, camera and a light box, I gingerly pulled the first box of negatives out and laid them on the table. The box is numbered, it is unclear at this time, what it belongs to, however, I must be patient, as there are many steps to uncover the history of these negatives

Figure 11: Looking in the Banker’s Box marked 42400-42700, rbeach9eveals five Hammer 8“ X 10” Photographic Dry Plate negative boxes in varying degrees of decay. Forgetting for a while to write any observations down at all, engrossed in the details of the glass, fascinated by the images of countless faces that have no significance to me, and yet, the negatives state with dignity that they lived. I find myself drawn to the details that accompanied each image and in Beach’s own handwriting, the name of the subject(s), delivery due date, Reference number(s) that correlated to the customer’s details stored in a meticulously kept card catalog.

beach10Figure 12: Manufacturer Hammer Dry Plate Company, Negative Box top. The image reveals the number 42400, which correlates to the numbers of the negatives found inside, or did presumably sometime in the past.

Figure 13: The above image is marked as the N Literary Society. The negative is shown with the emulsion side up, with the name of the customer, date (print was due for delivery to customer and a corresponding number that relates to the card catalog of Howard D. beach12Beach’s customers.

Figure 15: My curiosity continues to be peeked when I found this image of an older woman with her reading glasses holding a book open seemingly to a specific page. I can’t help but wonder if I will be able to read the poem when the negative is digitally inverted.

After several hours of looking through the five boxes I came away with a few images that struck a chord. I still have more images to select before I begin my research on the individuals of the images I have selected to research.

– Danielle Delia
Museum Studies student at Buffalo State

Summer Intern Diaries

When I came to The Buffalo History Museum for an internship with the Collections department in the Resource Center, one of my primary tasks consisted of cataloguing a collection of Fisher-Price toys from the 1960s through the 1990s.

The collection is a treasure trove of Fisher-Price at its best: Little People and lap desks, chime balls and a cash register, telescopes and a Toot-Toot steam engine. ???????????????????????????????There’s a rainbow grand piano, a saxophone, and a xylo-drum. The oldest toy is a 1963 “Huffy Puffy Steam Engine” with a cheerful face on the engine and a caboose; the newest toy is the brightly colored saxophone, which chirps peppy notes and dispenses soap bubbles from its bell when played.

Aside from getting to revel in the nostalgia that accompanied cataloguing toys from my childhood, I was also lucky enough to interview one of Fisher-Price’s retired toy engineers. Fred Robjent worked as a Product Development Engineer from 1978 to 2005. After receiving his Associate’s degree in mechanical engineering and his Bachelor’s degree in agricultural mechanization, Mr. Robjent worked at a few smaller companies before joining the Fisher-Price team. Once hired, he went through a rigorous training program. He went on to work as an engineer for the company through its periods of massive growth, its time under Quaker Oats, and finally its purchase by Mattel.

Mr. Robjent helps Walter Mayer, our Director of Collections, with the upkeep and repair of an apostolic clock in the collection. When he heard we were doing a project on Fisher-Price artifacts, he brought a number of his own personal artifacts, vintage catalogs, and limited employee edition books to the Resource Center for me to use in my research. He was happy to shed light on the design process and share his knowledge of the specific artifacts in our collection.

Fisher Price Roller SkatesMr. Robjent personally worked on the iconic Fisher-Price roller skates. He designed and patented a mechanism that made the toy skates safer for preschoolers. If you had a pair of the skates in the early ‘90s, like I did, you might remember the yellow switch on the bottom of the skate that allowed parents to choose from three settings. One stopped the wheels from moving at all, one stopped the skates from rolling backwards, and one allowed uninhibited skating. While Mr. Robjent has eight patents in his name, this was the one that seemed to make him most proud.

Fred Robjent spoke often of the company’s desire to make the toys as safe as possible. Fisher-Price set numerous safety standards in the toy industry that remain in place today. However, when asked what he loved most about working for Fisher-Price, Mr. Robjent said that it was the company’s family atmosphere he loved most.

