Saturday, January 25, 2020

1956 Mid America JUBILEE, St. Louis

A few years ago I found a group of 35mm Kodachrome slides that showed a fair, or carnival, or some mysterious event that I couldn't identify. Eventually I figured out that the photos featured the 1956 "Mid America Jubilee", held in St. Louis, Missouri. You'd think that would open the floodgates, but it was still not easy to find much information about this fair from 60+ years ago. 

In this first photo, we see crowds of guests, presumably arriving from some distant parking lot (or train station?). Note the stadium in the distance.

One of the things I am unsure of is the exact location of this Jubilee. The only real clue I've found is in this photo (and the next), with McKinley Bridge visible in the distance. 

It appears that the pavilions were built with a mind toward economy, which is why you'll see things like scaffolding and fabric rather than steel and plaster. I like the look of that fanciful building with the cupola in the distance, I wonder what it is?

Aha, it's Der Biergarten! Can nuns drink beer? I hope they had a glass with their lunch, just because. There's a sign to the right for Ludwig ("St. Louis Landmark of Musical Progress"), a famous manufacturer of pianos - in New York, and not St. Louis, as far as I can determine.

FORD: Fine Cars... On the Parisian Promenade. Oo-la-la! Just imagine what beautiful cars were on display. The little white picket fence protecting those scraggly plants looks a little worse for wear. I blame the biergarten.

If you have a fair, you have to have a fun zone! This one looks pretty modest, and yet I'm sure it was a fun way to spend an hour or two.

Investment, banking, AND insurance? It's like heaven on earth. At first glance this structure appears to be stone, but I'm sure it's stucco or some equivalent.

Presumably the "Parisian Promenade" got its name from this miniature Eiffel Tower. It lacks the grace of the original article, but I guess it gets the job done.

There were a number of evening photos as well, and they didn't turn out that great, but I opted to scan them anyway! Since I can find nothing about the individual buildings pictured, I decided to share an article from Billboard magazine (from September 19th, 1956) which I will quote from:

AIMS AT 500,000: St. Louis Jubilee Tabs 200,000 at Half Mark - St. Louis - The Mid-America Jubilee, month-long riverfront exposition here ended the first half of its run here Saturday (15) with over 200,000 paid admissions. Target attendance, set before the run, was 500,000 and officials looked to hit this figure, weather permitting. Gate is 75 and 50 cents.

The expo, located on a 38-acre site, features its historical pageant, "Heartland, U.S.A." with several hundred participants lead by John Beal, Marlys Watters, Camila Ashland, Oliver Cliff and Wayne Erck. (Not THE Wayne Erck?!). The spec is presented nightly on a multi-level stage constructed in front of historic Old Cathedral and seats 4,200. Ducats are priced at $1.50 for adults, 75 cents for children under 12.

A Kiddieland fun zone, called World's Fair Kiddieland, with all rides themed to the jubilee scheme, is operated by Harry Blue and Morris Schachter. A total of 17 devices are operated and business has been exceptional on the weekends, generally good during the week, Schachter reported.

Concessions are limited to eat-and-drink stands, dairy bars, popcorn, peanuts, photos and a major restaurant-beer garden. The latter is operated by St. Louis restauranteers, including baseball's Stan Musial, Biggie Bignani and Henry Ruggeri.

I found this small foil sticker on eBay, and purchased it for twenty million dollars just so you could admire it.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Mid-America Jubilee!


Nanook said...

Evidently one of the world's best kept mid-century secrets. Looks interesting - if not a bit on the temporary side. Some nice mid-century fashions, too.

Thanks, Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Thanks, Major, for today’s fun mega-post! Is this in celebration of the return of Photobucket?? :)


TokyoMagic! said...

It does look like an interesting fair. And thanks for spending the extra money, just so we could see that sticker, Major! I guess they didn't want it to say, "Meet Me In St. Louis."

K. Martinez said...

Wow! These photos are truly wonderful! It's like an alternative reality and the kind of thing I dream about where worlds are in transition and haven't quite completed themselves. The scaffolding really gives these images a sense of surrealism. I LOVE IT!

The pic with the wall of scaffolding along the walkway leading to "Der Biergarten" and the "Parisian Promenade" pics, both night and day are my favorites. Thanks, Major.

Andrew said...

What a weird looking exposition...with JUBILEE in all caps, as it should be! In the picture of the midway, you can see an Everly Octopus ride as well as two Eli Bridge Co. Ferris Wheels. Thanks for the nice read today! Oh, and when I hear "mid-America," I can't help but think of Six Flags Over Mid-America, the original name for Six Flags St. Louis. Of course, that park was only a dream at this time.

Chuck said...

I've lived in the St Louis area a total of almost 17 years (yikes! Never calculated it before...). How have I never heard of this event? The Fair, sure - the one in 1904 - but this has escaped me. Time for a trip to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park to ask some pointed questions about the cover-up. I sense this goes all the way to the top!

Based on the location of the Old Cathedral and the bridges, this fair was held on the riverfront in what is now Gateway Arch National Park (the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial until 2018). The area would have been readily available; it was cleared in the late '30s and early '40s before construction on the memorial was halted for nearly 20 years. It's still a sore spot in St. Louis history as it destroyed some remaining historic buildings and forced displacement of the mostly low-income African-American residents elsewhere such as the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project.

The first photo is facing north. The dirt berm visible is the old levee. The current levee is about 600-700 feet to our right, with all of the area between here and there filled in except the railroad right-of-way.

In the distance, just under the yellow billboard, you can see the 1874 Eads Bridge, the first bridge across the Mississippi south of the Missouri River and the oldest bridge still standing across the Mississippi. Behind that (behind the billboard) is what was then the brand-new (1951) Veterans' Memorial Bridge, now known as the Martin Luther King Bridge.

