EXPO – Magic of the White City (Narrated by Gene Wilder)

(music) (fireworks) (choir singing) (ragtime music) (“Original
Rags” by E. Power Biggs) Narrator: On the
morning of May 1, 1893, the crowd of over 300,000 people began gathering at a new city. Built on the shore
of Lake Michigan, seven miles from
downtown Chicago. The morning began
grey and overcast, but around 10:30,
the sky cleared. (music) The sun shone down
on a gleaming city filled with structures
of almost impossible size and grandeur, a
new Rome or Venice, an elegant city of canals
and classical columns, but unlike Rome or Venice, this was a temporary city
built in just two years on a reclaimed swamp in Chicago. The press had dubbed
it the “White City” which was built to be
the home of the world’s Columbian Exposition of 1893,
the Chicago World’s Fair. The fair was built to
celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering
America in 1492 even if 1893 was one year
late for the anniversary. After three years of
planning and building, today the fair would
officially open. (music plays) (“Trumpet
Concerto in D Minor”
by Constantin Nicolae) (crowd applause) The enormous crowd waiting
through the morning while a parade of dignitaries
spoke from a platform in front of the fair’s
Administration Building which looked like a
slightly smaller version of the US Capitol
sitting on the west side of a group of buildings
known as “Court of Honor”. Six enormous, blinding
white classical buildings surrounding a basin of water. A fountain sat at
one end of the basin in the shape of a
mammoth boat rode by figures of classical
allegories symbolizing Columbus’ discovery
of the New World. Two other fountains flanking
the Administration Building held a special
surprise for later. At the other end of the
basin rose a looming statue symbolizing the
American Republic; a robed woman 65 feet high,
crowned with laurel leaves and holding up an
orb in one hand and a staff in the other. Behind her, on the
east side of the basin, a portico of classical
columns known as the “Peristyle” separated
the Court of Honor from the waters
of Lake Michigan. All morning people had arrived
at the railroad terminal directly behind the
Administration Building where dozens of railway
lines from all over the United States converged
at the Columbian Exposition No crowd of this size had
ever before been assembled in one place in
the United States. (“July: Song of the Reaper from
the Seasons” by Dance Squad) The enormous crowd found it
hard to see the dignitaries speaking on the platform. Surrounded by a sea of people, it was almost
impossible to hear them. They could barely pick
out Chicago’s bearded and rotund Mayor Carter
Harrison, a popular and corrupt booster of the fair. Toward noon, the
familiar bulk and the bristling mustache of US
President Grover Cleveland made his way to the
front of the platform. He announced that the
Columbian Exposition would mark the amazing
progress of the New World in the 400 years
since Columbus landed, that it would show the
world the glorious story of the United States of America, the unparalleled
advancement and wonderful accomplishments
of a young nation, the triumphs of a
vigorous self-reliant and independent people. Cleveland concluded
that we and our guests from other nations cooperate
in the inaugeration of an enterprise devoted
to human enlightenment in the noblest sense, the
brotherhood of nations. The President walked
to a table covered with an American flag. On the table was an
oversized gold telegraph key. The sun glinting off
the key could be seen by every one of the 300,000
people in the crowd. Cleveland brought his hand
on the telegraph key … (music) The air began to hum as
George Westinghouse’s enormous dynamo
started whirring. In Machinery Hall, the great
Allis engine began to churn. All over the fairground,
electric lights and engines turned on. The key set in motion
miles of shafting, enumerable engines and machines, and a labyrinth of
belting and gearing. In the giant
exposition buildings, the roar and hum of
these modern marvels showed everyone that
the fair was alive. (music plays)
(“Shiva Was Born” by Tripy) On either side of
President Cleveland, the two electric-powered
fountains suddenly shot brilliantly-colored
streams of water 150 feet into the air. Electric arc lights
played on the 65-foot-tall statue of the Republic
and glinted off the alabaster maidens
rowing the enormous fantasy boat in the middle
of the Columbian fountain. (music) 300,000 people let
out a deafening cheer that seemed to go
on for minutes. The crowd was momentarily
awed into stillness before people began to scurry
in a thousand directions, hurrying to take in
the wonders assembled on the shore of Lake Michigan. The World’s Columbian
Exposition of 1893, best known as “The
Chicago World’s Fair”, was officially open. In many ways, this moment
was the real beginning of the 20th century. There’s never been
anything else like The Chicago World’s Fair. There will probably never
be anything like it again. Even in the modern age of theme
parks sand Olympic spectacles, the World’s Fair would
have dwarfed them all. (music) The World’s Columbian
Exposition was the biggest world’s fair
that had ever been held. In the size of fairgrounds
and the number of exhibits, it was considerably larger
than its nearest competitor, the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, where the Eiffel
Tower had debuted. The entire fair; with
planning, construction, personnel and operational fees, cost an estimated
$22 million in 1893. It can be assumed that the
greatest cost was labor and the average worker
made 10 cents a day in 1893 with a total of 40,000
workmen working more than one and a half years
to build the fair, the fair construction
alone would cost over several billion
dollars today, let alone the massive cost of operating
the fair for six months. And it actually
made a small profit thanks to the nearly
28 million people that visited the fair in its
six months of operation. The Expo was awesome
in the sheer size of the buildings
and the exhibits. One building alone,
the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building,
standing in the Court of Honor, was the largest building
in the world in 1893. The gigantic Choral
Hall hosted the largest choir in the world, a
staggering 2,500 singers. Gardens in the
Horticultural Exhibits boasted 50,000 roses
and a million tulips. The number of workers
and visitors at the Columbian
Expedition was so large that the fair printed
its own newspaper. (music) Exhibits included the
world’s largest lump of coal and the world’s
largest telescope. Chronicles of the fair are
endless lists of things that were the world’s biggest. (music) The Exposition
influenced many of the coming century’s innovators. Henry Ford was an
enthusiastic visitor as was Walt Disney’s father. Architect Frank Lloyd
Wright was there and drew inspiration for
his innovative buildings from the Asian
architecture at the fair. Even L. Frank Baum, the
author of The Wizard of Oz, visited the fair and later
modeled Oz’s Emerald City on the fair’s
magical White City. The Expo was not
just about America, it was the world’s
