Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (1909): Music at the Fair

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 12/27/2008
  • Essay 8876
See Additional Media

Washington's first World's Fair -- the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition -- was held in Seattle on the grounds of the University of Washington campus between June 1 and October 16, 1909, and drew more than three million people. Visitors came from far and wide to be entertained while Seattle promoted itself as a gateway to the rich resources of Alaska, the Yukon, and Asia. Among the many attractions were musical performances -- parades, dances, and concerts in the Auditorium, Amphitheatre, Music Pavilion, and central bandstand -- by a wide variety of entertainers representing various towns in the region, states in the union, and nations of the world. Included in the offerings were the exotic sounds of various foreign music traditions, big-time bands from Chicago and New York, a down-home southern vaudeville revue, and numerous local ensembles from Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, Long Beach, and homegrown headliners from Seattle.

A-Y-P Theme Songs

As the planning gets underway for any such extravaganza as a World's Fair, enterprising businesspeople are among the first to begin scheming about how to turn a profit during the event. As with previous and subsequent expositions, a mind-numbing array of inexpensive knick-knacks, doo-dads, gee-gaws, tchotchkes, and trinkets would be produced to try and make an opportunistic buck off the expected souvenir-crazed tourists. And among all that ephemeral detritus can usually be found some song sheets.

So, as could be expected, numerous entrepreneurial songwriters set about composing a slew of boosterish expo-related tunes for the A-Y-P -- including “Alaska Yukon Exposition Grand Triumphal March,” “Meet Me In Seattle, Dearie, In 1909,” “Seattle: Queen of the West,” the “A-Y-P March,” “Hip Hip Hurrah for Seattle,” “The Seattle Spirit,” and “Meet Me In Dear Old Seattle” -- that were duly printed up and placed on sale. But, the most prominent tune of them all was the fair's Official March, "Gloria, Washington" -- as composed by Frederick Neil Innes.

Innes' Band

The highest-profile group brought to Seattle for the exposition was Innes' Orchestral Band from New York City, led by trombonist, F. N. Innes. The ensemble had (since the 1890s) already performed at various major fairs including Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition back in 1901. With popular songs like "Carnival of Venice" and "Kilarney," they had gained a reputation for having an advanced sound: "Music hitherto deemed beyond the scope of reeds and brass is performed so admirably as to suggest a symphonic orchestra. These effects are brought about by an overwhelming preponderance of wood-wind instruments in association with string basses, harps and an augmented grouping of saxaphones [sic]" (

On the fair's opening day, June 1, the band debuted "Gloria, Washington" at the Music Pavilion. Then on July 10 -- which had been declared "Innes Day" (one of the fair's many dedicated "Special Days") -- Innes, who was the "Director of the Music" for the A-Y-P, conducted the performance of another of his own creations, an "Allegory of the Civil War in Song," at the Natural Amphitheatre. The program included a long string of relevant songs from the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to "Dixie" to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" to "America" and featured Innes' Band, the A-Y-P Festival Chorus, the Hayden Quartet, "Dad" Wagner's A-Y-P band, the Clan Fraser Troupe of Highland Pipers, the Second Regiment (Washington National Guard) Band, and seven auxiliary bands.

Ellery's Band

Chicago's Ellery Band also came out to Seattle to entertain A-Y-P fairgoers. Having already performed at the Saint Louis World Fair in 1904, Channing Ellery's group was considered "one of the leading 'Italian bands' in the United States, and possibly, the first" ( They were sometimes booked as the Ellery’s Royal Italian Band.

Not a typical brass band of their times, the group featured woodwinds instruments along with the brass. The band's exact song selections performed in Seattle remains uncertain, but its repertoire at the time was reported to have included tunes such as Giuseppe Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" and Constantino Gaito's "La Sensitiva" --along with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song” and Johann Strauss's waltz-like, “The Dragon Fly," both of which the band recorded for Columbia Records in 1913 (

 Other Musical Sights and Sounds

The Seattle Symphony made numerous appearances at the expo that summer --  in particular, a regular Sunday afternoon concert series at the Auditorium -- playing everything from songs by Johann Sebastian Bach to those of Camille Saint-Saëns. In addition, the A-Y-P Manufactures Building was the site of an exhibit that was hyped as the "largest and most costly display of Pianos, Player Pianos, Orchestrions, Talking Machines and Musical Instruments ever made."  Assembled by Seattle retailer Eilers Music House (3rd Avenue and University Street), the display also included Pipe Organs, Violins, and "Electric Instruments." 

