Baby name story: Louisiana Purchase

Baptism of Louisiana O'Leary
Baptism of Louisiana O’Leary

Did you know that the St. Louis World’s Fair (1904) was actually called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition?

The fair marked the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, which included all of the land that later became Missouri — which, of course, is where St. Louis is located.

But I didn’t discover this while reading about history. I discovered it through a baby name.

Louisiana Purchase O’Leary was the very first baby born on the fairgrounds. Her father was a construction worker, and she was born in a construction tent on August 20, 1902.

A few weeks later, on September 6, “her christening was performed by three priests in front of hundreds at the fair’s administration building.”

The media dubbed her the “World’s Fair Baby.”

She attended the Immaculate Conception School in St. Louis as a girl. Nuns there tried to shorten her name to Louise, but Louisiana Purchase liked her name.

“When she would say her name, people would say, ‘You’re kidding me,'” her stepson Lee Wampler said. “But she was very proud of it.”

She passed away in 2003 at the age of 100, just a few months shy of the fair’s 100-year anniversary.


  • Deaths Elsewhere.” Baltimore Sun 22 Jun. 2003.
  • “Woman Named World’s Fair Baby Dies at Age 100.” Nevada Herald 22 Jun. 2003: 2A.
  • Sonderman, Joe and Mike Truax. St. Louis: The 1904 World’s Fair. Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

Image: “Louisiana O’Leary.” World’s Fair Bulletin. 3.12 (1902): 19.

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