biggest, most congenial melting pot before all
hell would break loose in the 20th century. Countries like France
and Germany were great friends at the
fair, so was America and the Arab countries
from the Middle East. (cymbals clang) (music) The Chicago World’s
Fair embodied the 19th century’s
progress, optimism, ambition and sheer delight in
variety and discovery. The people who built the
Columbian Exposition, the people who attended it,
and even the many people who merely followed the
fair through newspapers, saw only a great future
of progress and peace that would go on without end. “If the world could accomplish
so much in the 19th century,” they thought, “How
much will it accomplish in the next century?” “If all the nations
in the world could come together in
Chicago peacefully, to learn from one another,
surely the brotherhood of mankind could
not be far off.” (machine gun fire) Their hope was as fleeting
as the fair itself. For all the grandeur
of its buildings, nothing at the fair
was built to last. What looked like
gleening white marble was actually a plaster
mixture called “staff” that was spread over
wood and iron frames. What looked like global peace
didn’t last much longer. After the World’s Fair of 1893, America and the world
would never be the same. The Columbian Exposition
was not just a big party, it foreshadowed all
that was to come in the 20th century,
both good and bad, which leaves us
with the question, “How did the fair come to be?” (music) Worlds fairs had grown out
of the trade fairs in Europe that dated back to
the middle ages. Towns and cities held
fairs to show off their wares and to trade. In an isolated time, they
were also great social events. Throughout the 19th
century, worlds fairs were held throughout Europe,
but it was the French who led the way in creating
the modern world’s fair. Under the French,
national glory became as important to
the fairs as trade. (music) The fairs became big
parties and the place to introduce
technological marvels that were on their way
to the marketplace. Thomas Edison unveiled
his phonograph and incandescent lights at
the Paris Exposition in 1882. Then came the famous
Paris Exposition of 1889. It was at that time, the
grandest world’s fair that had ever been held. 1892 was the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America. A few years earlier in
1885, the Interstate Commerce Commission
had proposed the idea of a fair in the United States
to mark the anniversary. The monumental
Paris Expo in 1889 gave the project a
jolt and by that fall, Congress was feverishly
working on a bill to create a commission
for the exposition which would top
Paris, of course. Because of the long
political battle over choosing a city and
delays in the ambitious construction projects, the
fair actually didn’t open until 1893, one year too
late for the anniversary. Looking back now,
the years around the Chicago World’s Fair
seem like a good time for celebrating peace
and progress … America not being involved in
a single multi-national war. Perhaps that they were
still years filled with violence and
economic turmoil. (gunshot) (crowd noise) The early 1890s witnessed
the most violent labor struggles in
American history. Many of the most violent
events happening in Chicago, only a few miles away
from the White City. (gunshot) Chicago reached the
front page of newspapers after the 1886 Hay
Market Riot when seven Chicago policemen
were killed by a bomb while breaking up a
striker’s meeting. Rioters were killed when
the police returned fire. While the buildings for
the Columbian Exposition were nearing completion in 1892, an armed confrontation
erupted between striking steel workers and
Pinkerton security guards at Andrew Carnegie’s
Homestead Works outside of Pittsburgh. After deaths on both
sides from gun battles, and even cannon fire,
the Pennsylvania Militia put down the strike. Immigration and race were
also hot button topics in the early 1890s, often
accompanied by violence. In 1891, eleven Italian
immigrants were lynched in New Orleans after
they were acquitted of murdering a police
superintendent. It was the biggest
mass lynching in United States history
and the first time that the word “Mafia” appeared
in American newspapers. Chinese immigration had
been suspended in the 1880s and in 1890, Congress
extended the ban for 10 years. In the rest of the country,
racial discrimination was unquestioned
and segregation was the word of the day. The numbers of American
Indians were dwindling and many people
thought that they were headed toward
inevitable extinction. (gunshot) The United States at the time
of the Chicago World’s Fair was only 117 years old
and not so far from the Great Civil
War which had ended only 28 years earlier. A mere 17 years before
the World’s Fair, General Custer was
killed at Little Bighorn and the Apache war
chief Geronimo had been captured in 1886. The Johnstown flood happened
four years earlier in 1889. The west was wild and
legends like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill
Hickock were made famous. In 1890 a declaration
was made that resounded throughout
the country. (music) The American
Frontier was closed. There was no longer a
front line of settlement. Americans had spread to
fill in every territory from coast to coast. The population of the United
States was 65 million people. (music) The next question was
where in the United States to hold the fair. There was no obvious
national center like Paris which was in the
heart of Europe, and a reasonable
distance for almost every European to attend. The United States was far
more spread out than Europe. For a while, Washington
DC looked like a favorite, but Washington had no
representative in Congress and nobody to lobby for it. There were really only
two serious choices; New York or Chicago. (music) New Yorkers thought the
country west of Manhatten was all boondocks
and couldn’t imagine why anything so important
would not be held in New York. Chicago had many
advantages in the lobbying, particularly because
the surrounding area looked more like the
rest of the country than New York did;
flat and empty … And by voting for Chicago,
congressmen could be standing up against
pretentious east coast snobs. The competition in
Congress was fierce. Representatives and
delegations from the two cities lobbied, twisted arms
and horse traded for months. In the end, the
heartland won out. On February 4, 1890,
a majority in the House of Representatives voted
for Chicago to host the fair. On April 25th, President
Benjamin Harrison signed the Exposition
Bill into law creating a National Commission
to oversee the fair. The US Government
invited countries from around the world
to send exhibits. The Exposition Bill politely
skirted the question of money. No congressman was
going to ask voters to pay taxes for some
other city’s fair. Unlike France, no federal
money was going to be spent on the Chicago
World’s Fair. The city of Chicago had
the sole responsibility to plan, organize
and pay for the fair which meant that the
fair had to make money. (music) The exposition company was
formed and comprised of prominent money-making
persons from the city including Carter H.
