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1884-1885 World Cotton Centennial Expo New Orleans

The 1884-1885 World Cotton Centennial (aka World’s Industrial & Cotton Centennial Exposition) was a World’s Fair held in New Orleans, Louisiana between Dec 1884 and June 1885.  The purpose of the fair was to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first shipment of cotton from the US to England (in 1784-1785) when New Orleans was a Spanish port.  France ceded Louisiana to Spain in 1763 and reclaimed it in 1800 and sold it to the US in 1803.   The fair advertised the US cotton industry to encourage world wide use of cotton.  President Chester Arthur opened the fair via telegraph on December 16, 1884.

The fair was held at a time in US history when people had more disposable income and traveled more (via the railroad system) for vacations to other US cities and to national parks.    The original fair site is now Audubon Park/Zoo/Golf Course in New Orleans, between St Charles street and the Mississippi River, a former plantation purchased by the city of New Orleans in 1871 after the Civil War.  Many Southern states participated and erected their own buildings.   The main expo building was the largest at the time, holding numerous industrial exhibits.  The horticulture hall held numerous tropical plants and was modeled after the London Crystal Palace, surviving until 1950 when it was destroyed by Hurricane.  An Art building held pottery by the Woodward Brothers of Newcomb Pottery.  The Mexican exhibit was particularly lavish and popular, featuring a huge brass band that was a great hit locally.  A massive piece iron ore from the Alabama state exhibit (as Alabama was the iron works center of the South) survives to this day in the golf course in Audubon Park.

Numerous federal displays were present including a display of the Liberty Bell (sent as a symbol of post-war reconciliation) as well as a Mint Exhibit.  The official medal (HK-142) was apparently struck in the mint exhibit on the fairgrounds.  Research by John Raymond would seem to suggest that William H Warner had involvement with the dies and distribution of this medal (see images).  HK-142 to HK-144 covers the range of these SCD medals, but the Rulau token catalog also has numerous smaller medals from this fair (R-LA-NO-12 and spanning R-LA-NO-39 to R-LA-NO-58); R-LA-NO-58 would appear to be an unlisted SCD.

In an unsuccessful attempt to recover some of the financial losses from the Fair, the grounds and structures were reused for the North, Central & South American Exposition (R-LA-NO-29) from November 10, 1885, to March 31, 1886, with little financial success.

Several nice videos on the fair can be found at 


If you are ever able to visit New Orleans, it might be worth a visit to Audubon Park and the adjacent Tulane University Art museum.

Uploaded files:
  • HK-142-Warner.jpg
  • HK-142-Comparisons.jpg

In follow-up, I wanted to post some of the Liberty Bell Dollars.  The Liberty Bell was loaned by Philadelphia to the fair.  Attached is a photo.  Two so-called dollars reference the liberty bell going (HK-144A/B) and coming back (HK-144C/D).  Attached are some photos.  This was a significant symbol of the reconciliation process between the North and the South after the civil war.  I would think that F.C. Key and the US mint would have had some involvement in the production of these medals.  More research needs to be done.  The bronze medal (HK-144D) is a significant find (possibly unique and not listed in the 2008 2nd Ed HK revision) out of on old Connecticut collection from an employee at Scovill Manufacturing of Waterbury CT, sold in 2020.  HK-144D would seem to be the cousin of HK-144A and makes sense it was produced.

Uploaded files:
  • Liberty-Bell.jpeg
  • HK-144B.jpeg
  • HK-144D-Bronze.jpeg

Here are a few more unlisted 45mm pieces from this fair...  the Rulau book references that up to 11 unlisted SCD-sized pieces from this fair exists... but doesn't specify what they are... I guess Bill and Jeff's new book will tell us...

Uploaded files:
  • HK-unlst-1884-NO-Expo-Blue-Gray.jpeg
  • HK-unlst-1884-World-Cotton-45mm.jpeg

In the August 2022 Heritage Token & Medals Auction, a number of rare pieces from the 1884 and 1885 New Orleans Expositions sold. There was a new unlisted 1885 expo SCD piece and a gilt version of the blue and gray SCD.   I particularly like the HK-143d Fireman's March piece (which sold for an outrageous sum of $3840... setting a new high probably):

I have only seen one other example (ungraded at a so-called gathering).

Uploaded files:
  • HK-143D.jpg