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The World’s Fair Chicago

Th And 21st Centuries


1900 to 1939

During World War I and the 1920s there was a major expansion in industry. The availability of jobs attracted African Americans from the Southern United States. Between 1910 and 1930, the African American population of Chicago increased dramatically, from 44,103 to 233,903. This Great Migration had an immense cultural impact, called the Chicago Black Renaissance, part of the New Negro Movement, in art, literature, and music. Continuing racial tensions and violence, such as the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, also occurred.

The ratification of the 18th amendment to the Constitution in 1919 made the production and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States. This ushered in the beginning of what is known as the Gangster Era, a time that roughly spans from 1919 until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed. The 1920s saw gangsters, including Al Capone, Dion O’Banion, Bugs Moran and Tony Accardo battle law enforcement and each other on the streets of Chicago during the Prohibition era. Chicago was the location of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, when Al Capone sent men to gun down members of a rival gang, North Side, led by Bugs Moran.

1940 to 1979

During World War II, the city of Chicago alone produced more steel than the United Kingdom every year from 1939 1945, and more than Nazi Germany from 1943 1945.

1980 to present

The Fair Produced A Number Of Firsts

Among the well-loved commercial products that made their debut at the Chicago Worlds Fair were Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Technological products that would soon find their way into homes nationwide, such as the dishwasher and fluorescent light bulbs, had early prototype versions on display in Chicago as well.

Assassination Of Mayor And End Of Fair

The fair ended with the city in shock, as popular mayor Carter Harrison, Sr. was assassinated by Patrick Eugene Prendergast two days before the fair’s closing. Closing ceremonies were canceled in favor of a public memorial service.

Jackson Park was returned to its status as a public park, in much better shape than its original swampy form. The lagoon was reshaped to give it a more natural appearance, except for the straight-line northern end where it still laps up against the steps on the south side of the Palace of Fine Arts/Museum of Science & Industry building. The Midway Plaisance, a park-like boulevard which extends west from Jackson Park, once formed the southern boundary of the University of Chicago, which was being built as the fair was closing . The university’s football team, the Maroons, were the original “Monsters of the Midway.” The exposition is mentioned in the university’s alma mater: “The City White hath fled the earth,/But where the azure waters lie,/A nobler city hath its birth,/The City Gray that ne’er shall die.”

The World’s Columbian Exposition was the first world’s fair with an area for amusements that was strictly separated from the exhibition halls. This area, developed by a young music promoter, Sol Bloom, concentrated on Midway Plaisance and introduced the term “midway” to American English to describe the area of a carnival or fair where sideshows are located.

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The 1893 World’s Fair Introduced Many Americans To Electricity

The 1889 Paris World’s Fair had shown off electric lighting, but the 1893 Exposition took the electrical revolution to the next level. Most Americans had still never encountered this seemingly magical technology before, and they got a dramatic introduction. At the Fair’s opening on May 1, President Grover Cleveland pushed a button and the electrical power turned on. Hundreds of thousands of lights illuminated the buildings of the White City.

It was the first World’s Fair lit solely by electricity, but the spectacle went even further than that. A whole exhibition hall was dedicated to electricity. Guests could witness innovations such as electric sewing machines, irons, laundry machines, an early fax machine, and more macabre electric chairs. There was also the world’s first “moving sidewalk” the predecessor of the ones used in airports today.

All this electricity was provided by one of history nerds’ favorite inventors. Yes, the 1893 Exposition is part of Nikola Tesla’s unbelievable real-life story. According to PBS, Tesla sold his patents for an electrical system based on AC current to George Westinghouse. Westinghouse used them to undercut rival Thomas Edison’s General Electric Company and win the bid to supply electricity to the Exposition. But Edison still had a presence at the Fair: it was the first time many visitors ever saw a light bulb, and he showed off his Kinetoscope, an early device showing moving pictures.

