© April 2001 Robert C. Galloway. All Rights Reserved
— An investigative feature article based in Associated Press style for the Riverfront Times or other St. Louis alternative or independent publications in fulfillment of the Senior Overview requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree in English: Writing As A Profession at Webster University, April 2001.
Karla Armbruster, Assistant Professor of English,
Director of Writing as a Profession
The centennial of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis rapidly approaches. We all know what that means, right? Dog-eating savages! Twins joined at the brain! The Dream Machine! The Orgasmatron! Subwoofers the size of a football field! Stand back, folks! The new super deluxe bullshit-detector earplugs! All this, only in one place: The World's Fair! Or will it be called the Mark McGuire Milky Way's Gala the next time around, when St. Louis finally becomes a real city again? And the crystal ball says . . . Nope! None of the above, er, um, except for the dog-eating folks, of course. No, not dog eating folks, but dog-eating folks. From the Far East.
A long look back into the year 1904 at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri seems a ripe project for the revisionists of history. John Danforth's World's Fair centennial group, 2004, purports to have the goal of revitalizing St. Louis into the most popular Midwest tourist attraction by 2004. Who knows what's really in store for the centennial in St. Louis? One thing is likely. The post-modern trends of reviewing alternative sources of history for what has been left out of the printed record, or reviewing even the printed record with a new attitude will likely bring some of these "revisionists" into the spotlight. Folks who want to tell us that we should return to some of the bad things the people in power did back then. One, for instance, is the alleged forcing of the Philippine aboriginal Igorots to kill and eat dog daily in front of sneering fairgoers. Some of these post-modern "revisionists" would tell us to point the finger of condemnation at our own ancestors watching these vastly different Igorots. In order to defend "the autonomy of the individual," challenging this condemnation becomes very important as overzealous revisionists become more and more restless. These wronged Igorots deserve another look, and not because their occasional dog eating is novel. Dog remains an ancient delicacy across the Far East.
Just as looking back at the events surrounding Christopher Columbus in 1492 revealed unspeakable horror, a year of researching the most popular event at the World's Fair has also shone a most unsettling reflection of our American ancestors. Back in January of 2000, the Missouri Historical Society held this unsettling reflection up in the face of the descendants of the Igorots who participated in the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Glancing again at the annually celebrated Columbus allowed many revisions of history. One is the award-winning 1990 book, "The Rediscovery of North America," in which Barry Lopez revisits the Columbus landing and even reconciles with these tyrants who violated the indigenous people of the island Hispaniola (now Haiti), the Bahamas, and North America. Despite Columbus's genocide, pedophilia, brutality, and fastidious zeal revealed in the logs of Christopher's cohorts in cruelty, Lopez finds room to acknowledge what genius resided in the men. They made Europe's first known crossing of the Atlantic Ocean; they were part of the like-mindedness of the self-declared autonomous Renegado and Moorish pirates rebelling against the genocidal tyrant in Spain. But what does the so-called discovery of North America have in common with the 1904 World's Fair?
Both are worthy of re-discovery and revision now that the bad deeds have been revealed. Both have in common the search for wealth or progress via the tyranny of the adventurous individual's unrestrained desire and passion for achievement. This tyranny set a pattern that the pundits of "progress" follow even to this day as global capitalism via free trade takes precedent over stopping the abuse of human rights and the environment — and indeed furthers those abuses. Rediscovering these crucial events in our history may allow a rediscovery of the whole of our foundation, and in essence, says Lopez, of our present and future home as defined by each of us.
The men officiating at the World's Fair in St. Louis were men of modernity and buyers of the myth of the frontier — the farce of cowboy lore telling how the West was won for "progress" only through force. The Fair was held to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase; to properly salute the mercurial march of "manifest destiny," one throws a big festival. The civilization of the frontier allegedly could not be stopped, and still can't, so they say. The Fair was yet another reminder to the people of the early Twentieth Century that the destiny of "progress" was manifest. But as if displaying representatives and technology from everywhere in the world wasn't enough — as too much never is — one must share one's formula for success with the entire world, too. One must bring the marginal to the cushy and often fashionable center of convention. One must modernize the "primitive" human left out in nature to choke on tree bark and to go without "The Gospel," jurisprudence, central air-conditioning, and lavish designer suits. Or so the designers of the World's Fair said, anyway.
So the Fair officials went out to prove they had intentions more genuine than the oppressive colonialists of Europe. These men brought or "bought" a hefty cross-section of the world's "primitives" to meet the modern world at the Fair. And Western humanity's alleged point of distinction from the human labeled "primitive" went without saying at the Fair. But this distinction was made anyway just in the Western human's gut-level or first reaction to these "different others" and vice versa. And this reaction coupled with the press hype allegedly lead to a whole lot of dog eating to get the value out of the fairgoers' shock. Regardless, Fair administrators were out to "do good," or "save the dog eating Igorots" from their own way of life, a way they alleged was destined for failure.
The living descendants of those Igorots, who consist of five tribes from the mountains in the northern Philippines, are convinced (despite any potentially unannounced skepticism) that their ancestors were forced to perform their ritual dog feast daily. The descendants insist their ancestors were denied the variety all humans need in their diets. The yellow journalism of the day seems to support this claim, although not directly.So before we start a witch-hunt, we might withhold judgment from our revision theory until all of the "facts" have been found — and still withhold judgment perhaps even then. Finding a "fact," clearly, is not knowing what it is. We may disagree, however.
