Book Review: ‘The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City’ by Margaret Creighton

One of those wonderful new “history” books that takes a look at a moment of time and brings us face to face with the reality of the situation, based upon a long-term perspective of the event. Enjoy these types of books and Margaret Creighton really has expanded her reach with this novel – her past were mostly all books dealing with whaling and other nautical topics.

As she casts the spotlight on the 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition, it is easy for us today to see that this event never really had a chance to be all that it has hoped for. It was held at a time when Worlds Fairs were the rage and every “major” city tried to have one and outdo the other cities, in this case, the Chicago World Fair was the example and standard. But one cannot help but wonder how a smallish town in the upstate on New York, a town without a huge city population and with other large cities not in that close proximity, could attempt to better the Chicago results. Yes, Buffalo had Niagara Falls and what really appeared to be a neat electrification of the Pan-Am Fairgrounds, but like all Fairs, it had its cast of characters and that helps explain some of the issues here.

The Fair never really got off to the rousing start that had been anticipated and when President McKinley was assassinated at the Fair things only got worse. Again, and I try not to repeat myself, Creighton really does an outstanding job focusing on the people and the issues of the Fair.

We have midgets, African-American issues, Filipino issues, Indian issues (led by Geronimo), animal issues, and many who try to become famous by doing daredevil acts at the not-too-distant Niagara Falls. It is a fascinating book, about a fascinating time, and was a very fast read for me. The author also uses the last chapter to wrap up all the storylines and bring light onto present-day Buffalo.

I so enjoy this new vein of “people or event” history, books that really tell us about what I deem Americana and relate facts and stories that are lost in the past to most all of us. This book is extremely readable and enjoyable and is truly filled with photos of the 1901 Fair, and which got me looking onto internet sites to find out even more about this Exposition.

In the end, we are left with a Buffalo that tried its best, but just was not able to live up to the standards and hype of Chicago, and with an Exposition that dazzled many but which quickly faded out of peoples minds and into History – awaiting Creighton’s superb research and writing. A job well done and a book well worth reading.


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