Organizer of the celebrated Corn Palace Expositions in Sioux City, Iowa, envoy to the Argentine Republic and the first U.S. foreign minister to Panama.
1853-1909 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
“Diplomat of the Americas,” William I. Buchanan was born in Covington, Ohio, and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, in 1882. He was not formally educated.
In 1887, he organized a series of Corn Palace Expositions in Sioux City, which featured elaborate buildings created from crop grains. This work attracted the attention of President Grover Cleveland, and Buchanan was appointed to the World’s Columbian Exposition, representing Iowa.
In 1890, he was named head of the Department of Agriculture for this 1893 world’s fair in Chicago.
Under Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, Buchanan served as envoy to the Argentine Republic, and in 1903, was appointed the first foreign minister to Panama. In the midst of these assignments in Latin America, Buchanan returned to the U. S. as director-general of the Pan-American Exposition, the 1901 world’s fair in Buffalo, New York. William Insco Buchanan led many international conferences and treaty negotiations before his sudden death in London in 1909.
Did You Know?
October 3, 1887, the Corn Palace Festival officially opened. There was good weather and lots of excitement. Every day there were parades, speeches, dances, fireworks and concerts. Each day brought a new parade. One day, 200 Omaha, Sioux and Winnebago Indians paraded through the streets.
Nearly 140,000 people attended the festivities, more than anyone had expected. Local railroads even added extra passenger cars to their daily runs from surrounding communities. Many prominent people came to see this amazing palace, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and other eastern capitalists. President Grover Cleveland came by special train to see the Corn Palace the day after it closed. His visit brought news coverage from the New York Times and London Times. The New York Times called it "really something new under the sun".
1887 Photo from the archives of the Sioux City Public Museum.