Yellow journalism is a form of news reporting which began in the 1870s, and clearly never disappeared completely. Ironically, from the present the news reporting may appear to have been less ambiguous in 1904 than the reporting of today. This form of news reporting is where the editor takes liberties with news stories, skewing them for the paper's benefit if so desired. This skewed reporting seems to give the final say to the first who have tried to revise World's Fair history. The Igorot descendants and historians treat the subject of exhibiting these "primitives" who were at the Fair, and some the entire Fair itself of course, with utter disdain. In 1901, the United States had just won the three-and-a-half year Philippine-American War, and the "Progressive Era" was on. A few remaining US military occupants on the Philippine island of Luzon got a bright idea, according to the only St. Louis newspaper in 1904, the St. Louis Republic.
Surgeon T.J. Hunt had become governor of the Filipino highlanders since the United States' victory in the islands, and he pitched the idea of bringing some of these Igorots to the spectacle in St. Louis — a spectacle that was years in the making. The Fair administrators apparently liked the suggestion and struck a deal with the Philippine government already settled in the grand Philippine Exposition on the St. Louis fairgrounds in Forest Park.
The very affluent, living Igorot descendants have varying views on the experience of their ancestors, but have joined Fair historians to share disdain for the deeds of those they say did the exploiting. These descendants and historians comprise the first revisionists to come forward. Some descendants feel the Fair administrators cajoled their ancestors into coming to St. Louis in 1904 with promises to uplift the "primitives" from the hard life in the mountains. Others, such as Igorot Edwin Bobo Abeya, say their ancestors may have willfully left the Philippines due to the harsh conditions under the nearby Spanish Occupation. The only mention in the Republic about this "deal" or "departure" was that one Igorot was considerably difficult to convince that it was safe to float on the ocean water.
Igorot Attorney in the Philippines Lynn Macalingay disagrees with this "Spanish Occupation" theory.
"Coercion? That is a relative term. I guess they were duped into taking the trip," he said in an email interview. "For sure, however, it was not a case of Spanish Occupation. The Spaniards were not that bold enough to 'take' the mountains, you know."
Some descendants insist the Igorots were the subjects of a larger conspiracy agenda of Social Darwinists and quickly name evolutionary experiments conducted on their people.
One Dr. Hardlichka allegedly took it upon himself at the Fair to remove a dead Igorot's brain to research its differences from the white person's brain. Igorots desire to go to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. in 2004 where this brain has been stored to return it to the Philippines for a burial service and closure.
The other eugenic experimentation theories have the common thread of alleged collusion to test the reaction of these beautiful, brown people against the dangerous cold of the West. Allegedly, Fair officials turned the heat off in the train that was bringing the Igorots and many other tribes from the Philippines to the Fair. The heat, Abeya said, is said to have been off from Washington State until their arrival. And strangely, Fair administrators planned 40 grave sights in advance, he added. The Igorots also allegedly were denied sufficient winter clothing at the Fair for the sake of the scientific value in their appearing just as scantily clad as they did back in their highland home. In addition to the allegations that the Igorots were force-fed dog and tested against the cold, conspiracy theorists liken the use of Igorots in the Fair to the crafting of a human zoo.A curator at the Smithsonian, Igorot Pat Afable, told Abeya of the brain theft and mentioned that many Fair administrators quit their government jobs after the Fair and brought more Igorots to their own fairs, circuses, and the like to cash in while they could.
One thing that is important to know about the Igorots is that they are originally aboriginal or mountain people; "Igorot" literally means "dweller of the heath (hill)." Negative views of "heath-dwelling" birthed the pejorative term "heathen." The Igorots' lowland neighbors in the Philippines, already somewhat assimilated into colonial modern civilization by 1904, defiled the Igorots of the Fair era and do so even to this day with the label "dirty Igorot."
But labels fly frivolously when people are in the grip of controversy, carrying each side further away from the heart of the matter and the moment of the split. The yellow journalism may not quite produce a time machine, but the stories can bring us some modicum of probability from which to choose our own accounts. In any event, this choice remains a subjective one. However, re-examining history carefully and calmly, empathizing with all of the people within the phenomena of their time, rather than simply passing moral anecdotes from one generation to another, can bring us much closer to "the things themselves," to borrow a phrase from the philosophers of existentialism.
The Igorot descendants, and 1904 World's Fair historians (some who don't always cite their sources of information), seem to have passed such moral anecdotes with only the "common good" of the present in mind. These people have gathered in St. Louis recently to "review and undo" the historically disheartening deeds of the Fair. They met at Wydown Middle School in January of 2000, where the Igorot Village stood at the Fair.
This passing of moral anecdotes at Wydown was perhaps at the behest of the Missouri Historical Society or Igorot descendants who seem to have inadvertently forced their own accounts upon many in attendance. Such gossip sermons seem to take revisionism to the level of encroachment via mob mentality, rather than the level of empathetic consensus arrived at by individuals. Let's check the historical information they probably relied on and explore these current plunges into World's Fair history to perhaps better evaluate how to take our own plunge into the present.
