A Fruitful Legacy: Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards Co. at the Saint Louis World's Fair

The Saint Louis World's Fair held in 1904 was a monumental event that showcased innovation, culture, and progress. This bustling centrally located city was chosen to celebrate the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Among the many contributors to this grand exhibition was Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards Co., a renowned name in the world of fruit trees and orchards.

Apples were a central part of that year’s World’s Fair in St. Louis, with the Stark Brothers’ Nurseries and Orchards from Louisiana, Missouri, launching an incredibly ambitious marketing campaign to promote their newly discovered apple — the Red Delicious.

This blog explores the fascinating connection between Stark Bro's and the Saint Louis World's Fair, highlighting their pivotal role in horticulture and their lasting impact on the fruit industry.

A Fruitful World’s Fair

The World’s Fair was officially opened in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt, who visited Louisiana, Missouri located in Pike County in route to St. Louis. He was met by locals with enthusiasm and the children in particular, made an impression on him. He was quoted saying “I have heard a great deal of Pike County. I know its fertility; I know it's good roads; I know the extraordinary nursery you have got right here, a nursery of a double kind, by the way; I passed the new dynamite factory. I congratulate you on all your products but I want to say that what counts finally as the best type of product is the men and women, and therefore, as I like your stock, I want to congratulate you on the children.” This national event gave full scope to Stark developments and ideas.

President Roosevelt at the World's Fair

The early 20th century was a time of great advancements and innovations in the field of horticulture and fruit cultivation. Agriculture played a crucial role in the economy, and the Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904 was a perfect platform to showcase these developments to a global audience.

During this period, the United States was experiencing a surge in agricultural production and expanding its fruit industry. New varieties of fruits were being discovered and cultivated, leading to increased interest in fruit cultivation as a profitable venture for farmers.

At the time of the World's Fair, several other notable nurseries and orchards were also making significant contributions to the fruit industry. Competitors like Burpee Seeds, D. Landreth Seed Company, and Stark's direct competitor, the Hale Nursery Company, were vying for attention and recognition at the event.

Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards Co., founded in 1816, had already established itself as a leading provider of high-quality fruit trees and plants by the time the World's Fair was taking place. Recognizing the opportunity to showcase their expertise on an international stage, they joined forces with the fair organizers to create a stunning display of their finest fruit varieties, including the newly discovered Red Delicious. in addition to distributing 100,000 copies of their new colorful catalog. This was the first time for many, seeing a sensational horticulture catalog of this size and scope.

Stark Horticulture Exibit
“Help Yourself to an Apple” Mo Horticulture Exhibit - World's Fair (source - Library of Congress)

A Captivating Exhibition

According to the Missouri Historical Society, The Palace of Agriculture or the Formally known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where the display took place was “Considered the largest building on the Fairgrounds, the Palace of Agriculture was a testament to former President Thomas Jefferson’s dream of an agrarian society. The building, constructed at a cost of $525,491, stretched over twenty-three acres and exhibited agriculture products from fifteen countries and forty-two states. Large enough to house an entire working dairy farm and working cider and rice mills, most fairgoers remembered the unique sculptures made of odd materials such as cotton, butter, corn, salt, almonds, and cereal.”

These exhibits reinforced the agricultural industries important to the various regions of the United States. Within the palace, as part of Missouri’s Horticulture Exhibit is where the apples, pictured above, were displayed. At the fair, Stark Bro's presented an awe-inspiring exhibit that brought their catalog to life. Visitors could view a wide range of fruit trees and plants as well as apples as far as the eye could see. Guests marveled at the abundance of fresh fruits, as well as apple trees, peach trees, berry bushes, and grapevines, all meticulously arranged to create a visual spectacle.

Inspiring Others to Grow Their Own

One of the standout marketing initiatives of Stark Bro's at the Saint Louis World's Fair was the release of their iconic "World's Fair Fruits" catalog. Published in 1903 specifically for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, this catalog featured full-page spreads of the fruit varieties offered by the company. It provided detailed information about Stark Bro's rich history as a family-owned business since 1816 and included captivating black and white photographs of their expansive orchards.

World's Fair Catalog

Within the pages of the "World's Fair Fruits" catalog, visitors to the fair could explore a vast array of fruit varieties meticulously cultivated by Stark Bro's. The elegant catalog showcased Stark fruits in lush colors and almost life-sized. Each fruit was accompanied by a comprehensive description, allowing potential customers to learn about the characteristics, flavors, and growing requirements of the different fruit trees and plants. This catalog served as a valuable resource for both enthusiasts and commercial growers looking to enhance their orchards.

World's Fair Fruit Book

The Saint Louis World's Fair served as a remarkable platform for Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards Co. to showcase their expertise and contribute to the advancement of horticulture. Their involvement in the fair, highlighted by the release of the "World's Fair Fruits" catalog, left an indelible mark on the fruit industry, igniting a passion for fruit cultivation that still thrives today.

World's Fair Catalog Fruits

The Legacy Continues

The impact of Stark Bro's participation in the Saint Louis World's Fair extended far beyond the event itself. The company's dedication to innovation and excellence in horticulture sparked widespread interest in growing fruit trees and fostered a growing appreciation for the importance of orchards. Only 10 years later, after the fair in 1914, the Golden Delicious would be discovered. The commitment to quality and expertise set the stage for a new era of fruit cultivation.

Today, Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards Co. continues to flourish as a trusted name in the fruit tree industry. Our legacy of providing top-quality trees, exceptional customer service, and expert guidance lives on, inspiring generations of fruit growers and gardeners. From backyard orchards to larger fruit farms, their influence can be seen in the flourishing landscapes and the delight of harvesting homegrown fruit.