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Must-See Show: Paris Universal Exposition in 1900 was a crucial showplace for agriculture equipment manufacturers

| March 2006

The grand opening of the Paris Universal Exposition was April 14, 1900, although very few buildings or exhibits were complete, and scaffolding had to be hurriedly (and temporarily) removed so the President of France could cut the ribbon. Meant to be a glittering showcase of the industrial and technological might of the Western World on the eve of a new century, the exposition drew 76,000 exhibitors from all over the world who did their best to impress more than 50 million visitors. These visitors, also from all over the world, saw such wonders as a moving sidewalk, wireless telegraphy and a moving staircase called an "escalator."

The June 7, 1900, issue of Farm Implement News describes the large American contribution to the extensive agricultural portion of the event, even though all the machinery had to be sent to New York and loaded on ships for the voyage to Le Havre, France, before being transported overland to the Expo site in Paris.

As might be expected, Deering and McCormick, the two titans of the U.S. harvesting machinery business in that era, went all out. The harvester wars were playing havoc with profits at home and both firms hoped to increase their lucrative export trade.

The Deering Harvester Co. set up an elaborate display in the U.S. Agricultural Annex building as pictured in the woodcut illustration shown above. In addition, the French government gave Deering the honor of setting up the "Official Retrospective Exhibit" in the U.S. section of the Palace of Agriculture. This exhibit was "… a review of the methods employed in harvesting grain at various stages of the world's progress, but more particularly during the past century."

Other exhibitors in the Annex included D.M. Osborne Co., Johnson Harvester, Piano Manufacturing, Aultman, Miller Co., Warder, Bushnell & Glessner Co., Adriance, Platt & Co., Walter A. Wood, Oliver Chilled Plow Works, Milwaukee Harvester, Stover Manufacturing, Aermotor, F.E. Meyers and Reliable Incubator & Brooder.

Deere & Co. ran into some bad luck with its exhibit, which was lost at sea during the Atlantic crossing. The Deere machinery was loaded aboard the freight steamer Poyak, which sailed from New York and was due in Le Havre on March 15. The article says, "From the day it passed out of the American port to the present it has never been seen or heard of and no clue to its fate has been found. It is supposed it sank in mid-ocean and all on board were lost." Apparently, a replacement shipment was made, as a John Deere ad from October 1900 claims a gold medal for "Efficiency and Merit" was awarded to the firm's Victor plow at the 1900 Paris Exposition.