Drawing together all the threads of history leads us on fascinating adventures and familiar names on unfamiliar trails. Those of us who travel the highways and byways of Philippine history know that US Major-General Henry Ware Lawton was killed in the Battle of Paye during the Philippine-American War by a sniper under the command of Filipino General Licerio Geronimo and that Lawton was involved in the surrender of Apache Chief, Geronimo. The links between Geronimo and the Philippines come together again at the 1904 St Louis Worlds Fair when the legendary Apache chief saw Igorottes for the first time.
At the time of the fair, Geronimo had been a prisoner of war for almost 20 years, he was in his 70s. He was allowed off the reservation at Fort Sill under guard for special events. He was such a VIP prisoner that he had the ear of President Theodore Roosevelt.
He had a deal with a photographer under which he got 10 cents for every 25 cent photograph he sold. He also sold his autograph for varying amounts and was allowed to keep all the money. He also sold Indian artifacts like War Bonnets. All 9in all he did well financially, making as much as $2 a day, about $30 today and he amassed more money than he had ever had in his life.
Being exhibits at a fair was a new experience for the Apache Chief but not so for the 114 Igorrotes among the 1000 strong contingent from the Philippines. Negritos and Igorrotes had been exhibited in Manila, and in Madrid in 1887, for cultural shows, Igorrotes had been tricked by lowlanders into fighting in the Battle of Caloocan in 1899 by pretending they were being hired to perform dances, A year before the St Louis exposition they were shown in a dry-run in Manila. Being exhibited was nothing new for them, it was profitable: Some Igorrotes earned up to $500 during their stay an enormous amount for the time.
While the relative financial transparency of the St. Louis fair may have prevented much of the financial exploitation there, it was not the case when the two Americans displaying them showed them elsewhere.
The Igorrote village was the most popular on the 47-acre Philippines site, bring in more than $200,000 in gate receipts.
For some, it was the first experience of school, and there were English lessons provided.
Another exhibit was the Negrito village which took some $64,000 in gate receipts. This rather conflicts with the idea that Americans wanted to see ‘primitive’ peoples as representative of the Philippines.
Despite a footnote in the 1907 edition of Geronimo – His Story referring to Igorrotes It may be that Geronimo’s memories referred to the Negritos.
For Geronimo, the St. Louis World’s Fair was a magical place of wonder and it may be that the indigenous Filipinos saw it through similar eyes:
There were many strange things in these shows. The Government sent guards with me when I went, and I was not allowed to go anywhere without them.
In one of the shows some strange men 1 with red caps had some peculiar swords, and they seemed to want to fight. Finally, their manager told them they might fight each other. They tried to hit each other over the head with these swords, and I expected both to be wounded or perhaps killed, but neither one was harmed. They would be hard people to kill in a hand-to-hand fight.
In another show, there was a strange-looking negro. The manager tied his hands fast, then tied him to a chair. He was securely tied, for I looked myself, and I did not think it was possible for him to get away. Then the manager told him to get loose. He twisted in his chair for a moment, and then stood up; the ropes were still tied, but he was free. I do not understand how this was done. It was certainly a miraculous power because no man could have released himself by his own efforts.
In another place, a man was on a platform speaking to the audience; they set a basket by the side of the platform and covered it with red calico; then a woman came and got into the basket, and a man covered the basket again with the calico; then the man who was speaking to the audience took a long sword and ran it through the basket, each way, and then down through the cloth. I heard the sword cut through the woman’s body, and the manager himself said she was dead; but when the cloth was lifted from the basket she stepped out, smiled, and walked off the stage. I would like to know how she was so quickly healed and why the wounds did not kill her.
I have never considered bears very intelligent, except in their wild habits, but I had never before seen a white bear. In one of the shows, a man had a white bear that was as intelligent as a man. He would do whatever he was told—carry a log on his shoulder, just as a man would; then, when he was told, would put it down again. He did many other things, and seemed to know exactly what his keeper said to him. I am sure that no grizzly bear could be trained to do these things.
One time the guards took me into a little house 2 that had four windows. When we were seated the little house started to move along the ground. Then the guards called my attention to some curious things they had in their pockets. Finally they told me to look out, and when I did so I was scared, for our little house had gone high up in the air, and the people down in the Fair Grounds looked no larger than ants. The men laughed at me for being scared; then they gave me a glass to look through (I often had such glasses which I took from dead officers after battles in Mexico and elsewhere), and I could see rivers, lakes, and mountains. But I had never been so high in the air, and I tried to look into the sky. There were no stars, and I could not look at the sun through this glass because the brightness hurt my eyes. Finally, I put the glass down, and as they were all laughing at me, I too, began to laugh. Then they said, “Get out!” and when I looked we were on the street again. After we were safe on the land I watched many of these little houses going up and coming down, but I cannot understand how they travel. They are very curious little houses.
One day we went into another show, and as soon as we were in, it changed into night. It was real night, for I could feel the damp air; soon it began to thunder, and the lightnings flashed; it was real lightning, too, for it struck just above our heads. I dodged and wanted to run away, but I could not tell which way to go in order to get out. The guards motioned me to keep still, and so I stayed. In front of us were some strange little people who came out on the platform; then I looked up again and the clouds were all gone, and I could see the stars shining. The little people on the platform did not seem in earnest about anything they did; so I only laughed at them. All the people around where we sat seemed to be laughing at me.
We went into another place and the manager took us into a little room that was made like a cage; then everything around us seemed to be moving; soon the air looked blue, then there were black clouds moving with the wind. Pretty soon it was clear outside; then we saw a few thin white clouds; then the clouds grew thicker, and it rained and hailed with thunder and lightning. Then the thunder retreated and a rainbow appeared in the distance; then it became dark, the moon rose and thousands of stars came out. Soon the sun came up, and we got out of the little room. This was a good show, but it was so strange and unnatural that I was glad to be on the streets again.
We went into one place where they made glassware. I had always thought that these things were made by hand, but they are not. The man had a curious little instrument, and whenever he would blow through this into a little blaze the glass would take any shape he wanted it to. I am not sure, but I think that if I had this kind of an instrument I could make whatever I wished. There seems to be a charm about it. But I suppose it is very difficult to get these little instruments, or other people would have them. The people in this show were so anxious to buy the things the man made that they kept him so busy he could not sit down all day long. I bought many curious things in there and brought them home
At the end of one of the streets, some people were getting into a clumsy canoe, upon a kind of shelf, and sliding down into the water. They seemed to enjoy it, but it looked too fierce for me. If one of these
canoes had gone out of its path the peo-ple would have been sure to get hurt or killed.
Geronimo had seen nothing like the Negritos or Igorrotes before, knew little about America’s adventure in the Philippines or the background to their presence st the fair. He relies on what he has heard from others.
There were some little brown people at the Fair that United States troops captured recently on some islands far away from here. They did not wear much clothing, and I think that they should not have been allowed
to come to the Fair. But they themselves did not seem to know any better. They had some little brass plates, and they tried to play music with these, but I did not think it was music—it was only a rattle. How- ever, they danced to this noise and seemed to think they were giving a fine show.
I do not know how true the report was, but I heard that the President sent them to the Fair so that they could learn some manners, and when they went home teach their people how to dress and how to behave.
Geronimo does not seem to have identified with them but seems to express some sympathy for them. His view of the Negritos and Igorrotes was very much how the white visitors to the fair viewed him.