In August of 1903, members of many Filipino tribes crossed the Pacific and chugged over the Great Plains on their first train ride. Although they may not have known where they were heading, men, women, and children of the five mountain tribes that comprise the Igorots braved their first winter ever in order to attend the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. At least two of these 110 Igorots allegedly were lost to the Midwestern cold on this journey, Virgilio R. Pilapil, M.D., said in his 1992 article in the Journal of Filipino American National Historical Society entitled "Dogtown USA." Pilapil is a contributing editor and columnist of Heritage magazine, but this time failed to cite sources for any of his assertions. On March 25, 1904, the Republic ran a story of how, upon hitting intense heat in their journey to the Fair, the Igorots all took the example of their chief and broke out the train windows to throw out the Western clothes they had been given. The train crew's explanation to the officials' car over the wire: "Head hunters are getting uneasy with the heat and want to sit on the back platform." The story ends by mentioning that these officials had gathered only the fiercest and most untamable individuals to represent the islands.
Also running in the Republic on March 25, 1904 was an article mentioning the train's arrival. Contrary to Pilapil's assertion that two or more Igorots died, the only thing reported was that a member of the non-Igorot Magnyan tribe had been taken off the train and to the hospital due to pneumonia just as they pulled into town. The sickness is tragic, but Pilapil, who is also a surgeon living in Springfield, Illinois, had other people do his research. Only these people, some working for the Missouri Historical Society, were acknowledged at the end of his article. The Republic article does mention that many of the Filipinos looked sick as the reporter boarded the train to find some Filipinos huddling around the stove in their car while many smoked and played cards. However, no particular tribe was specified.
"…Not a car was visited in which an incessant coughing was not kept up," the Republic said.
That same article mentioned something ludicrous about the Igorots that has never been mentioned again, indicating the cross-cultural misunderstanding had likely always been there. The reporter wrote that the tribes' speech interpreter Henry Lopes told the folks waiting to meet the train, "The Igorrotes have the reputation of being cannibals, and in the baggage car are some of their trophies in the shape of human heads." Surprisingly, the article finally gets to the adept copper mining skills these Igorots possessed. The reporter neglected to mention the Igorots' refined rice-farming skills.
Two days later, a story ran about the tribal Filipinos with a line almost near the end that said no heat was supplied to the train cars, and even Governor T. J. Hunt had to live with them in the cold when his car was somehow cut off from the rest of the train. This may be the only source of information for the alleged Darwinist weather experiment, which calls for a closer look at the wording. The article used the term "cut off" to refer to the fate of Hunt's car. This phrase may be what has been easily misconstrued as a deliberate cutting off of the heat. Rather, the phrase "cut off" seems to possibly refer to the car becoming detached from the train.
Abeya, aforementioned as holding the "Spanish Occupation" theory of why the Igorots left their home, raises the following question from historian hearsay: "Why was the heat on the train shut off?I have heard this was a test for Darwinism." Abeya and many of the Igorot descendants vehemently profess their Christianity. And anthropologists of the time were certainly trying to prove Darwinism.
Believing that a vicious Darwinist "conspiracy" was entered into is not hard to do at all, however. The press sensationalized the Igorots' ways of living from the time the word was given that they would be at the World's Fair. Their customs were sensational to the Americans of the time and fit into their conventional definition of the term "primitive." The press was out to hype the Fair up as the biggest event ever in St. Louis. For at least a year before the Fair opened on April 30, just below the St. Louis Republic's printed name at the top of the front page of the paper read "The St. Louis World's Fair 1904." Next to this banner, the days until the Fair opened were counted down daily. With the arrival of the Igorots, the hype circus, of course, was on. And the Igorots huts had already been built on a tract determined by their place among other tribes of the Philippines in the order of "evolutionary advancement," from the "lowest" tribe to the "highest" tribe.
The Igorots of the 1904 World's Fair days were most often labeled by the newspapers of the day as "head hunters." The tribes who traveled half the globe to the Fair on the same boat and train had allegedly left a constant state of intertribal rivalry and feuding for each other's heads. War was their sport, says the St. Louis Republic. The rival tribes were kept separate during the journey and on the fairgrounds in the Igorot Village in the Philippine Exposition.
The Philippine Exposition spanned the area that is now the easternmost edge of the city of Clayton, from Skinker Road in the east to Big Bend Boulevard in the west, and from Clayton Road in the south to Millbrook Boulevard in the north. The Igorot Village was nearest the corner of Wydown Terrace and Skinker Road on the plot of land where Wydown Middle School sports teams now compete.
There the Igorots launched the Philippine Exposition to the status of most popular exhibit at the fair almost immediately after the fair opening on April 30. Just four days after the New Year's Eve closing of the Fair, the Republic ran a story reporting the admission returns of $200,387.18 made from the Igorot village: the highest returns among the entire Philippine Exposition.
But why were the "savage" Igorots so popular? Among the Igorots' many ancient customs still extant was their enjoyment of a delicacy most peculiar to Westerners, but enjoyed at will to this day in the Far East: man's best friend, the canine, the dog, Old Yeller, Lassie Come (too close to) Home, Red Rover, Clifford.The Igorots butcher, bake, and feast on dog at their ritual celebrations, such as those festivals for the capturing of an enemy head back in those days, or the more contemporary occasion of an Igorot's birthday celebration or whatever they choose to celebrate. The newspapers reporting on the Fair missed or ignored this dish as "custom," but hyped up the dog eating to be a daily must-have for the basic Igorot appetite. The Igorots really usually ate sweet potatoes and pork. One of the pre-Fair articles on their village exhibit said that they ate pork more frequently than dog.
