Skipping the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

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In a move the company might later have regretted, Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. opted out of the exhibition circuit on one notable occasion. As noted in a unique open letter in this 1903 ad, a company official cited the demands of record production and facility expansion in explaining the decision “to deny ourselves the pleasure of an exhibit” at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.

The exposition, more famously known as the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, commemorated the centennial anniversary (delayed by one year) of the Louisiana Purchase. The focus was on the march of progress throughout the world. Sprawling over 1,200 acres, the event was so massive that it was considered impossible to see everything exhibited there in less than a week. The display of the Palace of Agriculture alone covered 20 acres.

Aultman & Taylor, though, predicted the event would be too rich for the average farmer’s blood, declaring that only a “favored few” of the ranks of American threshermen would have opportunity to attend the World’s Fair. The company believed it would have better luck reaching threshermen through branch offices where field-ready equipment (as opposed to the “bedecked” pretties typically shown at exhibitions) could be closely inspected. Was it an echo of populist sentiment then growing in the nation, or just an effort to save costs? Hard to say. But this much is known: By taking a pass on the St. Louis World’s Fair, Aultman & Taylor turned its back on a massive potential audience: Attendance at the event passed the 20 million mark – about one-quarter of the total U.S. population in 1900. FC

Advertisements from many farm publications printed at the turn of the 20th century were more than mere methods to hawk tractors and farm equipment. To share those ads from days gone by, Farm Collector periodically reproduces some of the most-spectacular ads used to promote farm equipment and products.

To submit a vintage advertisement for possible publication, send it to: Iron Age Ads, Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; or submit high-quality digital images by email:

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