Harrison, Chicago’s popular and cheerfully
corrupt mayor, who was the director of the company. Carter Harrison knew
how to make money and he knew what
the people wanted; they wanted fun, novelty
and a few glasses of beer. The fair would have
trade exhibits, manufacturing exhibits
and cultural exhibits, but the directors did
not turn up their noses at any exhibit likely
to make a buck. This often brought
them head-to-head with the National Commission. The Commission insisted
on certain standards in the exhibit that threatened
to eat into profits. Buffalo Bill’s enormously
popular Wild West show, for instance, which
included Annie Oakley, the fastest female
gun in the west, and scores of performing
Indians was deemed too lowbrow to be
associated with the fair. In the end, Buffalo
Bill pitched his tents just outside of the
fairgrounds and made a killing. The busiest group of
busybodies appointed by the National Commission
were the women of the Board of Lady Managers. The gentile Lady
Managers represented social propriety and
American protestant piety. The Columbian Exposition
was to be about high moral purpose; not
cheap fun, money-grubbing or lurid spectacles. The Lady Managers raised
objections to everything. There was to be no
nude art at the fair. There were to be no lascivious
dancers at the fair. There was to be no
alcohol at the fair. The Directors in Chicago
fought each objection seeing the upright ladies
cutting into profits at every step. One of the most contentious
issues was Sunday openings. The Lady Managers insisted
that the fair close for Sunday. Faced with the prospect
of losing a day of revenue every week, the Directors
came up with a novel idea that closing the fair
on Sunday would only be increasing sin because
if visitors didn’t go to the fair, they’d
spend a day at Chicago’s many bars and brothels. In the end, the Chicago
Directors won nearly every dispute with
the Lady Managers. The fair would be open Sundays, booze would flow like a river, risque art would be
proudly featured, and dancing of such
vulgarity never before seen in America would
bring in the customers for a thousand miles around. Nothing could be allowed
to trump the need to make the fair pay for itself. At the World’s Fair of
1893, almost every kind of attraction
would be fair game. (music) The city of Chicago
had a reputation for doing everything in a big way, both in its vices
and its virtues. The city was described
as first in violence, deepest in dirt, lawless,
unlovely, ill-smelling, irreverent, an overgrown
gawk of a village. It attracted visits from
scores of shocked reformers who tallied up its
prostitutes, bars, impoverished immigrants
and the ungodly stink from the world’s
biggest slaughterhouses in the Chicago stockyards. Victorian reformer,
William Stead, visited the fair in
1893 and was so appalled that he wrote a book “If
Christ Came to Chicago!” “Only divine intervention,”
he seemed to say, “could rescue this city.” On the other hand,
Chicago’s phenomenal growth and enterprising spirit
embodied America in 1893 and impressed everyone
who saw the city. “No Chicago man ever
tires of doing business,” one observer wrote, “It was
the world’s biggest boom town.” (music) Everything about Chicago
was immense in 1893. It was the manufacturing
and agricultural center of the nation with its
proximity to the grain of the midwest and the
cattle of the west, the stockyards and the
slaughterhouses shipped almost a billion pounds
of beef every year. By 1893, Chicago’s
economy was approaching $2 billion annually. No one was more impressed
with Chicago than Chicagoans. Mention the stink from
the stockyards and a Chicagoan would point out
the city’s park system which is over twice
as large as New York. Mention oppressive
working conditions and a Chicagoan would point
to the city’s rich cultural life and opera houses. Point out the prostitutes,
and a Chicagoan would point out the business
opportunities. The boasting of Chicago’s
boosters lobbying for the World’s Fair caused
the New York press to dub Chicago “The
Windy City” … not because of the
weather they said, “But because of all the
air coming out of it.” Chicago wanted to have
the world’s biggest
World’s Fair ever. Chicago’s problem now
was where to build the fairground as there
was no obvious site within the city. The 1889 Paris Expo had been
built in the middle of Paris. The magnificence of Paris
was the center of the Expo. Chicago was nothing like that. Chicago was built for business. The railroads and
skyscrapers and the bustling downtown
were impressive, but hardly beautiful
in the way that the 19th century
thought of beauty. Any fair would have
to be built well away from the stench of the
stockyards and the shacks and tenements
surrounding the city. Rather than having
the fair in Chicago, Chicago would build
an entirely new city with its own rail
lines and terminals to accommodate
millions of visitors. The Directors first looked
towards the vast prairie surrounding the city which
offered immense amounts of land to build on. The problem was the
flatness and dullness of the landscape. The fairground would be
dropped in the midst of miles of nothing. At a loss, the Directors
hired famed landscape architect, Frederick
Law Olmsted, to find a site and design a
landscape for the fairground. Hiring Olmsted was
a stroke of luck. He was the visionary
who had designed New York City’s Central
Park, a giant figure in the design of
American cities. Olmsted developed a vision
for the fairground that none of the Directors
had thought of. Looking at Chicago, he
turned his back on the city and the prairie. Olmsted looked out onto
Lake Michigan and declared that the World’s
Columbian Exposition, celebrating the world’s
most famous voyage, would set on the water. The drama of the lake
would make the most magnificent setting imaginable. The spot that Olmsted
settled on seemed hard to believe at first,
called Jackson Park, it was a park only on the map. In reality, it was an
unimproved swamp along the lake seven miles south
of downtown Chicago. There were no buildings
standing in the park and no rail lines. The ground was too wet
to dig foundations. Clouds of mosquitoes
swarmed out of the breeding ground in
the stagnant water. Olmsted’s plan for the
fair meant reclaiming 700 acres of swamp,
wild oak and sand. The idea seemed mad,
but Olmsted’s reputation carried the day. The Directors were getting
nervous at the delays and a mad plan was
better than no plan. The work of digging and
dredging began before Olmsted was even finished
sketching his designs. As he laid out lagoons
and canals carved into the swamp, the
vision began to emerge. The White City of
the Columbian Expo would be a city built
on water like Venice. (music) Venice was not only the
inspiration for the fairground, the builders had to use
many of the same techniques to create it. Because the ground
was too wet to dig, laborers had to create
foundations for the buildings by driving vast forests of
wood pilings deep into the mud. Driving the pilings
was hard, dirty and very dangerous work. For all the technological
wonders that would be unveiled at the fair, the
grounds were largely made by thousands of men
digging with shovels for days on end. In the end, they dug a
reshaped over 600 acres and paved a mile
and a half of beach. They built a 1,500 foot