Samantha Vandermeade
Summer Intern, Collections Department

Spotlight Artifact: Bathing Suits

Now that summer is finally upon us, we decided to share a past article from our Summer 2013 issue of “The Album,” featuring two bathing suits from our collection.


Wool Swinsuit, 20-30s

Bathing Suit • “Neptune’s Daughter” • Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation Wool • 1920s-1930s

The swimsuit has a long and varied history. In the early 1900s, women wore long gowns with bloomers underneath. These bathing gowns were weighted down by several heavy layers of material, occasionally with weights sewn into the hem so the material would not float. Fabrics were chosen for bathing suits that would not become transparent when wet. By the 1920s, swimsuits were mostly made out of wool for that very reason. Being so absorbent, swimsuits tended to become heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention itchy in the summer sun. This black wool swimsuit from our collection dates from the 1920s to the 1930s. Labeled “Neptune’s Daughter,” this one-piece swimming suit with attached knickers was made by the Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation of New York, NY.

Bathing Suit Rose Marie Reid of California Acetate 1960s-1970s

Bathing Suit • Rose Marie Reid of California • Acetate • 1960s-1970s

By the 1930s and 40s, bathing suits were rapidly changing. Hemlines were shorter and more bare skin was showing. It was not until the late 40s and early 50s that one-piece bathing suits, or maillots, started to be produced in a variety of fabrics, moving away from wool. For comparison, we have a patterned swimsuit, from the 1960s to the 1970s. This brown, yellow, and black stripped acetate bathing suit, donated by Angela Georgi, was created by Rose Marie Reid of California. Made from a light-weight, stretchy fabric, one would imagine that this would have been much more comfortable to wear to the beach.

Rebecca Justinger

Frederick Law Olmsted’s Buffalo Park System: Drawings and Photos of the First Park and Parkway System in America.

The Civil War is over and the soldiers have returned home. The American Industrial Revolution is in full swing. The pre-war population of the City of Buffalo was 81,129. The population after the war it is approaching 117, 714.

Pratt was Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from its creation in 1869 to1879. Portrait: Collection of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Pratt was Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from its creation in 1869 to1879. Portrait: Collection of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Frederick Law Olmsted recognized the need for green space in urban areas whose lands are being covered with factories emitting soil and air contaminants. At this time Buffalo was one of the largest cities in America. A citizens’ committee, whose members included Pascal P. Pratt, Sherman S. Jewett, and Wm. Dorsheimer, realized the city’s need for open spaces and requested the landscape firm of Olmsted, Vaux & Co., to plan a park. After an initial visit the firm decided the city really needed a whole system of parks and parkways. 

Pratt became the first Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from its creation in 1869 to1879. “He will go down in history as the founder of Buffalo’s magnificent park system.”

Olmsted’s vision was to create “a City within a Park.”

The first parks designed were “The Park,” “The Front” and “The Parade.” Each park had a different purpose.

“The Park”  (1875), Richard Veenfliet  (1843 - 1922) Collection of the Buffalo History Museum

“The Park” (1875), Richard Veenfliet (1843 – 1922) Collection of the Buffalo History Museum

The Park was for strolling around the lake and down the paths that lead through woods and meadows always presenting a fresh view to visitors.

Olmsted’s design intent at The Front, however, “was not simply discovered scenery, but was artfully constructed to enhance nature.” 

The Parade (Martin Luther King Jr., Park) a 56-acre park designed by Olmsted in 1871, was intended for military drills.

Humboldt Park (formerly the Parade): revised preliminary plan. Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, Brookline, Mass., December 11, 1895. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

Humboldt Park (formerly the Parade): revised preliminary plan. Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, Brookline, Mass., December 11, 1895. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

Humboldt Park (Martin Luther King, Jr., Park)
Formerly the Parade Revised Preliminary Plan, 1896. In 1896 there was no longer a need for military drills. John C. Olmsted redesigned the park. He added a 5-acre wading pool, lily pond and a sheltered dining area where one could rest and be refreshed.