On April 11, 1904, the Republic ran a prominent story on the front page headlined "Igorrotes Capture Dogs for a Feast." The reporter practiced good journalistic faith and put a mouthwatering spin on the article. The apparent joy the Igorots felt that a celebration soon would be had comprises the thrust of the story. However, the reporter, perhaps seeking only to fill out the story, gave a strange reason for such joy, faithfully keeping with the hype campaign. The causes of the commotion mentioned in the article read, in full "journalese" or reporter jargon:
"After nearly two weeks of enforced fasting from puppy steaks and dog soup the famished head-hunters are at last to be regaled with their cherished viands." This article goes on to raise another controversy: where the dogs came from.
"Six dogs have been obtained, where or how is kept a dark secret and the dog-killing time is contingent on how soon the canine victims shall have been fattened for the feast."
Interesting to note is that the press angle not only left out the whole story as press angles are required to do by editors, but in turn their angle sounded like it was the whole story. This sensationalism happens in most news reporting, and in this case renders the reporters perhaps more "savage" by their own definition than the Igorots were themselves. The Igorots were not fasting.They only ate dogs for occasional celebrations. But something else was left out, too. The Republic evoked only an image of a savage who grabs any dog at any time of day, holds it over the fire for a few, and then begins chomping. On the contrary, the object Westerners call "dog" was something quite different to these Easterners.
The Igorots also befriended dogs just as Westerners do, the aforementioned Abeya, who is president of JACER, LLC, an information technology provider in Rockville, Maryland, said. Abeya is also a retired US Army Lieutenant Commander.
"Canines make for trustworthy friends to Igorots, too, of course," Abeya said, "especially when hunting in the mountains of Luzon."
Abeya grew up eating dog on special occasions, such as birthdays and weddings. And the attorney aforementioned as holding the conspiracy theory, descendant Macalingay, pointed out that the kind of dogs still eaten today are not "the cute and fluffy type" Westerners know as pets.
"The dogs we have always eaten are more like 'beasts of burden,'" he said.
Ah, cultural relativism in action. Cultural relativism is a system in Western philosophy where considering the like-mindedness people within a cultural system of norms are born into lessens the degree to which we can logically blame others for being and acting different. Our differences are relative to the culture we were born into. Nonetheless, cultural relativism still is not a popular view to side with even among today's world leaders as they "force" capitalism down the throats of the "unsaved" world. Even mentioning the Igorot's befriending of even the dogs they eat likely would not have opened the scandal-hungry minds of Republic readers.
And two of the six dogs reported as "captured" for the first dog feast at the Fair were said to have been untied due to being too beautiful to eat in the eyes of the Igorots. These two became pets the Igorots would take home to Luzon after the Fair. Then, in a later story about the dog bake, these two dogs were discussed as not being of the canine ilk and color the Igorots prefer to butcher and eat.
But on April 13, 1904, two of the six dogs, yellow ones—the only color Igorots were said in the paper to crave—came up missing. In what seems only a game of free association, the Republic reporter had this to say about the potential culprits:
"It is said that at breakfast in the Cuartel yesterday morning three or four Igorrotes appeared supremely contented and begged to be excused when the waiter passed the beef." And the 1904 American workingman read and chuckled over his bacon at breakfast. But the media circus had only just begun. Over the course of the next week or so in 1904, says the Republic, two rural St. Louis men allegedly sent letters to Governor Hunt, then manager of the Fair Igorots, offering to send dogs to break this so-called "fast." One man wrote that he had recently been in a similar situation to the Igorots while in the Philippine-American War without any hamburgers. The other man claimed to have a dog overpopulation problem in his Missouri town. Each of these empathetic men offered to send the magical number of 200 dogs to the Igorots at the Fair.
On April 19, a story ran declaring one of the two missing dogs found: a spaniel "saved by his beauty." A friend of a local attorney wrote the good lawman that the spaniel that had been stolen from the attorney's house had been spotted chained to the Igorot's fence among the six aforementioned dogs. The attorney is said to have rushed right to the fair only to find his spaniel "trailing contentedly across the reservation at the heels of a naked savage." The spaniel was saved from the menu of the Sunday feast held just two days before happily reuniting with his owner.
Then, the Republic story that reported on the dog feast misconstrued the Igorot appetite with yet another spin. The yellow journalist's psychic advisor channeled:
"Every night for the past two weeks he (the Igorot) has gone to bed hearing the barking of the dogs, and was made ravenous by the knowledge that dogs were near."
The story ends with a bit on how the dogs' teeth were preserved for Fair souvenirs, perhaps an idea of David Francis, Jr., son of the president of the World's Fair who "escorted a party of society men to the headquarters of the savages" to observe the festive occasion of so-called fast-breaking. The big question is what led to the frequent dog eating? The press? The cruel conspiring hands of the Fair administrators? That dog eating was strictly an occasional Igorot custom was either completely ignored or missed by the Fair administrators, and/or the "fasting" mentioned in the press was taken for "fact." Perhaps the press mentions of the suppliers of the dogs will bring us toward tying up these loose ends. These potential suppliers will be discussed shortly. First, the views of those most able to fill in the rest of the story will comprise our focus to see why we truth-seekers might fare better going to the print sources, too.
Whatever the case, Abeya and other living descendants of the World's Fair Igorots are quite agitated at the treatment of the dog eating custom by the press, the attendees of the Fair, and the Fair officials.
"I am convinced that at the 1904 Fair," Abeya said, "my ancestors were asked, maybe forced, to butcher dogs on a daily basis in front of fairgoers to increase attendance, sensationalize it, and to validate the existence of Igorot 'savages' that must be saved by America's manifest destiny to 'civilize.'"