That "stadium" appears to be between us and the cathedral rather than in the distance - note the scaffolding just beyond the tents and the light bank to the left of the cathedral building. It seems an odd to put a grandstand right in front of the cathedral like that.

The south leg of the Gateway Arch will eventually be built about in line with the back of the cathedral to the extreme right of the frame, behind the right-most peak on that temporary structure with the primary-colored strips.

Melissa will note the identically-dressed girls in the lower right of that first image.

The second and third photos are facing south, with the 1917 MacArthur Bridge in the distance. In the third photo, you can make out both the railroad and the auto decks of the MacArthur; in 1956, this was the primary route of US66 across the Mississippi (Bypass 66 crossed north of St. Louis on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge).

The amusement zone photo is facing south again, with a better glimpse of both the stone-and-iron Eads and the taller steel Veteran's Memorial Bridges to the extreme right. I think all of those buildings at the left are gone now, replaced by more recent development.

The Parisian Promenade photos are also facing south, with the MacArthur Bridge in the distance. I'm surprised Nanook didn't alert on the '56 Chevys on display, but they were probably - and understandably - eclipsed by such a magnificent, highly-detailed replica of one of Gustave Eiffel's masterpieces.

That Tinkertoy dome in the nighttime photos looks like it belongs at a World's Fair...or maybe a theme park (that can't quite seem to settle on its theme )in Florida.

Thanks again, Major, for another spectacular road trip Saturday!

Chuck said...

Sorry - the amusement zone photo is facing north.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it’s so crazy, I really had a hard time finding anything about this “Jubilee”. Definitely a forgotten celebration.

Lou and Sue, well I wrote this post two months ago, but I am definitely celebrating the return of Photobucket!

TokyoMagic!, some people might say that I overpaid for that 20 million dollar sticker, but I say it was worth it. I wonder if there was any kind of reference to that famous Judy Garland movie at any place within the Jubilee?

K. Martinez, I’m glad you liked these pix! They were definitely a fun find - sometimes it can be frustrating to try to research random photos, but of course I had a photo of the main marquee, so I had a starting point. I think the scaffolding + cloth construction is an interesting (and certainly inexpensive) solution.

Andrew, I can’t help wondering if other major cities had similar fairs/expos/jubilees that have been mostly forgotten over the last 60 years? I have some items from Chicago’s 1950 “Frontiers of Freedom” fair that I will need to share here someday. Thanks for the info about the rides and the reminder about Six Flags Over Mid-America.

Chuck, I was wondering if you had ever heard of this event! If you find out anything at the Missouri History Museum, please let me know. Thank you for clearing up the location. I’m sure most cities have a record of displacing minorities and the less-affluent in the name of progress (like when L.A. tore down people’s homes in Chavez Ravine for the building of Dodger Stadium). I was wondering what that dirt berm was… an old levee, interesting. Thanks also for pointing out so many details that I would have never noticed, such as the two bridges visible in that first pic. Now that I think about it, the “stadium” might be a temporary structure where they performed the historical pageant, “Heartland, U.S.A.”. Fascinating to think that the Gateway Arch would eventually be built in this location (I know from a previous post that its development took many years). I really appreciate all of the research you did!

Sunday Night said...

As much as I love pics of the Mark Twain comin' 'round the bend at Disneyland, these rare photos of long forgotten fairs and exhibitions are so fascinating. Thanks for restoring them Major and thanks Chuck for the great details. Those twilight pics are especially interesting.

Photo Bucket pics are coming back! Looks like a lot of them have been restored! Hopefully the rest will come back soon. I started looking at them again starting at the beginning (2006). So many great GDB memories.

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-
Yes - thanks for all that research-! It's fascinating and answered a lot of questions floating-around in my head.

It's possible in the long shot of the Fun Zone image there's a red/white Chevrolet just in front of the Ferris wheel; but those vehicles parked in the Parisian Promenade are a Ford and a Mercury - 1956 model years, of course. (Although, being that it's September, I wonder why the brand new 1957 models weren't on-display-?)

Chuck said...

Major, I will let you know if I find anything out. I am intrigued. And that makes sense as a place for viewing stands for the pageant. It's probably farther away from the front of the Old Cathedral than it looks.

Nanook, eh, Ford, Chevy - they both have four letters. I was close. ;-)

Actually, I feel kinda silly - another photo shows a sign proudly proclaiming "Ford...Fine cars...on the Parisian Promenade" - and we can see the back of that sign in the two photos with cars in them. Didn't put that together. That's what I get for not doing any research...

"Lou and Sue" said...

Chuck, in addition to those identically-dressed girls in the first picture, there's also an identically-dressed mom and daughter in the 3rd picture. Sweet. :)

Wayne Erck?!?! I thought I'd pitch in and do a little research as to who he was/is. I googled his name and you wouldn't believe how many Wayne Ercks there are/were!! There's a Wayne Erck (in his 70's) who's the President and COO of Moon Family Farms in Mulberry, Illinois (just a few miles from St. Louis). Maybe this Wayne Erck is the son of THE Wayne Erck. Chuck, please add this to your list of things to research. Now I'm curious. :)

Thanks, everyone, for all the research and interesting history - and laughs, today!

Major, your quote from Billboard magazine states there was a MAJOR restaurant-beer garden. You never told us . . .


Warren Nielsen said...

Major and all,

Fascinating pics of history here today.

One has to wonder what the driving force or idea was behind this shindig. Was it to draw tourism, or draw business interests (Come see what we can offer you in beautiful St. Louis!) or was the idea to have one every other year, or 4 years, or ??? Celebrating statehood? And why did it fade from history/legend/memories of the city?

Good stuff as always, Major. Thanks for posting.