1907: Celebrating the 300th Anniversary of Jamestown

In 1907, the nation celebrated the 300th anniversary of the English settlement at Jamestown with an international exposition held at Norfolk, Virginia. Unlike the more successful expositions in Chicago (1893), Buffalo (1901), and St. Louis (1904), the Jamestown Ter-Centinnial Exposition is not as well known.

Delaware had a building at Jamestown, and the Delaware Historical Society might have contributed an exhibition. Society minutes report the formation of a committee to plan an exhibit, but they do not record whether this actually happened. The minutes record a similar story for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893—in both cases, we would have appreciated more complete minutes. 

Delaware Day at the Jamestown exposition took place on October 9. Delaware Supreme Court justice James Pennewill gave the main address, which the Society published. The speech is short on history and long on generalities. Its tone is generally conservative, proclaiming the importance of religion, attachment to home, and respect for the law.

For the student of history, perhaps most interesting is his comment on the Civil War, reflecting the healing that had taken place since war’s end, as well as the nationwide observance of Decoration Day:

 “It seems almost incredible that less than fifty years ago this country was in the throes of civil war, in which large numbers of the best men of the North and South were madly swept away. But now, it is a custom throughout the land, and a most beautiful one it is, for men, women and children once a year, to visit the silent homes of the dead, and tenderly place upon the graves of the soldier sweet flowers indicative of their love and esteem. And it matters not whether those lying beneath wore the blue or the grey, for they were brave men all, citizens of a common country, who fought for what they believed to be right and true.”

 

Delaware Building at the Jamestown Tercentenary Exposition, 1907
Delaware Building at the Jamestown Tercentenary Exposition, 1907

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