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Mike Kraus

St. Louis World's Fair Totem Pole - Indianapolis

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I count six totem poles in front of the 1904 Alaska Pavilion in this stereo view.


One went to Indiana and lasted for many years (with the site now marked as you shared). A replica of it is now in a museum in Indianapolis.

Three others of the 1904 group ended up at..... the 1964-65 NYWF!


That leaves two 1904 totem poles unaccounted for.

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I read that to mean their second world's fair in total, first being in 1904, second in 1964, not that this was their second NY appearance. Great shot of the sign though! I wonder where they went after the Fair. I know we have seen shots of people sitting on them while the Alaska pavilion was being demolished and the poles were lying on the ground awaiting their fate. I hope they weren't just scrapped.

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Most references say they were carved in Alaska, beginning in 1903, specifically for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. But one reference says a big 50-footer that went to St. Louis was an old one- from the early 1800's.

After the 1904 St. Louis fair closed, they went to Portland for the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition. After that fair closed, they went back to Sitka and were erected in a new 'Totem Park' in the new Sitka National Monument. This was in late 1905.

After many years of neglect and weathering, it was decided to make a 'new deal project' out of them. Artisans were sent to Alaska to learn totem carving from the natives. They made exact replicas of the 1904 poles. These replicas were installed outdoors in the Totem Park there in Sitka. The original 1904 poles (those that were salvageable) were moved indoors into a museum there, where they remain today.

So what went to New York in 1964? I'll bet they were the 1938 replicas that are outdoors today in Sitka. It had already been decided that the 1904 original survivors were too fragile to remain outdoors. It appears that the big 50-footer that went to St. Louis (that was carved in the early 1800's) is one of the survivors indoors in the museum in Sitka today.

As for the totem pole laying on the ground in the late 1965 demolition photos.... in the Alaska Pavilion's 'back lot', where these photos were taken, there had been a totem pole carving demonstration. Fair visitor photos show it laying there, in an unpainted state, where apparently some carving was done on it every day. The totem in the demolition photo is painted, in a similar paint scheme to the old ones on display in front of the pavilion. Whether the 'carving demonstration' pole was finished and painted before the Fair closed in October '65 is unknown. I would think that's probably the one we see on the ground there in the demo photos.

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