Pygmies put on display at the St. Louis World’s Fair had been transported from Africa by former missionary-turned-explorer Samuel Phillips Verner. The Fair’s anthropologist William McGee repeatedly compared the pygmies to monkeys and apes. In the journal Science, he even asserted that pygmies were “commonly considered to approach subhuman types more closely than any other variety of the genus Homo.” One Pygmy at the Fair became a special celebrity. His name was Ota Benga. Samuel Verner had purchased him at a slave market. At the end of the Fair, the Pygmies returned to Africa with Samuel Verner. But in 1906, Verner brought Ota Benga back to America.
For more information:
“Pygmies May Be the Missing Link” (Article/St. Louis Republic, July 1904)
Photos of Pygmies at the St. Louis World’s Fair (Missouri History Museum)