“the turnstiles began to click” — Jamestown Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the Jamestown Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when the exposition honoring the 300th anniversary opened on April 26, 1907.

From the National Magazine for May 1907:


The Jamestown Exposition

By Joe Mitchell Chapple

On April 26, 1907, the turnstiles began to click in unison with whole batteries of cameras, for then the Jamestown Exposition was formally opened.

Entering Hampton Roads, past Old Point Comfort, a sweeping view of the Exposition grounds is obtained. Just beyond the Rip-Raps there is a glimpse of the cedar grove on Sewall’s point, and of that great stretch of beach which will be the playground of millions of people during the next few months.

What the Court of Honor was to the exposition in Chicago, the Eiffel Tower to that in Paris, the Cascades to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the Grand Pier at Jamestown will be to the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition.

As we steamed in, the vast stretch of water at Hampton Roads was a fiery blood red, and the setting sun threw a wake of scarlet over the great Atlantic roadstead.

It was peculiarly fitting that this exposition should have been opened by the President of the United States, in whose veins courses the blood of both the North and South.

Few such events have ever held a closer personal significance to the chief executive of the nation.

A vast multitude had gathered by sea and land. With all the proverbial good nature of an American throng—they jostled and laughed, but the onlooker was impelled to contrast this scene with that of 300 years ago, when three tiny ships felt their way into these same waters, after a tempestuous voyage in quest of an undiscovered land.

There is a romance about the settlement of Jamestown, which makes that portion of the old school histories and geographies especially attractive.

The spacious boulevards and walks impress the visitor with the idea that he is a guest visiting some rich estate, rather than a mere spectator at an exposition.

For to the very borderland, the 400 acres are hedged with Virginia creeper, clematis and American Rambler roses in full bloom, giving the idea of private, carefully laid out grounds rather than land fenced in from the general public.

It would not be accurate to say that everything was completed for the opening—that would be unheard of in the history of expositions but everything needful was ready for the great occasion.

Three years ago, in the earliest inception of the idea, I visited the Norfolk Exposition grounds and talked with Secretary Shepperd and General Fitzhugh Lee.

The General was then the prime mover of the exposition, and was enthusiastic as to his ideas of what could be done with this spot—prophecies which, alas, he did not live to see realized.

Having visited the grounds at different times, and witnessed the gradual crystalization of his plans into substantial facts, I naturally feel a peculiar interest in the Exposition as it stands today.

Driving about the grounds during the dusty days of the previous month, I was well cared for by the hospitality of that gallant Southern gentleman, Colonel Hodges, who went everywhere to see that nothing was lacking for the maintenance of the old Virginian spirit that always demanded the best to set before guests.

I found myself sitting on the steps of the Administration Building, with my eyes full of sand, and yet I felt that there was not a moment in the entire life of the Exposition that I desired more to witness than that home stretch of preparation, when every workman and even every animal, seemed to realize the responsibility that rested upon all concerned to make the most of every minute of time that remained.

The government work on the tower of the buildings was being pushed night and day at that time.

I was accompanied by the dear, old dad with whom I have had many a pleasant jaunt, and it was indeed interesting to hear him relate his experience when attending the first international exposition ever held, in the world famous Crystal Palace, London, England.

In those days, and even as late as the Centennial, these events were held in such glass houses erected for the purpose, which suggested the necessity for nursing the tender exposition plant, which has since been boldly transplanted into the open air and become a hardy, flourishing tree, grown to a splendid and vigorous maturity, that needs no glass houses, possible targets for stones, but rather demands the substantial buildings that suggest at a glance the colonial hospitality of the old brick manor house of a bygone day.

From under the glass case has sprung forth a growth fitted for freedom and open air, forming a fitting alliance with Nature, for all the lavish beauty of the Virginian.

May-time will make this exposition a meet commemoration of the landing of the courtly Englishmen from the stately halls of King James, who came to build a great English empire on American soil at this place.

As the people poured past in throngs, the good father indulged in reminiscences of those English days of hazel nuts and toffee, contrasting them with the peanuts and popcorn of the present day to say nothing of chicklets.

The Pure Food Buildings have a popular name, for if there is one thing the people are determined upon it is to have enough food, and have it pure, and these buildings will furnish many a valuable object lesson to persons not to be reached in other ways.

The structures are not lofty, but are well adapted for exhibition purposes—like the Chinaman’s skillfully arranged show-window, where everything is in plain sight.

Far up the river is the site of Jamestown, where the first permanent English settlement was made in 1607, during the times of James the First of England, whose name was given to this earliest colony on American soil.

Here, among the throng, was a suggestion of the old cavalier spirit of the times of Charles and James the Second, forerunners of the stately Southern gentleman with his long locks, for, as everyone remembers, in those early days men wore flowing “love-locks,” and closely cropped hair only came into vogue with the Cromwellian “roundheads.”

Looking down upon the lagoon, in the center of the pier, across from the Administration Building, over Raleigh Square, a view is obtained that will not soon be forgotten.

From this point the waters of Hampton Roads may be seen where great naval events will be witnessed.

Near at hand, were cannon balls, mementos of that great naval duel which took place in these waters, and also a contrivance for carrying hot shot, a rare relic of those old-time battles.