pier out into Lake Michigan. As the land emerged
from the water, workmen spread
loam to grow grass and planted thousands of
flowers, trees and shrubs. Meanwhile, as the
landscaping was going on, the Directors
commissioned the Chicago architectural firm
of Burnham and Root to design the main
buildings for the fair. Architects from all over the
United States and the world were asked to submit
designs for fair buildings. (music) Construction of the
buildings began as the ground work was
still in progress. Throughout 1891, the
Venetian landscape of the White City
began to emerge from the mud of Jackson Park. In 18 months of working
around the clock, the carpenters,
bricklayers, painters and plasterers
raised every building and sculpted every
statue on the fair site. What was truly remarkable
about the main buildings was not just the design,
but the techniques developed to build them. It wasn’t possible to build
conventional buildings of this size in
such a short time. Besides, the buildings
were never meant to last longer than the fair. The builders turned to
a plasterous material called “staff”, a kind of
stucco made of a mixture of plaster, cement and fibers. It was flexible, strong,
molded easily and dried fast. The staff was laid over
wood and steel frames to create the walls
of the building. It was set in molds and
sculpted over frames to create the building’s
decorations and the statues. What looked like shimmering
marble at the fair was really just molded staff. As the buildings went up,
they needed to be painted. The enormous surface
area of buildings like the Liberal Art and
Manufactures Building would take crews of men
years to paint by brushes. What the engineers
on the site did was to invent spray paint;
hooking spray hoses up to a vat of paint and a pump, the painters finished in
a fraction of the time that brushes would have taken. For the most part, the men
who built the White City had remained anonymous in
the accounts of the fair. Many of them couldn’t
even afford to go. Every day at 6pm, the
day laborers lined up at the casino going up
on the shore of the lake to have their work
times checked off. The construction was
such a popular spectacle that thousands of
visitors paid 25 cents just to watch the
buildings go up. Some of the buildings
were dedicated in 1892 and the finishing
touches were put on throughout that winter as
the construction workers labored in the freezing
snow and howling winds, to have the White
City completed in time for the May opening. The World’s Fair
was about to begin. Tickets were purchased
at 50 cents each. (music) After President Cleveland
hit the key on May 1st, every fairgoer asked
where to go first. As the fountains shot forth
their streams of water, most visitors started
their fair experience by gawking at the size of
the buildings surrounding the Grand Basin. People stepped into
the Court of Honor. The Columbus Fountain was
right in front of them and the Statue of the
Republic was across the basin. The hard-to-believe bulk of
the Manufactures Building rose up to the left and
the capitol-style dome of the Administration Building
was directly behind them. All around the basin
were the buildings that looked like Roman temples, the gods of America’s strength, the Agriculture Building,
the Machinery Building, the Mines Building, the
Electricity Building The Court of Honor was
the embodiment of America moving beyond the Yankee
Agrarian Republic. It was now a great civilization, equal or better than
Greece, Rome and Europe. Behind the Statue of the
Republic was the Peristyle, remembered by everyone
as one of the truly beautiful things at the fair. The Peristyle was a
Roman-looking colonnade with double rows of 48
columns representing the states and territories
of the United States. All supporting a roof that
was lined on both sides with huge allegorical statues secured to rails on
the roof by cables. It looked like Vatican
Square on Lake Michigan. The two sides of the
colonnade met in a massive arch that looked like
the Arc de Triomphe. On top of the arch
was a group of statues of horses pulling a wagon
symbolizing explorers. The Peristyle was like
the gateway between the fairground and
the outside world. Many visitors who
came by water entered the fairground through the arch. It was a great spot to see
both the Court of Honor and the lake, especially
from the roof. Walking between the
rows of massive columns stretching for what looked
like hundreds of yards, it was an intimidating and
awe-inspiring experience. (crowd noise) Mobbed by the crowd
surrounding the Grand Basin, many walked north to
visit the exhibits of their own states. Just about every state
and territory in the Union put up a building on the
north end of the fairground. Visitors gazed with
pride on the exhibits of their home states. With the unbridled
boosterism of the 1890s, most states were not
humble about showing off. The state buildings
came in quite a variety of shapes, sizes and
degrees of flamboyancy with historical
exhibits and displays showcasing their
local histories. The Grand Estates
buildings each tried to outdo the others like the
monstrous Illinois building. Just about every state
had something to show like the lavish New
York building with its ornate banquet hall. Vermont’s building
wasn’t remembered for being terribly exciting,
and neither was Delware’s. Massachusetts was
styled in the way that our forefathers would have
styled their mansions. Maine’s was built of
granite, slate and marble to demonstrate the
state’s resources. (music) One of the great
successes of the fair was the Liberty Bell
brought from Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania
building which was built to look like Independence Hall. California built an
enormous old Spanish mission with exhibits that showed
the lush, rich life on the west coast. Like a vision of paradise,
a fountain on the rooftop poured out streams of red wine. California’s giant fruit
displays were hard to believe. Among the various citrus
sculptures, there was a knight on horseback
made out of dried prunes known as “Sir Preserved Prunes”. There was a Liberty Bell
made out of oranges, lemons and grapefruit and
a tower of 14,000 oranges. Every week the fruit
was given away when fresh fruit arrived
from California. No place in America
looked more bountiful. (music) Most of the states’
exhibits of products weren’t found in their
respective state buildings, but were located in
huge displays located within the Main Fair
building surrounding the Court of Honor. The immense Agriculture
building had some of the most bizarre
and entertaining
exhibits at the fair showcasing US and
global agricultural
diversity and innovation. The exhibits stretched
their imaginations to do something
interesting with the crops as there wasn’t much
to do with the food if it wasn’t going to be eaten. At the center of
the Midwest exhibit, was a building made
out of corn on the cob. Missouri sculpted a horse
out of grains and oats. Other Liberty Bells
appeared at the fair. Pennsylvania had one
that was made out of wheat, oats and rye. It was not impressive. Wisconsin’s Dairyland
contributed a bigger-than-life chocolate Christopher Columbus. But more popular,
for the men at least, was the Schlitz Brewery exhibit. Pennsylvania, not content
with the oddity of its wheat and rye
