Omaha’s 1898 World’s Fair Exhibit

The launch of Timothy Schaffert’s book The Swan Gondola, set amid Omaha’s 1898 World’s Fair, gave OPL an opportunity to revisit its collection of Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition memorabilia. A special exhibit in the Michael Phipps Gallery allowed visitors to travel back in time and rediscover Omaha’s World’s Fair through artifacts and photography, including contributions from The Durham Museum and private collectors.
Omaha’s World’s Fair inspired Schaffert, who shared the tale of Ferret Skerritt, a ventriloquist who can’t imagine that anything majestic could really happen in Omaha. That is until he encounters the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, and the fair becomes the backdrop for their achingly romantic, possibly doomed love affair.
“When I first learned about the Expo, my imagination got all caught up in it,” said Schaffert. “If you read the newspaper coverage of the time, there are hundreds of strange and fascinating details, not just about the Expo, but about the City of Omaha during this pivotal period.”
“Many people didn’t even know that Omaha hosted a World’s Fair,” said Omaha Public Library executive director Gary Wasdin. “A 184-acre city constructed primarily of hemp fiber and plaster of Paris saw more than 2.6 million visitors from around the world in just five months! This exhibition provided a great opportunity to discover a treasured piece of Omaha’s history.”

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