Jamestown, 1907

I’m really a "follow the research" kind of guy, so it’s hard for me to present a proto-thesis or "research questions" at the moment… I’m still digging.  Nevertheless, I’d like to talk about what I’ve discovered so far in my most recent little research obsession…

While I was in the LoC print and photo reading room looking for something else, I came across something fascinating: a collection of stereographic cards from the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exhibition.  Digging further, I found there were several lots of photos from the exhibition as well, including a whole collection of printer’s proofs of commemorative postcards to be sold at the event. 

Quickly I became fascinated with the event, as it seemed to be a site of confluence for many "big issues" of its time.  There was an incredibly complex and conflicted view of race being exhibited, for example.  There was the issue of the Civil War– 1907 is still firmly within the period where the discourse of reunification and reconciliation after that conflict was still being actively worked at and played out.  Teddy Roosevelt spoke there, and his very existence always brings up various questions of gender, empire, war, and peace… (The last two are best illustrated by the fact that 1907 was 9 years after the Spanish American War, and two years after Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize.)  And there was this overarching militarism and nationalism– so different from the World’s Fair quality of the World’s Columbian Exhibition 14 years earlier.  Where the Columbian Exhibition had a "Midway," the Jamestown Exhibition had a "War Path."

Then I came across a wonderful pamphlet housed in the Rare Books room– International Justice vs. the Splendors of War: In Protest Against the Diversion of the Jamestown Exposition to the Service of Militarism.  This was a 12-page pamphlet, published five months before the Exhibition’s opening, was written by a splinter group of the Exhibition’s Advisory Committee, protesting the increasing militarization of the event by the Committee.  Among the undersigned were an amazing collection of Progressive Era progressives– Jane Addams, Carroll D Wright, president of Clark College and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Edward Everett Hale, and Cardinal Gibbons.

The group was mortified that the budget of the Exhibition had gone from the initially-allocated $200,000 to $1,500,000, largely due to spending on military spectacles.  (This extra money was procured from congress only after piggybacking it onto a House Sundry Civil Bill, as the Speaker of the House and several key Representatives were highly opposed to the increased spending.)  They further proposed reallocating some of the money dedicated to military spectacle to the building of a "Hall of International Justice," which would celebrate the values of the upcoming Second International Peace Conference at the Hague.

A shorter version of the pamphlet appeared in the January 10th issue of the progressive journal The Independent, along with an article celebrating TR’s winning the Nobel Prize and hoping he would continue to promote International Justice at the Hague, and an article by Charlotte Perkins Gilman advocating paying housewives.

I want to write a paper looking at the Jamestown Exhibition, using it as a window into its era. I’m still sifting through all the sources available to me– I’ve located over 40 primary sources at the LoC, including photos, maps, brochures, and all matter of related materials– but I’m very interested in using this pamphlet, as well as the other, celebratory materials dealing with the battle reenactments, military parades, ship christenings, etc. to look at this event as a celebration of the nascent spirit of US Imperialism at the time– sort of an Americanized Empire Day.  I’m curious to find accounts of the Exhibition in newspapers of the time, to see if it was understood in that way at the time.  I’d also like to dig up the congressional record for 1905-1906, and see what can be understood about the jockeying for increasing funds.  I’d also love to find the actual speech that TR delivered at the Exhibition, on "Georgia Day," and see what kind of world he’s creating with that address.