Skirting the beach was a dignified row of buildings, and among the shrubs on either side stood the towers of Independence Hall and the old State House, a replica of that in Boston; these two buildings stand out as prominently at the Exposition as they do in national history.

Who can visit these scenes without finding the pages of dry and dusty text books illuminated into living facts!

Around the site of the Exposition cluster the cities of Norfolk, Newport News, Berkley, Portsmouth and Hampton.

Opposite Old Point Comfort, and historic Fortress Monroe, which has played its memorable part in the history of America.

Within twelve hours’ ride of this point where then, three tiny frigates, voyaging courageously to unknown lands and unknown people, straggled up the river, 21,000,000 people now dwell and within twenty four hours’ ride are 39,000,000, or consider ably more than half of the population of the United States—can anything in history ever parallel the growth accomplished in these three centuries, from April 26, 1607, to April 26, 1907, all radiating from this little town.

Exactly three hundred years ago, the vessels entered between the two capes, one of which was called Henry, after the Prince of Wales, and the other Charles in honor of his brother.

Perhaps the same sand dunes were there.

Once inside the harbor, after the long, tempestuous voyage, small wonder they looked upon the point of land which they had first seen and called it “Comfort.”

A few days later, they proceeded up the river, where they landed on May 13, on what was then a peninsula, about thirty-five miles from the present site of the Exposition.

This was first called Fort James, later James City, and now Jamestown, but instead of being a peninsula, it is now an island.

The cry of the program boy and the eager expectancy reflected in the faces of the throng passing into the grounds, indicated that while a dreamy reverie of three hundred years ago might suit the taste of poet or writer, the sturdy American citizens are quite ready to study the different programs of events, which map out gatherings of gaiety or interest compressed into every calendar day from April 26 to November 30, 1907.

Each hour at the Exposition is filled with something of vivid interest, either recreative or industrial, but the naval and military reviews of the Exposition will perhaps be a predominating feature, and carnivals and regettas without number are being provided for the people’s holiday.

Anyone who ever watched a sea-gull flit over the face of the waters has been impressed with the feasibility of aerial navigation, so with hearts as stout to master the unknown as animated the fearless followers of Captain John Smith, when they entered the wilds of Virginia, the aeronauts, not content with the conquest of the land by our race, apparently aspire with adventurous spirit to plant the Stars and Stripes even on the stars, and claim them for Uncle Sam.

The international and national conventions and congresses are far from being the least and important feature, and include events which will be landmarks of the future for every man, woman and child in America; for where in this country is there a man, woman or child who is not associated with some church, lodge, union or organization, in which he feels a close interest, and where is there a man, woman or child who has not at some time or other worn a badge or button of distinction at some public fete or gathering?

Scarcely has the foot of the visitor touched the walks and avenues of the grounds, than he feels that there is an air of permanence in contrast with the ephemeral character of other expositions; for all this array of state buildings along Willoughby Avenue will be later transformed into homes, club houses, hotels, or put to other uses that will continue the mission for which they were created—to be something more than mere temporary rendezvous.

Behind the Administration Building is the now famous Lee Parade Grounds, with its spacious green sward and lines of apple trees, all in blossom.

What a tribute to Robert E. Lee, the loved son of the great South!

Near at hand, was a model military camp, like a great army, encamped where thousands of soldiers will be stationed for months.

It is a singular fact that now, for the first time the armies of foreign nations are peacefully encamped upon our soil, something entirely without precedent and that brings closer and closer the dreams of the millennium.

How fitting that at Jamestown, in the United States, 25,000 soldiers, the corps delite of almost every national army, should mingle in peace and harmony.

There has been no similar gathering since the Field of the Cloth of Gold, when the armies of the French and English nations met peaceably together; but then each king intended that his military pageantry should impress the foreign nation with an idea of his strength, with a view to the suppression of future hostilities; but the military display of today has been arranged for in the same spirit that we dress in our best to pay a friendly visit to our neighbors—merely desiring to show our respect and friendship for our host or hostess.

Yes, I entered at gate 103—that is hundred and three, not twenty-three.

Colonel Hodges sat astride his horse, the flags were the reminiscences of the beacon fires that had been lighted on the previous nights to burn up the remaining brush, the odor of which still lingered in the air suggesting the early spring days of farm work at home.

The last of the hazy days of April had passed, and May, with its genial warmth had come.

Hampton Roads was dotted with craft that seemed smoking the pipe of peace, as their funnels poured out volumes of luminous haze presaging a season of prosperity such as was betokened by the peace pipe that ended a merciless Indian feud in old days.

The sawmill in the cedar grove had just ceased buzzing, and the popular old Pine Beach Hotel, just outside the grounds, had thrown wide its doors and was welcoming its guests, while the Inside Inn, with its deep, shaded verandas and quaint trellis, adorned with pillars of live oak, made one long to linger here and look out upon this scene which had fascinated the explorers of long ago.

The Warpath had been blazed, and spielers were there; their whoops ring out above the chatter of the merry throng, who pass to and fro—and all this almost on the very spot where the three frigates had passed by to land their first settlers on the shores of the James river, granted to them by royal charter, signed by a hand long since crumbled into dust.


The Jamestown Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the 300th anniversary exposition of 1907.

Jamestown Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin