White Popular Culture
White Stock Characters
The most famous song associated with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition is Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis (1904) by Andrew B. Sterling (1874-1955) and Kerry Mills (1869-1948). Although listeners today probably remember it from the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis starring Judy Garland, the song was a hit in 1904, too, as evidenced by the list of performers provided on the sheet music cover. Will H. Sloan (1863-1933), whose photograph appears on the cover, was a successful comedic Broadway and film actor. Click here to listen to Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis at the Internet Archive in a performance by Billy Murray (1877-1954).
The lyrics to Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis suggest that everyone who could scrape up fifty cents for the admission fee made an effort to visit the fair. They also mention a common stock character among fair attendees – the dim but wealthy city boy who gets manipulated by a clever local girl into paying for a night on the Pike.
Theron C. Bennett’s She Was From Missouri (1904) tells such a tale while also highlighting the rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis. According to Bennett (1879-1937), the blue-suited Chicagoan shown on the cover spends all his money treating his St. Louis companion to night of fun on the Pike.
Click here to learn how the clever St. Louis woman "works Chicago for a good old jolly time!"
Another popular figure in Exposition song and literature was the country bumpkin, gaping at the Fairground's sights. In many popular descriptions of the Fair, the main characters were uneducated yokels, who recounted the marvels of the fair to their neighbors. This was the plot of Hiram Birdseed at the World’s Fair, a combination comic novel and guide-book advertised in Chicago music publisher Will Rossiter’s 1904 She Was From Missouri songbook.
Eliza Simpkins (1904), also composed by Bennett, is a square dance composed in honor of the (possibly fictitious) belle of ball shown on the cover. The dance was given in honor of Eliza's trip to the fair, and the score includes calls for the square dance figures.
Dance along with Eliza Simpkins here, and be sure to listen for the introduction's imitation of the fiddlers tuning their strings.