South Park, Preliminary plan for South Park.  F. L. Olmsted & Co., landscape architects, Brookline, Mass., April 27, 1892. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

South Park, Preliminary plan for South Park. F. L. Olmsted & Co., landscape architects, Brookline, Mass., April 27, 1892. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

South Park
The 155-acre South Park was designed in 1894 as an arboretum with more than 2,300 types of trees, shrubs and plant life appropriate to the Buffalo climate. A special area within the park or a large conservatory building was also planned.

Martha Neri, Archivist for Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Cynthia VanNess, Library Director of The Buffalo History Museum, organized the exhibit.

On display now at the WNED Horizons Gallery is a wonderful collection of rarely exhibited framed drawings by Frederick Law Olmsted and his firm. The exhibit can be viewed in the WNED Horizons Gallery during regular business hours until May 9 2014.

Albert H. Chestnut Diaries

French Toast – Dip stale slices in batter of thick milk (1/2 small cup/eggs),

sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla & fry with little more cream then pancakes – can deep fry

Does the recipe trigger a happy memory of cooking with a family member? Or a morning breakfast with a good friend? To Albert Chestnut a recipe was a motivator to help him survive. Albert was a prisoner of war. The Japanese held him captive in the Philippines and Japan for a total of three years and five months during World War II. While captive, he spent much of his time reading, playing cards and writing in his diaries about the poor and inadequate food he was served. At his lightest, Albert weighed less than 100 pounds, was malnourished and tried to obtain vitamins from Japanese doctors. Many of the final pages in Albert’s first diary are devoted to recipes and planning out weeks’ worth of meals for when he hopes to return home; return home to Buffalo.

For the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to spend time transcribing Albert’s diaries. Albert wrote in unusually tiny pencil handwriting, 1/16” at the most, which is why I have been devoting my time and eyes to transcribing his personal piece of history. Because of the pencil writing, there are often words or sections of pages that have become smudged or blurred making it difficult to read portions of the passages.

Albert Chestnut

Albert Chestnut, photo from the collection of The Buffalo History Museum

Albert Chesnut’s first diary begins around April 9th, 1942, the day the United States surrendered at Bataan and Americans and Filipinos were consequently taken captive by the Japanese. April 9th is also the first day of the Bataan Death March; a march that led Albert and the other prisoners up the Bataan peninsula stopping at Marveles, Cabatuan, St. Fernando and finally, ending at Camp O’Donnell, an eighty mile march, which was completed in only eleven days. After nearly seven months of being held at Camp O’Donnell, Albert’s hope of a quick rescue was beginning to fade; “November 1 – Must admit that am quite disappointed for honestly hope help would come by now.” Three days later Albert was sent by train back down to Manila, marched through the business district and held on a dock in the bay for four days. Over a thousand men were then packed below the deck of Nagato Maru, known as a Japanese Hell Ship, and sent to Japan. “November 7 – Last night a real terror – Left Manila about noon as part of big convoy – Really sort of glad to leave Philippines but even ocean breeze cannot help heat and stench of hold where have to eat too – Toilet facilities hopelessly inadequate – Two meals a day – Packed 75% of men below for night as heat terrific – Had hatch covered for time to keep out rain.”

Once in Japan, Albert was sent to Osaka and, on January 16, 1943, he began his stay at a camp know as Zentsuji. While there, Albert faced many of the same conditions as Camp O’Donnell; starvation, poor sanitary conditions, and a constant risk of life threatening diseases. Keeping his spirits up Albert spent much of his time reading censored Japanese newspapers, reading circulating books (“Franklin” by Bernard Fay, “The Well Tempered Listener” by Deems Taylor, “Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo), playing card games, attending prisoner run classes such as Spanish, Trigonometry and Bookkeeping, and going to lectures at night also given by other prisoners.