Liberty Bell, contributed a map of the United
States made of pickles. Silly as it may seem to some, the displays highlighted the
food processing industries like Heinz Pickles
that were making American food a
national and no longer a regional business. The huge Mines Building
on the north side of the Court of Honor,
held the displays of the wealth of America’s
mighty western silver mines along with displays
of precious gems from around the world,
and the newfangled mining equipment of the day, like
this electric rock drill. Montana, whose silver
mining industry was in freefall as the fair
began, brought a solid silver statue of the
Figure of Justice modeled on the popular
actress, Ada Rehan. Silver girls were very popular. Colorado’s display
included a girl known as the Silver Queen who
was supposed to be 17, the same age as the state. There were exhibits of iron
ore, copper and petroleum. Salt was featured in many of
the states’ mining exhibits, including the Statue of
Liberty carved from salt, and it was left to
Missouri to recreate St. Louis Bridge entirely
out of sugarcane. After sampling all the states,
visitors could sample the world. Every country, in what was
known as the civilized world, and some that weren’t,
had exhibits at the fair. Most of the European
nations built their own buildings just to the south
of the state buildings. A mini-Europe clustered
behind the north pool on the shore of Lake
Michigan, with a dose of Latin America, Turkey,
India and the exotic empires of France, Holland
and Britain thrown in. These national
buildings were meant to impress the fairgoers
and to sell products. Visitors could sample
the world with a dazzling array of food, clothes,
art and cultural exhibits. You could sample rare
coffees and tropical medicinal plants at
the Guatemala Building. The British Victoria
House, looking like a half-timbered English
country estate, was a gentlemen’s club. You only got in by
invitation or rank. If you didn’t have an
impressive calling card, you had no chance. The Canadian Building
was popular because of its location and
the fact that they were friendly and far less
pretentious than the British. (music) The big spenders at the fair
were France and Germany. France built a
recreation of a wing of the Palace of Versailles
with columns and great statuary and
then seemed unsure about what to put in it. Germany knew just what to
put in its national building; a reconstruction of a
medieval Bavarian town hall with an enormous
imperial German eagle. In it were the crown jewels
of the [Kaisis] Family plus books and artwork. The National Building
is only one of Germany’s many attractions that
caught attention at the fair and proved to be some
of the most popular. (choir sings) Christopher Columbus,
who died a poor man in an ungrateful country
after discovering America, was proudly celebrated
by Spain at the Expo. Visitors could go
through a recreation of La Rabida Monastery in
Spain, the place where Columbus and his sons
were said to have taken refuge and forged
the idea of the voyage. The monastery was in
a place of honor on the lakefront, right
next to the pier and the buildings of
the Court of Honor. Next to it, in the south pond, were the reproductions of the
Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria that had been sailed
all the way from Spain. Norway built huge
wooden buildings in the style of medieval churches. Even more popular was
the reproduction of a 1,000-year-old
Viking ship that the Norwegians built in Norway
and sailed to the new world, a subtle reminder to Spain that
the Vikings got here first. Sweden put up an enormous
ornate wooden building that had been brought
piece by piece from Sweden. The Brazil National Building
was truly impressive. In 1893, Brazil was considered
one of the richest countries in the world and its
exhibit showed it. Widely regarded as the most
pleasant national exhibit was Japan’s Ho-o-Den
buildings on a wooded island in the middle of the lagoon. The first real contact
with Japanese culture was a surprise. Japan was a country
that wasn’t even open to the west until the
1860s, but 30 years later, the Japanese Government
had been the first to apply for space at
the fair and they spent $630,000 on their exhibits,
almost as much as France. Everyone who went to the
fair liked the Japanese; their buildings and
the Japanese workers. “What bright and nimble
fellows these workmen are,” one Harper’s Magazine
correspondent said, “If they represent the
average of Japanese artisans, then the average must
be very high indeed.” The quality and style
of the Japanese exhibits attracted favorable
attention and respect. Even in a time of
rampant, unblemished white supremacy, the
Japanese were the only non-westerners that no
one snickered about. Visitors enjoyed the
simple, elegant architecture of the Ho-o-Den
buildings, the beauty of the Japanese pottery
and the patient care of Japanese workers
unpacking exhibits. It was the world’s
first good look at the unique culture
of a talented nation. (oriental flute music) In the midst of the
crowds and the hucksters in the fairgrounds, the
Japanese Ho-o-Den buildings and the wooded island
was one place at the fair where people just
relaxed and took a break. It was a spot for lovers, too. As the sun went down,
the island was lit by little fairylands of colored
glass arranged along the paths. Unlike the bright light
of the electricity that drove the rest of the
fair, the fairylights were little warm
colored oil lamps. Surrounded by the
delicate flickering lights with the white beams
of the arc lights playing on the buildings
across the lagoon, the wooded island was
the one still spot where you could stop long
enough to take it all in. In 10 more years, Japan
would crush the Russians in the Russo-Japanese
War, the first modern victory of an Asian country
over a western power. Within another 40
years, Japan would challenge the United States
and the British Empire for dominance in
Asia and the Pacific. Today one can’t go five
feet without seeing something influenced
by the Japanese. (music plays) (“The
Bronze Horseman Suite,
Op. 89a: VI. Waltz”) Just a short stroll south
along the waterfront from the States and Foreign
Government buildings, and you came across the
centerpiece of the fair; the Manufactures and
Liberal Arts Building. Nothing like it had
ever been built. No other building at
the fair could match it. Its purpose was to hold
thousands of national, state and business
exhibits, showing off an eclectic array of
products and art. Internally, it was divided
into booths with exhibits from manufacturers from
all over the world, exhibits that were a
monument to human ingenuity and peaceful commerce. And with so many exhibitors,
it was impossible for one country alone to
have the bragging rights and stand out. When the building was
dedicated in October 1892, 100,000 people attended
the ceremonies inside. The crowd was described as
being lost in its vast interior. Promoters reckoned that
the building could actually hold 300,000 people, each with
six square feet of elbow room. At a time when electric
street lighting was still a novelty outside
of the downtowns of America’s largest
cities, the Manufactures and Liberal Arts
Building alone was lit by 10,000 electric lights. The entire fair used
three times as much electricity as the