But even Abeya admits the lack of sources for the force-feeding. No personal account of any force-feeding or persuasion has been mentioned by any of the Igorot descendants whose grandparents were at the Fair.
"My grandparents reaction was like anyone's after a world adventure," Abeya's wife Mia said. "They spoke not of the food they ate but of the places they visited."
Mia referenced her knowledge of the daily dog eating only to the print sources examined here. That dog eating is taboo in the United States is concrete enough for her.
Thus, few if any reliable sources are left to go on to prove the extreme conspiracy theory. No living Igorot has yet come forward to pass on their grandparents' testimony, despite many inquiries made on the email list-serve comprised of 500 Igorots from all around the world. And several newspapers have yet to be searched. All the decisions the Igorot descendants have made about the Fair events seem to have been made recently and despite their grandparents' prideful lack of comment. Several of today's Igorots have only recently learned of their ancestors' participation in the Fair, and also seem to find the conspiracy theory easy to believe. The Fair administrators' and fairgoers' culpability as vicious conspirators is somewhat contested if we consider the world and mindset of norms they were born into. Such an attitude was the norm espoused by the press of the era. While these men look evil from here, and appear to need little defense, they were humans and they thought themselves good.
The same day the dog feast story ran, another story announced the arrival of Philippine scouts with the headline kicker "Nothing Savage About Them." These scouts and the Filipino Constabulary were kept completely separate from the Filipino mountain tribes lest a fight break out. Yet the scouts and Constabulary were under United States command, and served as an example that these Easterners could be assimilated, even the "dog eaters." The Igorots attended a small school in the Philippine Exposition where the assimilation began with the already "enlightened" Filipinos as teachers.
The message of "man bites dog" had been out for nearly a month before the Fair opened. The first mention in late March told of the custom in the Philippine highlands where the Igorot boy captures the wild dog for the ritual of sun worship or the celebration of an enemy head won. This message was so sensational and contagious here in the West that the Igorots' dog eating hails as the most widely known St. Louis World's Fair "fun fact" even today, much to the agitation of the Igorot descendants and utilitarian historians, of course.
In his 1976 book, "Clayton: A History," Dickson Terry quotes the Clayton paper of the Fair era, the Clayton Argus, to attempt to establish the Igorots' supplier of dogs. When the Igorots first were brought to the Fair, reported the Argus, they requested dogs from the pound master. He was willing, but the Humane Society of St. Louis said no.
"At this there was weeping and wailing among the Igorots," writes Terry, "and they insisted they could not maintain good health without dog."
Then the Igorot Village was discovered to sit outside the St. Louis city limits, and therefore, outside of the Humane Society's jurisdiction. Terry goes on to mention that the Argus never reveals the exact supplier of the dogs, but implies that "they came from nearby Clayton." Soon after the Fair closed, Terry adds, a group of young men in Clayton formed The Ancient Order of Igorots. And a man living in Wydown Terrace where the Philippine Tribal Villages were at the Fair told Terry the Wydown neighborhood lore that dogs were essential to the Igorots' demands for coming to the Fair. The rumor has it that the Igorots threatened to pack up and go home when the Humane Society interfered. Again, no references were cited, this time by the Wydown man. Of course the rumors abound.
Another rumor of the supplier of the dogs is an extant yet highly unlikely theory of how the then-mostly-Irish working-class neighborhood "Dogtown" got its name. Tellers of this rumor allege the Igorots snuck out of their village at night and stole dogs from nearby Dogtown, hence the name "Dogtown." Not so, says Philosophy Professor of over 30 years at Webster University Bob Corbett, longtime Dogtown resident and current Dogtown historian. Corbett has taken the responsibility for arranging for publication the prolific historical writings of the late Dogtown historian, Msgr. P.J. O'Connor of St. James Catholic Church in the southwest St. Louis neighborhood. Father O'Connor held the theory that in 1876, immigrant miners squatting in Forest Park settled in Dogtown when they were evicted from the park. These men left dogs at home to watch over their families: hence the name "Dogtown." Asserting that the Igorots would have never made it beyond the strict Fair security forces let alone into the then-bigoted, rough, Irish neighborhood then called Cheltenham, Corbett agrees with O'Connor.
"P.J. has proven to be an accurate historian in all else he wrote," Corbett said, "and he would have been in contact and conversation with people who were still alive at that period."
O'Connor's theory, in conjunction with all of the print references and Igorot descendants' testimonies, seems to quash the Dogtown-naming theory once and for all. So the descendants' views regarding the unknown supplier of dogs, and the neglect to mention this phantom by other print references, now come into question. First, the descendants bring the concern for validity to the table.
"To even suggest that they stole them is ridiculously preposterous," Igorot Attorney Macalingay said. "A stranger in a totally foreign land would not even think about anything which could jeopardize his staying there."
Another Igorot descendant contested that the early Igorots' religious beliefs held that breaking the law would put a curse on the tribe.
That leaves only the print references.
A photograph of a man walking two leashed dogs appears in a 1904 official publication put out by the Fair officials entitled "The Official History of the Fair St. Louis, 1904: The Sights and Scenes of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition." The caption under the photo reads, "Dogs to Feed to the Igorrotes. As this old man approached the Philippine section to sell his two pets to the Igorrotes for food, he was made victim of the 'snap shot.' He was one of many who parted with old canine friends in exchange for money, sadly needed and gladly paid by the hungry islanders."