I am beginning transcription of the second diary and have reached December of 1944, but still have months to get through. As of December 1944, Albert is still being held at Zentsuji, but as I read, I routinely find heartbreaking entries such as these:

“March 17 1943 – Another glorious spring day for St. Patrick’s Day – Badly miss the little Irish box sis always sent for the season.”
“April 26 1943 – …Certainly miss Easter eggs and basket of other years which gave me so much pleasure for days afterwards.”
“June 6 1943– Today is sis’ birthday and feel sorry can’t help her celebrate.”

Pages from Albert Chestnut's diary, from the collection of The Buffalo History Museum.

Pages from Albert Chestnut’s diary, from the collection of The Buffalo History Museum.

Reading and transcribing these diaries have taken me to another place in a different time and have reminded me to be grateful for everything I have. For curious readers, I skipped ahead to Albert’s final entry on October 22 1945; he writes “This was the day of days, the culmination of over four years of hoping, waiting and praying – At just past 12:30AM train left Buffalo and mother and sis waiting with box of cookies and other stuff.”

Albert Chestnut donated his diaries, the photograph in this post, his Army commission and other family papers in 1999 (Mss. A99-10). Due to the fragility of the diary bindings and the possible handling smudges, the physical use of the diaries are restricted to serious researchers with a valid ID from an institution of higher learning and are engaged in a PhD dissertation. I invite you to come in to the Research Library, take advantage of the transcription and take a transformational journey with Albert Chestnut.

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian

Native American History in the Museum Shop

Native American display 2The shop at The Buffalo History Museum is not simply for souvenirs.  Although we do have plenty of those, we also stock items of local interest that are difficult to find elsewhere.  We carry a wide range of books about local history, many by local authors.  Among our book selection is an excellent collection on Native American history. Thumbing through the pages in this collection reveals a breadth of fascinating knowledge.  Most of us in Western New York have at least a rudimentary knowledge of local Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) history.  But, our book collection on this subject dives into deeper levels of understanding on this important local culture.

One author who has spent his life digging into buried Iroquois history is Gerry Biron. It is important to note that Biron, like many Native authors today, prefers the term “Haudenosaunee” to refer to the Iroquois people.  Haudenosaunee is the name the Iroquois use to refer to themselves, and more people today are realizing it is respectful to use the Native term rather than one thrust upon them by outsiders.  Just as their name is being revived, Haudenosaunee art is also being given the recognition it deserves. Biron has spent years researching and collecting Native American beadwork made by the Haudenosaunee people from New York to Canada. He explains the historical importance of beadwork to the Native people.  Each design is filled with symbolism and meaning. The beadwork would grace clothing and accessories. Eventually these accessories, especially small ladies’ bags, would be sold as souvenirs at Niagara Falls.

Today many in the art world from collectors to galleries are emphasizing the notion that categories such as “folk art” and indigenous art have long been dismissed as kitsch, or “less than” the fine art standards as defined by Western sensibilities. Biron has made it his mission to redefine our perceptions and elevate Native beadwork to be recognized as art of important significance. His collection of beaded bags and antique photographs of beadwork have been displayed in galleries in the American Northeast. The Buffalo History Museum Shop carries two of his books; A Cherished Curiosity and Made of Thunder, Made of Glass.

Another author who is digging through hidden Native history is Sally Roesch Wagner.  In her book, Sisters in Spirit, Wagner explores how women’s rights advocates were inspired and influenced by Seneca women and cultural traditions.  We know that The Women’s Rights Movement of the mid-19th century was concurrent with the Abolitionist movement. These two groups often worked together, as both recognized that they were two disadvantaged groups in society. These movements were heavily based in Western and Central New York.  In fact, both the Susan B. Anthony House and the Frederick Douglas Resource Center are located in our close neighbor city, Rochester.  The famous Seneca Falls Convention for Women’s Rights was held in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848. But, many of us don’t realize the ties between women’s rights advocates and the local Native people of Western, NY.

