11/51 The 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition

The eyes of the nation and the world were on Atlanta in 1895 as the growing city displayed its economic resurgence following the devastation of the Civil War.

In the best known of a series of agricultural and business trade fairs founded in concepts of the New South, the Cotton States and International Exposition sought to publicize the Southern economy and attract further investment.

At the opening of the exposition in September 1895, educator and orator Booker T. Washington made his historic declaration, later known as the Atlanta Compromise. Delivered to 3,000 predominantly white attendees in the exposition auditorium, he counseled African Americans to seek economic security before political or social equality – and avoid confrontation over segregation – with whites. During the course of the fifteen weeks of the exposition, nearly 1,000,000 attendees visited the grounds and buildings of the park. All of the exposition buildings, located in today’s Piedmont Park, were built as temporary structures and removed after the fair. Yet, the 1895 exposition had served an important and lasting purpose – at the close, Atlanta had established itself as the capital of the New South.

Souvenir boat, 1895

Courtesy Douglas and Susan Abramson

Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center, E.L. Howe, photographer

Next: 12 The Varsity.

Frank Gordy opened the Varsity as “The Yellow Jacket” in 1928, catering to students of nearby Georgia Tech.