whole city of Chicago. The Manufactures and
Liberal Arts Buildings dwarfed every
building at the fair. In fact, when it was
built, it dwarfed just about every building on earth. It was the largest
building ever made at 1,687 feet by 787 feet. The enormous roof reached
over 245 feet into the sky supported by eight 100
foot pavilions at the corner and center of each wall. The floor space
covered an area of 540,000 square
feet, or 44 acres. The Great Pyramid of Giza
could easily fit inside. One writer claimed
that the full-standing army of Russia could
fit inside the building. The builders said that
the metal and glass roof contained enough iron
and steel to build two Brooklyn Bridges. Sure, the roof leaked a
bit, but that could be expected from such
a building put up in only eighteen months. A few exhibitors got damp,
but everyone was in awe. The building needed to be giant. The whole earth, it
seemed, was inside. The number of exhibits
in the building was impossible to count. There were hundreds of
categories of exhibits, art, chemical and
pharmaceutical supplies, paints, colors, dyes,
varnishes, paper, stationery, upholstery,
ceramics, mosaics, stone monuments,
watches, jewelry, china, porcelain, glassware,
furniture, stoves, clothes, musical
instruments, more jewelry, medical supplies, dolls,
asbestos and firearms. Many new and recent
inventions showed up in the building; some that
lasted and some that didn’t. (music) There was a gigantic
mineral water exhibit. Some exhibits were fun
like the Windsor Castle made out of soap; and
if that wasn’t enough clean fun, there was
also a Brooklyn Bridge made out of soap. Who knew there were so many
kinds of shoes in the world? One newspaper man
described the shoe and leather exhibit as
“hides by the mile”. (music) There were exhibits
of lace and mattresses and pillows, there
were billiard tables and fire extinguishers. There were exhibits of
church furniture and caskets. There were even, not just
one or two exhibitors in these categories,
but often dozens. No one could see all the
exhibits or even count them. According to one
reporter, there were tens of thousands of things
that need not be numerated. The insurers tried to put
a value on the exhibit, they came up with $50 million. It was a wild, and probably
insufficient guess. This was the impossibly the
biggest bazaar in history. Called a “city under one roof”, it was more like a country
or several countries. For many, the appeal
of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building
wasn’t just in its size, but in its overwhelming variety. Through the center
of the building was a 50-foot-wide aisle known
as “Columbia Avenue”. In the very center of the
aisle was 120 foot clock tower built by the American
Self-Winding Clock Company. It chimed on the
hour with nine bells that weighed 7,000 pounds. You always knew the time inside the Manufactures and
Liberal Arts Building. At one end of Columbia
Avenue was the largest telescope in the world, the
Yerkes Telescope that had been given to the
University of Chicago. It was 65 feet long and 70 tons. The most prestigious
big national exhibits got spots close to
Columbia Avenue; France, Britain, Germany,
Austria and Italy, but there was plenty
of room for everybody. The German national exhibits
were heavy on jewels, golden goblets,
silver services and a nine foot vase which drew
thousands of visitors. But one of the most
striking German exhibits was one of the
most humble, dolls. Venerable German doll-makers
sent a display of thousands of dolls,
including a wind-up bunny that hopped, a cow that
mooed and a little lamb that jumped and baaed. For displays of jewelry;
not Germany, not France, not England, could compete
with the Tiffany Pavilion. The Tiffany exhibit
was one of the things in the fair that no one missed. There was a silver-encrusted
toilet and the revolving gray canary
diamond which was virtually priceless. Italy, which almost
didn’t come, put on quite a show in the
Manufactures Building. $40,000 worth of Venetian
Lace filled its own room in the Italian exhibit. Austria had a massive
exhibit packed with displays of ornate
glassware, bronzeworks, Hungarian and Bohemian goods. The French pavilion
was a highlight for the fashion-minded of the fair. It was 300 by 200
feet with 26 entrances all leading to a
different salon: one for furniture; one for
fashion; one for silver, china and porcelain;
fashion, of course, was the centerpiece. A salon full of wax
figures wore the the latest styles from Paris. A French display of
furs included a carpet made of 35 otter skins. There were skins of polar bears,
lions, tigers and leopards. In 1893, there weren’t many
animal rights activists. French perfumers built
a fountain of perfume in the middle of one
display which sprayed out a different scent every day. Fairgoers were welcome to
dip their handkerchiefs in the fountain
for a free sample. Along with a bigger
European exhibit, there were more than
30 countries displaying their wares in the
Manufactures Building; countries like Siam,
Argentina, Haiti, Zanzibar and Bulgaria, all put
up their booths in America’s great bazaar. No one saw everything
in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building;
it was too overwhelming. But every adventurous
fairgoer who could fork over 25 cents went up in the
Otis Hale company elevator to the observation deck on
the roof of the building. A waist-high chain link
fence kept you from going off the edge of
the observation deck, but more than one
fairgoer lost their nerve on the roof and quickly
returned to the elevator. For those who could
look down, it was one of the great spots
to view the fair; like the top of the Ferris
wheel or the wooded island. The deck looked out
over the Court of Honor and the lagoon with
Lake Michigan behind. If you lingered on the roof
until the sun began to set, you could watch thousands
of electrical light bulbs switching on all over the fair. Next to you on the
roof, the search lights would fire up beaming
down onto the fair below. Out on the lake, the
reflections of the lights rippled on the water. You can understand why the
people who went to the fair described themselves as
“dumbfounded, in another world”. It was here that Olmsted’s
vision could be appreciated. From the roof, it
looked like paradise. (music) In 1893, the widespread use of
electric lights awed fairgoers. Electricity wasn’t
necessarily new, New York had its first
electric street lights on Broadway in 1882. By 1893, most large
American cities had electric street lighting in their
downtowns, but not on anything remotely like the scale
of the White City. At a time when most
American homes were lit by flickering gas flames,
the Expo at night was the brightest thing that
had ever been seen on earth. Something like 120,000
incandescent electric lights lit the fairgrounds along
with what seemed like thousands of arc lamps. The Electricity Building
was almost 700 feet long and 350 feet wide. Its high glass curved
windows and 170 foot high spires looked out over
the lagoon at its feet. The building housed
exhibits by Bell Telephone, General Electric,
Edison, Westinghouse, and every other American company in the electricity business. France and Germany also had
large electric exhibits. There were huge dynamos,
lighting systems, streetcar generators