Another 1904 publication of Igorot articles, seemingly connected with the Fair officials, as it was published by the World's Progress Publishing Co. of St. Louis, mentions the Igorots' alleged "dire need" for dog meat at the Fair. Not surprisingly, several of the Republic articles appear in this book with no attribution to the paper.
"To obtain this kind of food, the Igorot will barter any of their possessions except human skulls," one article says, "and so confirmed are they in this preference that they seemed to suffer when it is not procurable."
Today the Igorots laugh at these accusations.
"To say that the Igorots bought those dogs is ridiculous," Macalingay said. "Where would the Igorots get the money? Common sense dictates that these people might not be even knowledgeable about the idea of a legal tender yet."
However, Mia's proud and optimistic grandparents, who met on the voyage over, sold grass rings they made to the "singyolas" or white ladies at the Fair.
Alas, we may conclude that the Igorots at the Fair were mostly "taken care of." The consensus among the Igorots of today seems to be that the Igorots' "benefactors" provided the dogs. One 1979 book by Historian Dorothy Daniels Birk, "The World Came to St. Louis: A Visit to the 1904 World's Fair," seems to confirm this providence if one can look past the ubiquitous lack of reference citation.
In her book, Birk explains that Governor Hunt requested dogs from the City Pound, but was met with protest by the Women's Humane Society. Igorot Chief Antonio is said to have then petitioned Judge William H. Taft (later President Taft) who then gave approval.
"Dr. Hunt closed the deal," Birk says, "for a supply of twenty dogs a week.
"Chief Antonio, to express the tribe's gratitude, invited Mr. Taft to their feast—but the judge courteously declined!" And this twenty-dog-deal is also what the Fair administrators told fairgoers about in the souvenir pamphlet, "The Igorot Village." Is this pamphlet the source of Birk's prodigious information? After all, these many disparate "sources" scream for us to make a decision on the facts and of what attitude to take toward the present controversy. Glancing at the yellow journalism and the general attitude of the time, what is obvious is that the singular power of like-mindedness marches proud, but spreads like a scourge in the human's need to make efficient sense of the unknown. The simple fact that the Women's Humane Society protested the supplying of dogs while the men had the final say provides a window on the norms of the time. The people of the Fair era were born into a world where the women defended the fragile and the young while the men did the butchering and "ran the show." While some version of the force-feeding theory seems probable, how are we to view these feasts demanded of the Igorots? Even the thought of eating the same thing, a delicacy, three-times-a-day for eight months does not settle well to say the least. But are we to condemn these Americans for making objects out of the novel Igorots? Or perhaps the Igorots' for their gullibility in trusting the white man and coming to the Fair? No matter how much we want to make this into a holocaust, the most honest revision by those who care for "the things themselves" seems something like what author Barry Lopez suggests in his aforementioned book "Rediscovering North America," a review of Christopher Columbus's famous journey:
Even if we see him as a man flawed like other men—his megalomania and delusion, his uncommon longing for noble titles—we are inclined to see that he got us across the literally uncharted ocean, and that that takes a kind of genius. It puts us, somehow, in his debt. It leaves room to forgive him, even to believe in his worthiness. If this search of his for gold should produce a holocaust, we say to ourselves, well, then, we might take only a little, something for our children, a poor wife waiting at home. And be done with the man.
While being "put in his debt" reeks of illogic, might we say something even remotely similar to Lopez's general message in our revision of World's Fair history? That meeting the ways of the world vis-à-vis the starkly contrasting Igorots was a first step in doing just that: coming to know the world? Are we "right" to scorn the entirety of the deeds of these men from atop their graves for heeding the like-mindedness of this dawn of the "Progressive Era?"
Until the mid 1970s, the sports teams and yearbooks at Wydown Middle School were named the Igorots after whom resided on the school's tract at the 1904 World's Fair. In late 1999, the sixth grade class at Wydown posted an inquiry on the Internet to discover this "Igorot." The friendly reply by Rex Botengan, owner of the Igorot Global Organization, resulted in an invitation of a group of Igorot descendants and their children to Wydown for a "cultural exchange." This time around some of the Igorots stayed in the homes of the Americans and the reception abounded with warmth and friendliness.
What began as another class activity soon attracted the attention of the Clayton government and the Missouri Historical Society. On the May 26 opening night of what was called the "St. Louis Wydown World's Fair 2000," the Historical Society's Director of Collections and Conservation Martha Clevenger gave the oration on behalf of the Americans. In her speech, Clevenger seemingly jutted right to the conspiracy theory, but first named the 1904 Fair administrators' intentions as having been good although lofty. She named these goals as the promoting of American imperial interests, developing the new science of anthropology, and "disseminating the American values of education, economic prosperity, democracy, and progress." Then she made light of a split between the Fair administrators' theory and their practice. What the Fair administrators intended, she says, conflicted with "a competing agenda" in practice — a conspiracy no less. This "competing agenda," she said, got in the way of their stated good goals in the forms of: "the need to attract visitorship to the World's Fair, the human tendency to gape at that which is different, and the inequities inherent in ensconcing human beings in a human zoo."
A closer examination of this alleged conspiracy or "competing agenda" renders it to be exactly what the Fair administrators' original intentions were that she had just named. "The need to attract visitorship" is their concern for "economic prosperity." "The human tendency to gape at that which is different" is the concern for "education." "Ensconcing human beings in a human zoo" was simply the anthropology of the day. Just what was Clevenger trying to say? Unfortunately the Historical Society refused comment, attesting that they only provide the sources and let folks decide.