Sally Roesch Wagner says that while Susan B. Anthony is the main person that history often focuses on when discussing the Women’s Rights Movement, she chooses instead to discuss Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage; two women with strong views that are controversial even today.  But, what is striking about these women is their efforts to immerse themselves in understanding the culture of their Seneca neighbors. While many people today don’t understand the complex dynamic of the hierarchy of the Iroquois Federation, Wagner explains that Harriet Maxwell Converse, a close friend of Matilda Joslyn Gage, understood it very well. Converse explained that the Iroquois Federation was made up of six distinct nations, and each nation was unique. She says “The Seneca Nation… is as distinct among Indians as France, Germany, and England are distinct among the nations of Europe” (p23). Within each nation are several tribes.  Therefore the Seneca are not a tribe, but the nation that houses many tribes. This distinction is important because referring to the nations as tribes diminishes their status and affects how they are perceived by those responsible for negotiating and honoring treaties.

Because they exposed themselves to Native life and culture, these women’s rights advocates observed a social dynamic completely unlike the Western model. While men and women of the Seneca certainly did have gender roles, their roles did not subjugate women. Since the Seneca traced ancestry through the matrilineal line, women retained custodial rights of children, whereas European American women lost custody of their children in the event of a divorce. Other issues which are uncomfortable to discuss, such as a women’s right over her own body and domestic abuse, are also explored by Wagner. In an age when a woman who fled from an abusive marriage could be forcibly returned to her husband just as runaway slaves were returned to their masters, women’s rights advocates from Upstate New York found inspiration in the rights afforded to their neighboring Seneca women.

NativeAMericanBooksThese books are only a fraction of the Native American selection we stock here in the Museum shop. While these examples highlight largely unknown history, we also carry books that are more general overviews, as well as children’s history books about Native culture, as well as gifts and trinkets such as playing cards, miniature canoes, and other items. These items compliment a visit to the museum to see our wonderful Native American exhibit. So, please plan a day to learn a little about local Seneca culture at the Buffalo History Museum and Shop!

Carolyn Emerick
Museum Shop Employee

Pan-Am Exposition Map – Then and Now


Some Pan-Am Planning Fun Facts

  • Eight million Americans celebrated the dawn of a new century by visiting the Pan- American Exposition in 1901
  • The Pan-American Exposition opened its doors on May 1, 1901. Turn-of-the-century Buffalo was prosperous and growing. The exposition’s energy, dazzling presentation, brashness, patriotism, refinement, and hucksterism all captured the spirit of the city.
  • After a series of controversies and delays, the Pan-Am’s Board of Directors selected the
    Rumsey Farm as the site for the exposition. The farm lay between Elmwood and
    Delaware Avenues north of the city’s developed area.
  • During the summer and fall of 1899, hundreds of men working with horse-drawn grading and earth-moving equipment attacked the 350-acre site. Planners laid out a design centered around an inverted “T” to lead visitors toward the Electric Tower, promoted as the height of human achievement.
  • Less than a year later, the site swarmed with the activity of thousands of workers and craftsmen racing to erect the exposition’s 90 major buildings and make them weather- tight before the onset of winter. As the buildings climbed skywards, other groups of workers excavated canals, laid out roads, erected fountains, and installed thousands of trees and shrubs.
  • Buffalo was a growing industrial city with a large immigrant population of Poles, Germans, Italians, recent arrivals from other European countries, and a small community of African Americans. Pan-Am contractors had no trouble hiring large gangs of laborers, carpenters, plasterers, and other skilled craftsmen. In just over 18 months, these workers transformed open farm fields into the “Rainbow City,” an enormous and visually stunning fantasy world.

Stay updated with The Buffalo History Museum blog for more trivia and behind the scenes fun with museum staff!