and every other kind of conceivable electric gadgets. Electricity also
powered the launches, the little boats that took
visitors around the waterway. They were powered by fuel
cells that were charged every 12 hours with
electricity from the dynamos. George Westinghouse had
secured the main contract for providing the
lighting for the fair, beating out his perennial
competitor, Thomas Edison. The rival electrical
pioneers both had large displays at the fair. Westinghouse may have won the
contract for the lighting, but Edison clearly won
the competition for the most creative use of
lighting; the centerpiece of the Electricity Building
was Edison’s “Tower of Light”. It was a column 80 feet
high covered with colored jewels that were lit from
inside by incandescent lamps and the lights were
choreographed to music. On Opening Night, an
orchestra in the building struck up Strauss’
Blue Danube Waltz. The crowd of thousands was
dumbstruck for a moment and started to chant
the name Edison, no doubt inflating his
already over-inflated ego. The tower was just one
of Edison’s triumphs. He also built the electric
fountains in the central court. Edison himself spent
$500,000 on displays at the Columbian Exposition … almost as much as Britain
spent for the entire fair. The electric light
was spectacular, but it wasn’t the only marvel
in the Electricity Building. Edison’s Kinetoscope
was on display where an audience could see
comic scenes flickering by as cards were
flipped like animation. Like so much else,
movies were born at the Chicago World’s Fair. Another giant of the Expo
buildings was Machinery Hall. Sitting next to the
Administration Building on the south end of
the Court of Honor, the Hall was over
four stories high and 850 by almost 500 feet. The outside of Machinery
Hall had the same towers and classical columns as
the rest of the buildings in the Court of Honor, but
the interior of the Hall was anything but classical. The tools of heavy industry
and every other kind of manufacturing
were on display here. You might say that
Machinery Hall created what was on display
everywhere else. It was literally the
engine of the fair. Almost all the electricity
powering the rest of the fair was generated here. The power flowed through
underground lines to light the fair,
to power elevators, and to operate exhibits. The building literally
pulsed with the unprecedented power of
the industrial revolution. You could see every kind
of machine in the world, from all over the world all
running in operation at once. Machines for making hot baths, machines for making candy,
ice cream making machines, smokeless furnaces, rock drills, machines that washed
windows and baked bread, the machines that printed
the fair’s newspaper, “The Daily Columbian”. The very latest mechanized
looms turned out textiles. The very latest washing
machines washed them. However, there was
one great problem with Machinery Hall that
kept it from becoming a popular exhibit … and the reason was simple … Machinery Hall was
possibly the loudest place on the face of the planet. The sound of all the
machines running at once, enclosed in one giant
hall, was deafening. Few people could
stand it for long, including the men
who worked there. Just one printing
press or one turbine, or one steam engine
by itself, was loud. Multiply that by 100 and it
was beyond human tolerance. Everyone at the fair
enjoyed the electricity that the hall produced,
but only a brave few could learn the secrets
of the power hidden in its mind-bending noise. Electric colored lights
turned the water the colors of sunset and fireworks
exploded over the lake. For people of 1893, it was
like being on another planet. (music) The gleaming white
buildings, waterways, and the statuary may have
been the heart of the fair, but its soul was on
the Midway Plaisance. (music) The Midway was a
mile-long strip of park extending inland
towards Chicago and away from the lake. It wasn’t part of the official
fair, it was separated by a line of the Illinois
Central Railroad. The Midway was all
paying exhibits, most of them 25 cents. It was where the fair
recouped the operating costs of the brilliant
buildings and fountains. The Midway was not classical. People experienced
the world there, but it was not the very
high-minded side of the world, it was about low-brow
fun and therefore, the Midway was the most
popular part of the fair. It was just what the
Board of Lady Managers had worried about;
exotic, vulgar and full of beer and cigar smoke. One reporter passed it
off as “strange people on the Midway Plaisance”. Coming into the Midway from
the 59th Street entrance, you came onto the
Street of Cairo, the largest exhibit
on the Midway. Hundreds of men, women
and children, theatres, camels, donkeys and dogs, it was a recreation
of a Cairo bazaar. Entrance to the bazaar was free, but all the attractions
had a price. The camel rides, for 50 cents,
were about the priciest. One great attraction
in Cairo Street was people-watching and boot
shopping in the bazaar. Writers were fascinated
with the variety of people. On the Cairo street,
there were street fights, wrestlers, boy acrobats
and musicians playing what one reporter
called “tedious music squeaking along
the thoroughfare”. There were
facsimilies of mummies and hieroglyphics
of ancient Egypt. The street was cluttered
with donkeys, magicians, and snake charmers. The Cairo street was a
place of unknown exotic pleasures for Americans in 1893. The theatre put displays
of sword dances, candle dances and other
dances that one lady visitor called “weird
and indescribable”. Dancing girls were easy
to find and very popular. For 10 cents, you
could watch the woman known as “Little Egypt” do
her famous Danse de Ventre which became known for
the first time at the fair as “belly dancing”. Some reporters tried
to pretend that they weren’t enjoying Little Egypt. One of them wrote,
“Her beauty lessened in the western
imagination. No ordinary western woman looked
on the performances as anything but horror,” but odds are that he
really enjoyed it. Next door to Little Cairo,
the Algerian Theatre featured what one writer
called “Naughty Girls from Algeria who do the
‘hoota-koota’ dance”. (music plays) (“Through These
Teeth” by Too Many Funerals) Every male visitor
to the fair went down Cairo’s harem street
straining to look inside at the enticing female world. The fantasy of the
harem allured many men. “It is not the music that
attracts,” wrote one reporter, “For it is as hideous
as the musicians.” The women dancing publicly
scandalized the public and brought in paying customers. America of 1893 was
schizophrenic about sex; on one hand, every American
city and especially Chicago, teamed with
brothels. On the other hand, a belly dancer could
bring in the church ladies and the police to shut it down. One reported suggested,
only half-joking, that the Midway was sure to
cause a rise in divorces. Also on the Midway, was the
World Congress of Beauty which consisted of
girls in native dress from all over the world. Reporters argued over
whether the Scottish beauty was pretty, or the English
girl prettier, or whether the French peasant girl
was simply too pretty. They said France was
unjust to its women by not storming the beauty contest. Of the American
girl, reporters said, “The robes too regal,
