The World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial was held in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the time, the city was the home of the New Orleans Cotton Exchange - a centralized marketplace designed to stabilize and bring uniformity to the often-erratic pricing in the cotton market. The Exposition ran from December 16, 1884 through May 31, 1885; it was formally closed on June 1, 1885. Objectives of the Exposition included promoting New Orleans, encouraging the expanded commercial use of cotton and the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1784 foreign-bound export of a commercial shipment of cotton from a US port.
The Exposition grounds measured ~249 acres and fronted the Mississippi River, though the entire site was not fully improved for the Exposition. Due to its undeveloped status, the land required significant grading and improvements before it could support the Exposition's required construction projects.
The Main Building of the Exposition was the largest building ever constructed (to that time), housing over 1.6 million square feet of space.1884-85 Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition - Main Building(Image Credit: Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardena, Digital Library. Fair Use.)
Via an 1883 Act of Congress, the US Government formally partnered with the National Cotton Planters' Association, the original sponsor/promoter of the Exposition, to stage the Exposition. The Act created a Board of Management made up of a set of commissioners appointed by the Planters' Association and another set by the US Government. Per the Act, the Exposition was to be held "under the joint auspices" of the two partners. In May 1884, Congress authorized a loan of $1 million to the Board to help defray expenses related to the Exposition's growing scope. In March 1885, Congress appropriated an additional $335,000 to support the Exposition.
The US Government constructed the "United States Government and State Exhibits" Building, which included a US Mint exhibit. The Exposition's Official Souvenir Medal was struck at the Exposition within the Mint Exhibit. The medals were struck primarily on 35mm White Metal planchets, though some bronze examples have appeared in the market.
The Exposition was formally opened by US President Grover Cleveland via telegraph signal on December 16, 1884; he was not present in person. Approximately 750,000 people attended the Exposition, with approximately 400,000 paying for their ticket.
Countries around the world received invitations to participate courtesy of the US Government. Nearly 40 countries (and their colonies) participated in some fashion, though not all mounted official exhibits (some countries participated via support for a private company/association from their country). Mexico, which officially participated at the national level, prepared the most elaborate building and exhibit of all foregin nations.
Though the Exposition did achieve success by certain measures (e.g., demonstration of the growth and commercial progress of New Orleans, the promotion of cotton as a commercial product, engagement of the international community), it was not an overall financial success. Part of the reason for this is tied to its general mismanagement of the Exposition project, topped off by the fact that Edward Burke, the initial Director-General of the Exposition and Louisiana State Treasurer, embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars (potentially as much as ~$1.8 million), including funds intended for the Exposition, from the State treasury and subsequently left the country - he fled to Honduras (a country where he was friends with its President and no extradition agreement with the United States was in place).
The present-day Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo were created on the former Exposition site.1884-85 Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition Official Medal
On the obverse of the medal is depicted a scene with a central allegorical female figure, Liberty,
with outstretched arms. In each she holds a floral crown that she is about to place on the heads of Industry
(left) and Art
(right) - the kneeling figures that flank Liberty
. Resting against Liberty
is a US Shield.
right (viewer's left) are seen a gear, anvil and hammer, all symbolic of industry, while at Liberty's
left (viewer's right) is seen an artist's palette with paint brushes. Encircling at the rim is the inscription "World's Industrial & Cot•ton Centennial Exposition."
The medal's reverse depicts the Main Building of the Exposition. At the rim is the inscription "Held at New Orleans La. • Dec. 16. 1884 to May 31. 1885."
George T. Morgan was responsible for the designs.
For other of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, see: Commems Collection