Chicago Had To Beat Out A Number Of Other Cities To Get The Fair

Chicago 1893 (Chicago World Fair) : CulturalLayer

In the late 1880s, Chicago, St. Louis, New York and Washington, D.C. all submitted bids to host the 1893 fair, but the race was soon narrowed to New York and Chicago. Big Apple financial titans including Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Waldorf Astor and J. P. Morgan pledged to raise $15 million to cover the citys expenses, with Chicagos mercantile and meatpacking millionaires Marshall Field, Philip Armour and Gustavus Swift following suit. But when Lyman Gage, president of one of the largest banks in the Midwest, arranged for millions more in financing, momentum swung Chicagos way and the U.S. Congress, which was in charge of the selection, awarded the city the exposition.

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Court Of Honor Chicago World’s Fair

I recently read The Devil in the White City, about the Chicago 1893 Worlds Fair. One place that I would like to go back in time to see, just for a day, would be this event. They say that some visitors would break down weeping upon entering the Court of Honor, above, because they had never seen anything so beautiful.

In a time of Incremental Urbanism, Tactical Urbanism, Lean Urbanismwhen it takes five years to retrofit a street to accommodate all usersit is worth remembering what architect Daniel Burnham and his team were able to accomplish in two years. They built 57 miles of roadway a landscaping masterpiece of parks and public spaces designed by Frederick Law Olmsted a train station that a big city would be proud of perhaps the greatest assembly of neoclassical buildings in history the largest indoor space ever built in history to that point the largest electrical light installation in the world up to that time the first modern elevators the first Ferris wheel a long list of first demonstrations of world-changing technology at a major event . There is one building that survivesThe Chicago Museum of Science and Industrya major building in its own right, although just a small remnant of the original fair. And I am just scratching the surface.

Exhibition Buildings Chicago World’s Fair

The theme for the Chicago Fair, the Columbian Exposition, was meant to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbuss first voyage to the Americas. A highlight of the Fair featured the arrival of full-scale replications of the Pinta, Niña, and Santa Maria, which sailed across Lake Michigan to the fairgrounds harbor.

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Other Landmarks & Sightseeing Tours

The Chicago Architecture Center and Chicago History Museum both offer tours that examine Chicago sites from the best-selling novel by Erik Larson, Devil in the White City. Explore the true crime tale on bus and walking tours that bring the era to life and lend insight into the lives of two famous men: Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and serial killer H. H. Holmes.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Rookery Building was designed by famed architectural partners Burnham and Root. Burnhams offices were located on the top floor, and its where every blueprint for the Columbian Exposition was drawn. Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned the two-story skylight lobby in 1907.

In Chicagos Little Italy neighborhood, a Christopher Columbus statue is located in the center of Arrigo Park. This 9-foot bronze statue was commissioned for the opening of the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition. It was built in Rome, blessed by Pope Leo XIII, then shipped to Chicago for the fair.

Who Was H H Holmes

The Incredible Story Of The 1893 World’s Fair

H. H. Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett in New Hampshire in 1861. As an adult, he abandoned his young wife and child in 1885 to move to Illinois. Once there, he changed his name to Holmes, reportedly as an homage to the fictional English detective Sherlock Holmes, the literary creation of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Soon after his arrival in the Chicago area, Holmes took up work at a pharmacy located near Jackson Park. Eight years later, Jackson Park would become the site of the 1893 Worlds Fair.

The Columbian Exposition, as it was called, was designed by some of Americas leading architects, including Frederick Law Olmstead, and included exhibits from more than 40 countries.

The event attracted more than 27 million visitors to Chicago, an incredible number considering the limited transportation options of the time. Holmes took advantage of some of the many visitors to the city, including young women who came to Chicago for jobs at the fairgrounds.

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Indigenous People Endured Racism At The 1893 World’s Fair

Although African Americans were not allowed to represent themselves, Black and Indigenous people from other countries had their own exhibits. But in some ways, these may have been worse than having no representation. The exhibits were excluded from the grand Court of Honor, which was reserved for what were seen as “developed” nations. Instead, they were housed on the Midway Plaisance, the entertainment strip.

