Jeanne Newby grits her teeth as she participates in a Mining Days cow chip throwing contest in the early 1980s.

Ancestors, Legends & Time

There’s always a need for volunteers

Jeanne Newby

Remember the Webb City Mining Days Celebration, held every year in the month of September? Most folks came to the celebration and enjoyed the fun, the visiting, the entertainment and the food. Few were aware of the year of preparation and many long meetings required to hopefully make the next celebration the best of all.

In thinking of the hours committed to that yearly event, I started thinking about such events as the World’s Fair and what kind of preparation was required for those events. I was surprised at the number of years of preparation that went into each World’s Fair or exposition as it was sometimes called. They were exhibitions designated to register the state of civilization in the world. Each World’s Fair was promoting some important event that led to the expansion and improvement of the world.

The World Columbian Exposition of 1893 was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Plans for this exposition began back in 1889 as four cities competed to host it. Those four cities were Chicago, New York, St. Louis and Washington D.C.

A committee in St. Louis consisting of the governor of Missouri, the mayor of St. Louis and 40 leading citizens of St. Louis assembled Aug. 3, 1889, to work on presenting St. Louis as the most obvious place to celebrate this important event. They appointed the Committee of Two Hundred for the Promotion of the World’s Fair of 1892 in St. Louis. Their first meeting was Sept. 7, 1889. They sent a group of delegates to Washington D.C. to champion for St. Louis.

The competition began with lots of excitement. Feb. 25, 1890, was the day of the vote. Chicago received 115 votes, New York 72, St. Louis 60 and Washington D.C. 56. None of the cities received a majority of the total vote, so they called for a second vote. Still no majority. They called on the roll of the House to vote and it took seven roll calls to allow Chicago to finally reach the majority by one vote. Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition from May 1893 to November 1893. Webb City and Joplin were involved in the exposition with mineral exhibits.

St. Louis organizers still had many plans for their fair city, including a desire to clean up the riverfront. They were determined to turn their riverfront into a historical park commemorating the centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase. They met on June 23, 1898, and discussed what they wanted in this historical park of permanent design. As plans continued, by Nov. 28, 1898, it was determined that this amazing celebration should be an international exposition – a world’s fair – the only type of celebration worthy enough to commemorate such an important event in history. 

The Louisiana Purchase involved 13 states, and it was only right that a representative from each state should be involved in the preparations of the celebration. On Jan. 10, 1899, 94 of the possible 115 representatives from the states and territories of the original purchase were in attendance. They determined that the achievement of the those 100 years, from 1803 to 1903 as “wilderness became cities,” was a be enough challenge to gain the attention of the world.

It was determined that the 1904 World’s Fair, Louisiana Purchase, would be held in St. Louis’ Forest Park. The world would be invited. The national government would supply $5,000,000 as well as the state of Missouri and the city of St. Louis making the total of beginning funds $15,000,000. Many new inventions and discoveries were presented to the world during this exciting World’s Fair.

Once again, this world celebration would not have been possible without the wonderful volunteers of thousands.

Volunteers are what made Webb City’s Mining Days Celebration such a success those many years. Alas, the dwindling of those volunteers also brought the celebration to an end. So please, step forward and volunteer for events taking place around you. Even a small event requires the help of the neighborhood. Be a volunteer!

Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Wikipedia

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.