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Tamaqua Expo in 1911 was a crowd pleaser

Published April 30. 2011 09:00AM

By jim zbick

@$:A highlight of the 1911 spring season for farmers from throughout the region was The Great Industrial Exposition which was sponsored by one of Tamaqua's leading merchants located on Broad Street.

"Seligman & Company will hold a miniature world's fair," a headline in the Tamaqua Courier announced in mid-April. The company's various promotions for the exhibition, which the Courier called the largest of its kind in the state, would impress even today's media-savvy public relations firms.

Prior to the event, Seligman gave a coupon to every customer making a purchase at its store and on the last day of the expo, drawings were held for a $75 buggy top, a $50 range, and a $10 washing machine.

There were also giveaways on each of the three days. The second-day giveaway was a free horseman's whip but the Courier advised visitors to come early since the supply was limited.

Through the course of the event visitors reaped a harvest of other free souvenirs including tape measures, yardsticks, matches, buttons, cookies and other baked treats.

"Neither time nor money is being spared in making this one of the most memorable exhibitions that Tamaqua has ever witnessed," a reporter announced in advance of the expo.

"The entire exhibition will consist of a large variety of goods that have never been displayed in this or surrounding counties," he added. "Thousands of personal invitations have been sent throughout the farming district and the indications are that the number of visitors who will attend this exhibition will be exceeded only on gala days such as the Fourth of July."

The pre-event publicity paid off. The first outside delegation arrived on the 8:30 a.m. train from the Bloomsburg area.

Before the doors even opened, a reporter described the crowd lined up on Broad Street as "a struggling mass of humanity." When the doors opened at 7 a.m., visitors were greeted by the P.C. Band.

"Within a short time, every inch of space was occupied in the mammoth shops and hundreds of persons were turned away," he stated.

The crowd on the first day was estimated at 5,000 although an official number was unavailable since the man in charge lost count after the 4,000 mark was reached.

Located just to the left of the main entrance a group of ladies were even handing out a free "appetizing" lunch, consisting of crackers, sardines and coffee.

Seligman's storerooms on Broad Street were well-stocked with household specials to appeal to customers, including heavy wash boilers for 69 cents, copper tea kettles (89 cents), 3-piece kitchen sets (2 knives and one cleaver for 23 cents), lanterns (39 cents) and pitchers for 10 cents.

Bigger ticket items which attracted consumers included the display of ranges by the Lehigh Stove and Manufacturing Co. An expert was present to demonstrate "the delicious possibilities hidden in a first-class range properly used together with scientific broilers, roasters and boilers when in expert hands."

Visitors were well treated. Over 22 gallons of hot coffee, served in small cups, was distributed on the first day. Coffee percolators for sale by one of the vendors also turned out "a sample of the kind of coffee you dream about," one person remarked.

Both men and women had plenty to see at the Vulcan shops, where 30 sales persons were on hand to display the latest household conveniences.

"They represent stoves, crockeries, gas ranges, agriculture, powder companies, metalware companies of all descriptions, as well as paint, varnish and grocery firms," a reporter stated.

Especially eye-catching was the big farm machinery, including wagons, as well as the new line of carriages, auto trucks and automobiles. Gasoline engines were regularly fired up, showing how they could power threshing machines, cream separators and feed mills. Milk separated from the cream was used to serve patrons.

International Harvester, the world's largest agricultural equipment company, had 10 salesmen demonstrating their products at the Expo. Also represented were the Durant-Dort Carriage Company of Flint, Mich.; the Grossmann Saddlery Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Standard Oil Company which had two experts explaining the use of the company's oil stoves and Rayo Lamps.

Mr. Seligman was overwhelmed by the public interest in the event, which drew an estimated 20,000 over its three-day run. The Courier, which called the event the "greatest of its kind ever given in the state, said that Mr. Seligman "wore a smile that would not come off," given in large part by the fact that sales were four times better than what was expected.

Seligman decided to use the Vulcan shops as a permanent area to display his farm implements, carriages and wagons.

The public also gave the expo a rousing thumbs-up rating.

"The most wonderful thing ever held in the county," one visitor told a reporter.

"I never imagined it would be anything like this ...," another remarked.

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