That’s housed in the literal sense. The Exposition became a temporary home for people representing some Native American tribes, and for people from Dahomey in West Africa . The idea was that visitors could watch them “cook, make trinkets, perform their songs and dances, and go about the ordinary routine of life in their tribes,” as page 54 of the official guide to the fair put it. They were treated more like animals in a zoo. According to PBS, Emma Sickles, a staff member at the exhibit, was fired for speaking out against the Fair’s mistreatment of Native Americans.

The literature and media that came out of the Fair endorsed this twisted perspective through racist cartoons and descriptions. They also associated African Americans with what they saw as the primitive Dahomeans something Frederick Douglass condemned in his speeches and pamphlet.

The Chicago Worlds Fair Played A Key Role In The Creation Of The City Beautiful Movement

At the core of the fair was an area that quickly became known as the White City for its buildings with white stucco siding and its streets illuminated by electric lights. Buildings and monuments by Charles McKim, Daniel Burnham, Augusts Saint-Gaudens and Richard Morris Hunt, along with lush landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New Yorks Central Park, left a lasting impression on municipal planners looking for a way to bring open spaces and grand public buildings into crowded cities. Chicago itself was one of the first cities to adopt aspects of the new City Beautiful movement. Dozens of other cities across the country followed its lead, most notably Washington, D.C., where by 1902, plans were in place for a redesign of the city center that would result in the creation of the National Mall.

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The 1893 World’s Fair Was A Comeback For Chicago

The 1893 World’s Fair was considered a remarkable achievement not least because it took place just 22 years after Chicago was gutted by fire. Between October 8 and 10, 1871, a huge inferno ripped through the mostly wooden city. National Geographic reports an estimated 300 people were killed and 17,500 structures were destroyed. The cost of the damage was around $200 million. With 90,000 of the city’s 324,000 residents now homeless, looting broke out. According to History, martial law was declared on October 11 and lasted several weeks.

However, Chicago’s leaders including newly-elected mayor Joseph Medill saw an opportunity to rebuild a bigger, better, more fireproof city. Fortunately, the railroads and meat plants Chicago’s main industry were still intact. New laws required buildings be made of fireproof materials, although it took another, smaller fire in 1874 to convince architects and builders to take these measures seriously, according to National Geographic.

In 1890, Chicago beat rivals New York, Washington D.C., and St. Louis in the contest to host the 1893 World’s Fair. The city ultimately raised more money than its rivals, from wealthy investors including Marshall Field, the city and state, and ordinary citizens.

Another Murder Also Made Headlines

1893 Chicago World

On October 28, just two days before the exposition was set to close, Chicagos recently re-elected mayor, Carter Harrison Sr., was shot and killed by a disgruntledand derangedoffice seeker, Patrick Eugene Prendergast, who believed he was owed a political appointment by the mayor. With the city in shock, the fairs organizers quickly decided to cancel the lavish closing ceremony in favor of a public memorial to the citys popular slain leader.

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Country And State Exhibition Buildings

Forty-six countries had pavilions at the exposition.Norway participated by sending the Viking, a replica of the Gokstad ship. It was built in Norway and sailed across the Atlantic by 12 men, led by Captain Magnus Andersen. In 1919 this ship was moved to Lincoln Park. It was relocated in 1996 to Good Templar Park in Geneva, Illinois, where it awaits renovation.

Thirty-four U.S. states also had their own pavilions. The work of noted feminist author Kate McPhelim Cleary was featured during the opening of the Nebraska Day ceremonies at the fair, which included a reading of her poem “Nebraska”. Among the state buildings present at the fair were California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas each was meant to be architecturally representative of the corresponding states.

Four United States territories also had pavilions located in one building: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Visitors to the Louisiana Pavilion were each given a seedling of a cypress tree. This resulted in the spread of cypress trees to areas where they were not native. Cypress trees from those seedlings can be found in many areas of West Virginia, where they flourish in the climate.

The Illinois was a detailed, full-scale mockup of an Indiana-class battleship, constructed as a naval exhibit.

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