Clevenger then acknowledged to the audience at Wydown that both she and the fairgoers were products of their time and place, but in turn, she only paid lip service to true empathy. She must have had her own conflicting agenda that perhaps even she was unaware of. Not more than a few breaths later in the oration did Clevenger feel it necessary to point out that "almost all the key fair administrators were men." Now, quoting the good historian's mention of gender here is not intended to either condone patriarchy or doubt that paternalism prevailed in the Fair era. Neither is it to make a statement on feminism. But of course they were men!
What is noticed in carefully reading Clevenger's speech to the Clayton/Igorot audience is an underlying tone of "I would have done things differently had I been there."
One line reads:
"Fair visitors came to gape and stare and, for the most part (says the psychic advisor), failed to look beyond what they saw in order to try to understand abstract concepts of the American role in the Philippines, or to understand the Igorots as a people."
Wow! Such high expectations! If only it were that easy.
And the game of "never mind the sources" goes on; Clevenger also proclaimed, "Fair planners required the Igorots to perform the dog feast on a daily basis."
She then casts blame upon Americans because what they remember about the Igorots today is merely the dog eating. So should a July snow at the 2011 Olympics in California be forgotten? People focus on things that stand out first!
Winding up her inspiring oration, Clevenger deemed the question of evaluating history important and challenged the audience to ask themselves how this "cultural exchange," this making of history, would be evaluated a century down the road. Well, the good historian needn't wait a century.
In the 1996 book that Clevenger edited and introduced, "'Indescribably Grand': Diaries and Letters from the 1904 World's Fair," she first raised the issue of the fairgoers' making of the Igorots into objects. The entire basis of this elegant book as stated is to display the diaries and letters of four regular attendees to the World's Fair in order to then more or less conclude what the thoughts of most of the other fairgoers were. A-ha! The book's basis is to make objects of fairgoers! To this book we may answer that like-mindedness says something for the culpability one has in heeding in the basic norms of their era, but certainly not for every reaction to a stimulus in a lost moment of time. The potential banality of the gaudily overdone Fair spectacle as a whole also shouldn't be disregarded. Did none of these bored fairgoer try any dog meat, let alone have time to learn the Igorots' language in order to acknowledge their humanity?
This extension of a few folks' reactions to the Fair to most of the other fairgoers is suggested in Clevenger's introduction where she refers to Florence McCallion's letter of reflection on the Fair after having just seen the Igorots. These letters and diaries were by people who attended the Fair almost everyday. Clevenger says:
McCallion's description of the Igorots as "bronze statues" and Edmund Philibert's comment that the Patagonians 'were very lazy looking' suggest a readiness to accept the exhibits at face value and a tendency to see the tribal peoples more as objects than as fully human.
This recurring mention of the objectification of people is interesting, but in this case remains at best a speculation of the thoughts in both the Igorots' and the fairgoers' minds at the time. This speculation rather seems a value-laden assertion that the fairgoers' thoughts were misplaced according to some universal morality, that if "I were there, I would not have thought that way." Not that we should always have to witness something in order to believe it is there, or withhold our values when looking at history, but how about the loftiness in Clevenger's assertion? Is she being lofty? Is this loftiness purposeful, accidental, or part of the normal system of historians concerned only with contributing to today's common good? Aren't all things in the eyes of strangers "things" or "objects" first and categories like "human" only after we create a situation conducive to mutual empathy? Are we to make objects of folks from tidbits of historical info while condemning them for making objects of other folks? Whew! Sneaky!
For instance, fairgoer Edmund Philibert mentions in his diary that upon entering the Philippine Exposition one morning when icicles were dangling from the leaves, he spotted an Igorot man outside wearing only an open coat and a sash. The Igorot man apparently didn't mind the cold, Philibert said. And in a picture of five Igorot men wearing only open coats and shorts photographed at some unknown time, Clevenger audaciously inserted in the caption that these clothes might have been "all they had to keep them warm when Philibert saw them at the end of November."
Below the photo is her discussion under the headline, "Clothing the Igorots." Clevenger discusses there how Taft suggested that the Igorots wear shorts and trousers to prevent the Philippine government from being viewed as show-businessmen running a Filipino strip tease. The anthropologists are said to have rejected the clothing for the sake of scientific accuracy. Instead, the Igorots' huts were heated. Now, not to proselytize for central-air, but can the one brief moment Philibert saw the Igorot in the cold so easily be inflated into the overall cruelty of the conspiring Fair administrators? What if the Igorot guy was just on a brisk morning walk after a hot night in the hut?
The fact is that the Igorots' descendants admit to not having the hard evidence for the conspiracy theory.With only circumstantial speculations to go on — and the moral anecdotes of intuiting historians with only good intentions — some descendants have even proposed a re-enactment of the 1904 Igorot Village. The suggested time for the event is on their next trip to Wydown Middle School planned for 2004. With so many loose ends, however, at this point a re-enactment of even the 2000 trip to Wydown seems in order.
The warm exchange during the St. Louis Wydown World's Fair 2000 is admirable. The Igorots danced in full tribal regalia and the American parents formed a barbershop quartet. But one cannot help but notice how similar the St. Louis Post Dispatch's coverage of this event was to the coverage of the 1904 Fair.