Since 1909 was still a good two decades away from the invention of amplified instruments, these "electrical instruments" were likely coin-operated mechanically operated musical machines. Among them were the "$8,000 Pianorchestra which duplicates the playing of a large orchestra" and was described as a "marvel." Then there was the "Wireless Electric Playing Piano" -- whose defining feature was presumably that of broadcasting a song a short distance to a radio speaker-horn -- and which in that pre-radio age was described as "an exceedingly clever mechanical illusion." Fairgoers could also see other "new inventions in Electrically Operated Instruments such as the Mandolin Sextette, the Xylaphone [sic] and Band Piano, the Violin Piano" and more. Lastly, it was advertised that "visitors are splendidly entertained by informal Recitals ... throughout the day" (A-Y-P Program, July 12, 1909). 

A Little Bit of Italy 

One of the recitalists who performed at the Manufactures Building was the European vaudeville star Guido Deiro (1886-1950). He had reportedly been commissioned by Italy's Ranco Antonio Accordion Company to come to Seattle and help popularize their "piano accordion." This was a modernized instrument whose piano-like keys differentiated it from the traditional button-accordions of olden times. 

Deiro arrived in town in the fall of 1908, settled into a room at the Idaho Hotel (509 1/2 Jackson Street), and took a job performing at Frank Butti's Jackson Saloon (517 Jackson Street). His own (circa 1935) memoirs reveal that: "My repertoire consisted of a very large collection of grand opera pieces, including fifteen waltzes by the Greatest Composer in Europe, Waldteufel and Strauss. I played the famous 'Tesoro Mio Waltz', and the 'Sharpshooters' March,' the first time it had ever been played in this country." Other rooms he played included the India Bar and Mr. Allen Tate's Oriental Saloon (1413 3rd Avenue) with pianist, Peter Morello.

He reportedly played the A-Y-P Exposition on June 1st and then was discovered by someone at the Orpheum Theater (3rd Avenue and Madison Street) -- quite possibly by its famous manager, John W. Considine (1868-1943):

"In the month of May 1910, we were booked to play the Orpheum Circuit for three weeks, at Salt Lake City, Spokane and Seattle. We were dressed in white flannels and wore straw hats. While playing in Spokane, I met a very good accordionist by the name of Santo Santucci. He was playing a semi-tone accordion in an act called 'The Bella Napoli Troupe.'" 

The following year Deiro's original tune "Kismet" gained fame as the theme song for the 1911 hit Broadway musical of the same name, and his recordings for Edison and Columbia Records, and appearances in Hollywood movies, soon made him the world's most famous accordionist.

German, Hawaiian, and Swedish Sounds

In addition to all that exotic Italian, Argentinean, Viennese, and Irish-associated music, A-Y-P visitors also had opportunities to be exposed to tunes presented to help celebrate other ethnic groups and their musical heritage.

On July 31, Swedish Day ("Svenska Dagen") was celebrated with an "Assembly" event at the Amphitheatre. The day's Music Director in Chief was Professor Adolph Edgren, a prominent local musician and educator who (along with his wife, Emma) operated the Edgren School of Music (1828 9th Avenue, Seattle). The assembly featured various musical ensembles including an orchestra, a male quartet ("Manskvartett"), a female choir ("Damkör"), soloists (Emma Edgren, Miss Edla Hasselblad, Miss Signe Hagen, and Mr. Albert Arveschoug), and the Grand Swedish Jubilee Choir (comprising 276 "kör" members from various churches including Seattle's Swedish Mission, Swedish Methodist, and Swedish Lutheran, along with the Swedish Lutheran churches of Spokane and La Conner). Songs performed included: "Var Gud är oss en Valdig Borg," the "150th Psalm," and Edgren's own, "Jubel Kantat." 

