When the World Came to Campus, 1909

Diversions of a Summer's Day: The Pay Streak

The official Exposition exhibits were intended above all to be “educative,” but on the Pay Streak, which took its name from the phrase used to describe the richest vein in a mine, entertainment and excitement were the order of the day.

The Exposition as a whole was international in flavor, and on the Pay Streak this often tipped over into exoticism with features like the Hindoo Mystery, the Spanish Theater, the Streets of Cairo, the pyramid-shaped Temple of Palmistry, the Oriental Village (at that time referring more to the Middle East than to Asia), and even the “Girl from Mars” (unfortunately, no images of this last attraction seem to have survived). American regions were presented for amusement and profit, too. Ezra Meeker's Pioneer Restaurant and Wild West arena, Dixieland, the Puritan Inn, and the Alaska Theater of Mysteries all vied for fairgoers’ attention.

The Pay Streak, located along what is now 15th Avenue, also offered rides, games, and, of course, souvenir-purchasing opportunities similar to those at any modern-day fairground or amusement park. However, there were also exhibits that turned what might have been considered educational into paying attractions in a way that would seem inappropriate to modern audiences. Some of these were the Igorotte and Eskimo Villages, and the baby incubator exhibit—although now commonplace, incubators for premature infants were then an innovation and therefore a curiosity.

The Pay streak was described by one pamphlet as the place “where everything that is amusing, grotesque, hilarious, foolish, novel and absurd is foisted and intoned, where all that ingenuity can devise, skill project, or daring accomplish is brought for the diversion of a summer's day.”

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