Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle celebrates Dixie Day on August 24, 1909.

  • By Marjorie Ann Reeves and Paula Becker
  • Posted 10/06/2008
  • Essay 8802
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On August 24, 1909, Dixie Day is celebrated at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on the grounds of the University of Washington in Seattle. The exposition took place between June 1 and October 16, 1909, drawing more than three million people. Visitors came from around the state, the nation, and the world to view hundreds of educational exhibits, stroll the lushly manicured grounds, and be entertained on the Pay Streak midway, while Seattle promoted itself as a gateway to the rich resources of Alaska, the Yukon, and Asia. With the exception of Sundays, each day of the A-Y-P Exposition was designated as a Special Day for one or more groups. Special Days drew people involved in the featured organizations, and the resulting programs, lectures, ceremonies, parades, and athletic competitions gave local people a reason to visit again and again. Dixie Day festivities draw Southerners living throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as many who still live below the Mason-Dixon line. Florida Governor Albert W. Gilchrist is Orator of the Day.

Southerners in the Northwest

United Daughters of the Confederacy Robert E. Lee Chapter 885 President Julia Rochester, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Robert E. Lee Camp, and the John B. Gordon Confederates Veterans Camp all worked together to formulate plans to bring Southern visitors to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Dixie Day event. 

In addition to Dixie Day, Seattle Southerners had a historical exhibit at the exposition and the local United Daughters of the Confederacy hosted a reception in the Woman's Building in June.

The Southerners held their first organizational meeting specifically devoted to planning Dixie Day on July 10, 1909, at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Judge Alfred Battle was elected chairman of the Dixie Day Executive Committee and Claude C. Ramsay was elected secretary. Harold A. Bushea was named Manager for Dixie Day. Dixie Day was first planned for August 10, but rescheduled to August 24. 

The Seattle Sunday Times reported that Southerners living in Seattle wanted no pomp or ceremony, but rather to display Southern hospitality. "There will be no thing suggestive of the universally deplored strife, the whole purpose being to bring Southern people together not only for a good time among themselves but to show their good will toward all who dwell with them north of the Mason-Dixon line. Dixie Day will be one of amity, sweet 'taters, watermelon and plantation melodies" (July 10, 1909). Southerners living throughout the Pacific Northwest were called to participate.

A committee headed by Judge John Allen was formed to help find housing for visitors traveling to Seattle to attend Dixie Day. Thousands of miniature cotton bales were ordered to be pinned on participants, and 500 pounds of cotton bolls for souvenirs were shipped up from New Orleans. The Washington State Building was decorated with large cotton bales and blooming cotton plants. The organizational committee wrote to the governors of all Southern states and requested their attendance. 

On August 10, 1909, The Seattle Daily Times announced that the day would include a "watermelon-eating contest led by the Georgians, who will meet all comers from any part of the South ... . The committee in charge gives assurance that there will be no shortage of melons" ("Southerners Plan ..."). The Chamber of Commerce of Stockton, California, sent 3,000 watermelons grown in the San Joaquin Valley to Commissioner Frank Wiggins of the California Building for distribution during Dixie Day.

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Dixie Day festivities began at noon when Florida Governor Albert W. Gilchrist (1858-1926) spoke to the United Confederate Veterans at a luncheon at the Nikko Cafe. Washington Governor Marion E. Hay (1865-1933), Dixie Day organizers, and A-Y-P Exposition officials were also in attendance. 

At 2:00 the Southerners, identified by badges as to their state of origin and wearing miniature bales of cotton pinned to their chests, met in the Natural Amphitheater. Clustered by state, they visited informally in what was billed as a reunion of states. Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi were all represented. Knoxville, Tennessee had the largest delegation.

Reverend Mark Matthews (1867-1940) gave the invocation. Exposition President John Chilberg (1867-1954) and Director General Ira Nadeau welcomed the Dixie Day participants, and Governor Gilchrist addressed the crowd. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Gilchrist's remarks, which emphasized his conviction that the South was prospering and had progressed in recent years. The paper stated that Gilchrist then lamented the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and criticized President William Howard Taft's (1857-1930) recently stated desire to break up the so-called Solid South -- what amounted to a one-party (Democrat) system in the southern states that, in general, denied non-white citizens the right to vote. "Patriotism should begin at home," Gilchrist was quoted as having told the crowd. "I want him (Taft) patriotically to break the solidity of the solid New England states" ("'Dixie' Brings Ten Thousand To Their Feet").

The Dixieland Band, plantation singers, and the Hayden Male Quartet furnished entertainment. Channing Ellery's A-Y-P Band then rendered up a concert of old fashioned southern melodies. The audience joined in for an enthusiastic chorus of “Dixie.”  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer described the crowd's emotional response to the music:

"When the band played 'Maryland, My Maryland,' there was wild commotion immediately around the Maryland banner.  When 'Dixie' was played the burst of pent up feeling was tumultuous, but the climax came when, standing, the crowd sang one stanza of 'Dixie,' and remained standing while Ellery's band rendered 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'  Ever(y) hair in the heads of that throng tingled to its roots" ("'Dixie' Brings Ten Thousand To Their Feet").

To Live And Die In Dixie

From 4:00 until 5:30 the Daughters of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee Chapter No. 885, hosted an afternoon reception in the Woman's Building for the United Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Sons of Confederate Veterans, Daughters of Confederate Veterans, and all visitors.

Channing Ellery's Band played old-time Southern favorites at an evening concert in the music pavilion. Topping off the evening was a dance in the Washington State Building at which several thousand people frolicked through the Virginia Reel, Money Musk, and the Sir Roger de Coverly. Some 10,000 Southern visitors took part in one or another of the Dixie Day festivities.

The Seattle Daily Times called Dixie Day the "most notable sectional assemblage in (the) history of Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition" ("Southerners Meet...").

The Dixie Day picnic became an annual event sponsored by the Seattle chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Funds generated by the event were used to purchase a burial plot and to erect a Confederate monument in Seattle's Lake View Cemetery. Crafted of granite from Stone Mountain, Georgia, the monument featured bronze artwork by Seattle sculptor James A. Wehn (1882-1973). The remains of a number of Confederate veterans were disinterred from scattered graves and reburied in the plot.


"Southerners To make Great Showing," The Seattle Sunday Times, July 18, 1909; "Dixie Day August 10," The Seattle Daily Times, July 10, 1909; "August 24 Set For Dixie Day At Fair," Ibid., August 4, 1909; "Southerners Plan For Dixie Day Celebration," Ibid., August 10, 1909: "Southerners To Meet At Fair Tomorrow," Ibid., August 23,1909; "Southerners Meet At The Fair,: Ibid., August 24, 1909; " 'Dixie' Brings Ten Thousand To Their Feet," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 25, 1909; Marjorie Ann Reeves, A Chapter In Pacific Northwest History: United Daughters of the Confederacy Robert E. Lee Chapter No. 885, Seattle, Washington (Seattle: Tommie Press, 2006), 5-14.

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