1884 Cotton Exposition exhibit
The 1884 Cotton Exposition exhibit was a display and reception room created for the 1884 World's Industrial and Cotton Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was organized on behalf of the State of Alabama to showcase its natural resources and commercial products.
Although planned for the centennial of the first recorded shipment of southern cotton to England in 1784, many of the fair's exhibits did not open before late that year and the event continued through the Spring of 1885, seeing its largest crowds during the Mardi-Gras season.
E. Spencer Pratt (later U.S. Consul to Persia) was appointed Commissioner of the Alabama exhibit and J. J. Barclay, trustee of the Alabama Orphan School in Lawrence County, was appointed as alternate commissioner. The primary sponsor and organizer of Alabama's exhibit was the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, which had extended its service to New Orleans from Mobile just four years earlier. Pharmacist and amateur botanist Charles Mohr, author of The Forests of Alabama and Their Products, served as on-site representative. W. S. O'Neill of the L & N Railroad co-hosted the Alabama exhibit.
Alabama erected an octagonal "headquarters" in the southwest corner of the the large hall dedicated to the U.S. Government and its States and Territories. That pavilion, built of polished southern yellow pine in a "Mooro-Arabic" style with carved pillars, was completed in February 1885. It contained Mohr's and O'Neill's private offices and three reception rooms decorated with woven rugs, damask curtains, and "elegant furniture". A large book at the entrance recorded the names of visitors.
May 11, 1885 was celebrated as "Alabama Day" at the fair, with Governor Edward O'Neal in attendance. Alabama State Supreme Court clerk John W. A. Sanford, introduced by O'Neal as, "the silver-tongued orator of Alabama", recounted the history of the state and the inherent promise of its climate, beauty, natural riches and noble people. He pointed out that Alabama lies on the same "isothermal line" as Athens and Rome, giving it an advantage in the "exertion of genius in all the provinces of art and science and philosophy and statesmanship." The speeches were followed by a reception at the exhibit pavilion.
The state's actual exhibit occupied 7,800 square feet of space in the hall, outside the pavilion. The state's mineral district was represented with large samples of coals, iron ores and limestones, along with various building stones, kaolin and various other clays, industrial minerals, and two large fossilized trees. The state's agricultural bounty was exemplified by 180 varieties of grasses and grains and a wide spectrum of wood samples, including a cross-section from an immense cypress trunk.
Alabama was also represented in the "Colored People's Department" on the opposite, north-east corner of the U.S. building. It included models of various inventions along with arts and crafts made by African Americans in the state.
One of the large pieces of iron ore brought from Alabama was left at the fair after it closed, and was incorporated into Olmsted's design of Audubon Park. It remains near the eighth green of the public golf course and is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a "meteorite."
- Fairall, Herbert S. (1885) The World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, New Orleans, 1884-85. Iowa City, Iowa: Republican Publishing Co., pp. 39-42
- Perkins, Daniel W. (1885) Practical common sense guide book through the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition at New Orleans. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Lane S. Hart, Printer & Binder
- Wilson, Glynn (June 26, 2001) "A Matter of Course" Gambit Weekly, republished August 29, 2010 on Southerner.net - accessed October 4, 2016