"Even if you can't change what happened nearly a century ago," the Post-Dispatch wrote, "120 Clayton sixth-graders learned last weekend that the best way to make amends is to learn as much as you can about the past, and even to say you're sorry." Sadly, the reporter put a sensational, inaccurate spin on the event.
The students did not seem clear that apologizing was really what they wanted to do. In fact, they ended up not apologizing, but rather admitting the absurdity in saying sorry for something they did not do and could not change. In the April-June 2000 issue of the Igorot Global Organization's magazine, The Igorot Quarterly, thorough coverage of the Wydown event appears. The writings of several of the Wydown sixth graders and Igorot students shed more light on the current situation than anyone to date. Wydown student Ethan Knoll wrote of the "cultural exchange":
What it (the students' part of the exchange) was supposed to be was an apology. An apology for the treatment of their ancestors at the 1904 World's Fair. This all changed when Mr. Botengan said there was nothing we could do to change history but instead change what we could do here and now.That was exactly what we did and presented them with keys to the city not as an apology, but as a token of friendship….
Knoll's statement reflects what many of the children probably felt going into the event: confusion. Many of the sixth graders wrote of the students' same change in purpose only later agreed upon. Rex Botengan's statement is fascinating, and that he made it is most pleasantly astounding! Many of the children felt that they were supposed to apologize until Botengan spoke up. Were they made to participate in the event, let alone write a reflection? If only there were more Rex Botengans, perhaps Botengan himself would not have made the following contradictory statement as quoted in Argee Guevarra's article, "Dog Eaters," in same issue of The Igorot Quarterly:
"If any apologizing is to be made, it should be officially from the present executive branch of the U.S. government. The sins of the McKinley/Taft administrations, which decided on the exhibits, should not be owned by these innocent kids."
Botengan's concern for the "things themselves" seems to have caved in to the whim of collective guilt. Have we not seen how easy it is to ignore the empathy option and just believe the conspiracy theory?And now the U.S. government is supposed to gather in this guilt, too, and take this easy route? As our little excursion winds to a close, let us ponder how Guevarra ended the "Dog Eaters" article in response to Botengan's request of the US government. Guevarra wrote:
"Well said. But the Igorots as well as all Filipinos can only expect one thing from the U.S. government, which is, as it was, to shame us in its silence while it murders us with its indifference."
Strong words. Perhaps too strong. So strong they imply these Igorots must be responsible for some of this shame and murder Guevarra speaks of.
And one descendant, Attorney Macalingay, even asks that Americans assume the guilt their U.S. ancestors should have had.
"Notwithstanding," he said. "It is indeed refreshing that there are yet some sectors there who have been against the idea of the Fair since the beginning. I guess those people are the real Christians."
To assert that no one opposed the entire Fair would be arrogant. However, so would it be to say that no one at the Wydown event watched the Igorots dance while thinking them objects, or that while dancing at Wydown as their ancestors did at the Fair, the descendants were or weren't feeling, in the words of Clevenger reading the minds of the Fair Igorots, "studied, inspected, stared at, peered at, denigrated, pitied, and despised."
The attempt at revisionism at Wydown, as Botengan pointed out, still leaves the events of 1904 anachronistic or outdated, and the record unchangeable. But each of our motivations for looking at history allow us to decide how to re-cast historical events and perhaps to reevaluate what we are told by leaders about these events. However, everything either the Americans or the Igorots were thinking in 1904 cannot be discerned but through much more than a game of "telephone" or "pass the family story." Professor of history, author, and political commentator Howard Zinn speaks often of how history can be useful in the present.
"I don't think you can just take something from history and plant it over something going on today — every situation is unique," Zinn said in an interview with the Common Courage Press. "But history is suggestive of things to look for in similar situations of the present. To someone who has not carefully looked at history, any action today's leaders take would seem plausible."
This ignoring of history, he says, is "to be born yesterday." It is "historical amnesia," to use the term Zinn coined in his book, "The People's History of the United States."
"We cannot rely only on television or mainstream newspapers for our history," he said. "These media are in the few hands of the wealthy interest. The library is where the critics of history can be read, and what the leaders say is put into perspective."
Zinn would likely agree with regard to the current reaction to the Igorots of the Fair that even library information and the reaction of today's historians are but hints toward "the things themselves." But just believing the conspiracy theory seems too light and easy, and also most pessimistic. Tragic is that Dr. Hardlichka took the Igorot brain for science without permission, but even he had "the common good" in mind, albeit of that milieu. Just how different is the "common good" of today from that of the Fair administrators and eugenic anthropologists? Can this "good" be truly known?
And so the revisionist in haste can end up after careful examination seen as only another ambitious reactionary ripe for criticism. The first revisionists of World's Fair history chose seemingly to make only objects of the Igorots and Americans at the World's Fair in 1904. Of course, true empathy with those in the past is impossible; we cannot just produce a time machine. But we remain human and free, and some willing, to try, fail, and try again.
For further conversation on this article: Email the author at email@example.com.
Special thanks to: All Igorots on the BIBAKNETS email list-serve, Bob Corbett, Karla Armbruster, Michael Erickson, Steve Lattimore, Carole Watson, Pete Coogan, Emily Jaycox and the Missouri History Museum Research Library staff, Jason Gallagher, Len Bogacki, Tammy Krantz, Coire Reilly, and Michael R. Allen.
© April 2001 Robert C. Galloway. All Rights Reserved.
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