On August 18, German Day ("Deutscher Tag") was celebrated with a massive downtown parade that featured 7,000 to 10,000 participants including horse-riding trumpeters, various local German singing groups, and six Germanic brass bands. Later that day large crowds headed to the exposition Auditorium where they heard and saw, among other things, “Dad” Wagner’s A-Y-P Band play, the Seattle Turnverein chorus sing, and Seattle’s pioneering German bandleader, Alfred Lueben, conduct “The Star Spangled Banner” as a gesture of loyalty to the United States. Back at the Auditorium that evening, Lueben's orchestra and various Germanic performers played sentimental old-country favorites before a spirited dance kicked-off. They played until midnight. 

The days of August 25 and 26 were designated as Hawaiian Days and during that period exotic island sounds could be heard -- not just in the Hawaiian Building, but at many sites all across the exposition grounds. Those performances by an impressive group of native musicians led by the ukulele master, Ernest Kaleihoku Kaai (1881-1962), has been credited with helping launch the subsequent international craze for Hawaiian music. The steel guitar master, Joseph Kekuku (1874-1932), remained in town after the fair in order to offer steeling lessons to local students.

Wagner's A-Y-P Band

Perhaps the most ubiquitous band that summer was the exposition's official ensemble, Theodore H. "Dad" Wagner’s A-Y-P Band. "Dad" Wagner's Band performed daily and nightly in frequent parades, receptions, and concerts.  Wagner himself had deep roots in the community. He had arrived in the mid-1880s as a cornetist with a band that accompanied a traveling theatrical troupe. He opted to stay and was selected to lead the 2nd Regiment National Guard Band -- a group forever beloved for comforting the distraught town with free outdoor concerts at Pioneer Square in the wake of Seattle's Great Fire of June 6, 1889. Later that same year – apparently now leading the First Regiment Washington National Guard Band -- Wagner and crew were hired to help celebrate Washington’s advancement from territory status to full statehood. 

From there he began leading his own Dad Wagner’s Band, which for the next quarter century enjoyed its status as the city’s premiere musical outfit. Its popularity eventually took the band on tours throughout the state, but its favorite venue was the bandstand at the Madison Park Pavilion. In addition, on New Years Eve 1899-1900, the group played a legendary all-night dance at Seattle's old Armory Building. So it was a seemingly natural choice for the popular Wagner and his fellow members of Seattle's all-white Musicians Union (American Federation of Musicians Local No.76) to play such a central role by the time the A-Y-P rolled around. Still, there were other local players were quite displeased with this situation...

A More Perfect Union

By 1909 Seattle already had a sizeable number of active African American musicians. None of them, however, had ever been welcomed into the AFM No. 76 -- and that organization's members were getting most of the bookings from the A-Y-P Exposition. So one prominent black bandleader, Powell Barnett (1883-1971), stepped up and inquired if the A-Y-P's organizers might wish to engage his brass band: "I went to the man in charge of music for the Fair Association,’ recalled Barnett. ‘He told me that if I got the negro band in the union they could play all year at the fair. But the negro musicians wouldn’t do anything about it ... . I encouraged them to join the union, but they were determined to create their own" (de Barros).  

Although the town's black players were left on the sidelines during the fair, Barnett's efforts ultimately did stir up enough of a simmering controversy that -- after getting shunted again for Seattle's Golden Potlatch Festivals of 1911 and 1912 -- the "Negro Musicians Union" (AFM Local No. 458) was finally formed in 1918. And thus Seattle (like most in America) became an uneasy two-union town -- until the rival organizations finally merged in 1958.

Lacy's Dixieland Band

Even without the local black music community’s participation, the A-Y-P did actually present some African American talents: those who arrived here from the south with a traveling extravaganza called the "The Great Dixieland Spectacle" which featured Lacy's Dixieland Band. Perhaps most significantly, the troupe included one couple -- a dancer and a stagehand/roadie -- whose descendants would have a lasting impact on the city and the world of music.

One of the special theme days at the fair took place on August 24th -- Dixie Day, when all things Southern were celebrated by large crowds who came to enjoy some "sweet 'taters, watermelon and plantation melodies" (The Seattle Sunday Times). Appropriate music was provided by the Lacy's Dixieland Band, the Hayden Male Quartet, some plantation singers, and Channing Ellery's A-Y-P Band whose performance of "Dixie" reportedly brought the sing-a-long crowd of 10,000 to their feet. An old-timey dance at the Washington State Building later that evening saw thousands whirling through the Virginia Reel and other southern favorites.

Portent of Jimi Hendrix

But it was the "Great Dixieland Spectacle" that embodied a most portentous aspect of the whole exposition -- and that is because among the cast's six-member band and 17 vaudevillian actors, dancers, comedians, and crew, were dancer, Zenora “Nora” Moore (1883-1984), and stagehand, Bertram Philander Ross Hendrix (1866-1934) -- future grandparents of Seattle's most famous musician. Their troupe had already traveled across and around the country, but it was while in the Pacific Northwest that they began to experience troubles. "As the tour began to concentrate in the Pacific Northwest with the entertainers often traveling between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, both Nora and Ross began to view the area as a permanent home. Financial difficulties brought the tour to an end in Seattle in 1912, but that end proved to be the beginning of a new life for Ross and Nora as they decided to marry in that city" (Janie L. Hendrix).

Finding employment options difficult here, the couple moved northward to Vancouver, B.C. There, several years later they would give birth to James Allen "Al" Ross Hendrix (1919-2002), the music- and dance-loving future father of the revolutionary 1960s rock 'n' roll guitarist, James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (1942-1970).


"There Was Music For Everybody: It Ranged From Ragtime Tunes to Tannhauser and Liszt -- Concerts All The Day," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1909, Sec. 2, p. 4; A-Y-P Exposition Innes Day daily program for July 10, 1909, University of Washington Special Collections; A-Y-P Exposition daily program for July 12, 1909, University of Washington Special Collections; "Guido Deiro: Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition," Guido Deiro website accessed on January 23, 2009 (; "Music and Musicians at the Pan America Exposition," The State University of New York at Buffalo Libraries website accessed on November 21, 2008 (; Claude Gordon, Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing (New York: Carl Fischer Music, 1987), 7; A-Y-P Exposition Svenska Dagen daily program for July 31, 1909, University of Washington Special Collections; "Channing Ellery Archive," website accessed on November 18, 2008 (; "Ellery band," website accessed on November 18, 2008 (, print-out of item in possession of Peter Blecha, Seattle; "Dixie Day August 10," The Seattle Daily Times, July 10, 1909; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle Celebrates Dixie Day on August 24, 1909" (by Marjorie Ann Reeves and Paula Becker), (accessed November 18, 2008);  "Ellery Band Plays," The New York Times, March 21, 1914, website accessed on November 18, 2008 (; Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993), 7; A-Y-P Exposition German Day daily program for August 18, 1909, University of Washington Special Collections; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle celebrates German Day on August 18, 1909" (by Peter Blecha), (accessed September 18, 2005); "Exposition Programme," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 25, 1909, p. 1; "Hawaiians To Give Ball Tonight -- Reception and Dance Will Close Two-Day Celebration at A.-Y.-P. Exposition -- Music To Be Feature," The Seattle Daily Times, August 26, 1909, p. 4; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Hawaiian Music and its Historic Seattle Connection" (by Peter Blecha), (accessed November 18, 2008); Peter Blecha's conversations and interviews with Al Hendrix (1978-1993);  Peter Blecha's interview with Al Hendrix, videotape in EMP Collections (February 11-12, 1993);  Janie L. Hendrix, "The Blood of Entertainers: The Life and Times of Jimi Hendrix's Paternal Grandparents," website accessed on November 18, 2008 (; and author's archives.
Note: This essay was expanded on March 30, 2009, and corrected on February 11, 2013.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You