the features too heavy, and the proportions too ample.” After the erotic thrills
of the Middle East, visitors paid a quarter to
visit the Dahomey Village. Dahomey in west Africa
had only very recently been conquered by the
French and reporters noted that they looked like they
were still ready to fight. The Dahomeys were
reputed cannibals. It was said that they
were known to sacrifice prisoners or offenders
and to serve them as a feast in honor
of their king. Fairgoers were scared to death, but still flocked to see them. Everyone admired the
fighting Amazon Dahomey women who had done much of the bloodiest fighting
against the French. One reporter noted
that they were not to be trifled wtih. The Dahomey exhibit
fascinated people of the day who heard horror stories of
the far-off African jungles. One exhibit in the
village was labeled “The Hell of Serpents”, a
room full of writhing snakes. Few fairgoers went in. Rumor has it that the
Dahomeys ate their own kin in times of food shortage. It was noted by
several sources that their numbers
diminished throughout the six months of the fair. (bongo drums) On the Midway, those
tired of walking paid 75 cents an
hour for two servants to carry them around in a
sedan chair like some noble. The Midway had a lot
of ground to cover in those sedan chairs. Capping the west end was
the Bedouin Encampment with the highest
concentration of camels in the entire United States. At the east end towards
the fairgrounds, was the Java Settlement
of the Dutch East Indies which was surrounded
by bamboo and covered some four acres. In the Javanese theatre,
performances had no speaking, only pantomime. Those who could
follow it, enjoyed it. Of course, everyone enjoyed
the exotic Javanese ladies. One impressive recreation
was the replica of the Kilavea Volcano in Hawaii
in the Cyclorama Building. Standing in the middle
of a circular painting, you seem to be in the
center of the nine mile circumference of the
crater of the volcano. Pyrotechnic displays and
colored electric lights made it seem as if the
volcano was coming to life. In the German village,
you could see a castle surrounded by a moat in
the middle of the village. The castle displayed 60 iron
figures in armor and weapons, the biggest collection
of weapons in Germany. The exhibit showed
centuries of the evolution of German soldiers maybe
to remind visitors that they meant business. There was no such drama
at the two separate Irish villages, though. Each had its own castle; Donegal
Castle and Blarney Castle. After a stout beer, visitors
could kiss the Blarney Stone, or at least a replica
of the original, in a sentimental touch
sure to bring a tear to Chicago’s many
Irish immigrants. The Irish village
gave each visitor a piece of the old sod. People from the Cold Land,
Eskimos and Laplanders, were also on display
throughout the Chicago summer. In the heart of the Midway
was the Lapland Village where 24 Laplanders
in native costumes suffered through
the heat along with nine of their reindeer
that were used to put on a show pulling sleds. Most of the reindeer didn’t
make it to the end of the fair. The Eskimos and Laplanders
didn’t do well, either. Most of them left after
the summer got hot and those who stayed
didn’t have much to do. Everyone was
disappointed in the show. The sleds had wheels. The Eskimos put on displays
with long, black whips. They tried to hit coins
that were set up as targets and missed a lot. (whipping sound) (music) There were people from all
different countries, cultures, professions, scattered
throughout the Midway; a Mexican dandy, Sirian swordsman, a Bulgarian gentleman, the Samoans, and Egyptian donkey driver, Persian club swingers, an Irish dairy maid, a businessman from Beirut, a Scottish bagpiper, a group from Fiji, a [Zybeck], and a Salonese from Salon. Yes, there was still so much
more on the Midway to see. Carl Hagenbeck’s animal
exhibit was popular with 1,500 animals that
he brought to the show. There was an exciting
panorama of the Swiss Alps. The Chinese had a
Chinese theatre that shocked viewers with
their plays full of excessive violence
and high body counts, not unlike the popular
Hong Kong action films of the modern era. You could visit the
immense Moorish Palace, watch the Bedouin national
dance on Cairo Street or pay a fee and look at
a miniature toy version of the Eiffel Tower. (thump) Putting France’s World’s
Fair in its place. (music) There were even a few
rides on the Midway. The ice Railway
was a popular one. Sleds raced along an
850 foot iced track that climbed up and down and
turned like a bobsled run, kept frozen by
electric-powered ice machines. The passengers drift
aside and screamed as the sled raced down the
hill and around the curves. Another ride on the Midway
was the captive balloon, a hot air balloon on a tether. It rose around 1,490
feet over the fair. One reporter claimed that the
Dahomeys thought it was a god. A ride in the captive
balloon was the most expensive attraction
at the fair at $2, including a photo of the
passengers in the balloon. At one point, a group
of passengers went up and a heavy wind off the
lake blew the balloon around until it crashed. No one was reported dead,
but the captive balloon was out of business for
the rest of the fair. (music) At the center of the ride,
at the center of the Midway, was the colossal Ferris wheel. The original wheel was
the largest ever built at 264 feet tall,
weighing over 1,200 tons. It dominated the
skyline of the fair … No one could miss it. Ferris wheel cars
today are two-seaters. George Ferris’ cars were
the size of small homes. 40 persons could fit in one
car, 60 if they were standing. If any one thing was
the symbol of the fair, it was George Ferris’ wheel. From the start, the
fair planners wanted to build an engineering marvel
to top the Eiffel Tower, but no one could agree
on a plan or a design. As the fair drew
nearer, George Ferris approached them with his idea. George Ferris was a bridge
builder from Pittsburgh. He’d come to Chicago
with a vision that looked like a suspension bridge rising and falling,
powered by steam and its own weight. One reported called
it a “mighty bicycle”. Ferris was persuasive and
raised a lot of capital, so they granted
him a concession. It became the most popular
attraction at the whole fair. The wheel grossed almost
$730,000 at 50 cents a ride. Opening in June, it paid
for itself by September 1st. The royalties that Ferris
paid to the Exposition put the fair into the black. The wheel was as tall
as a 25 story building, 250 feet in diameter,
it carried 36 cars … Each 30 feet long
by 13 feet wide. 2,000 people could ride
the wheel at one time. The wheel revolved
around an axle which was the largest piece
of steel ever forged at 45 feet long and 66 tons. One reporter described
the inside of the car as like being in a giant birdcage. The windows were covered
with wire netting and a conductor
was in each car to look after distressed
passengers. It was said that,
“No crank will have an opportunity to commit
suicide from this wheel. No hysterical woman shall
jump from a window.” Like many of the wonders of the World’s
Columbian Exposition, the Ferris wheel didn’t long
survive the end of the fair. George Ferris planned
that the wheel at Chicago would be only the beginning. He thought that he
could make the wheel a permanent monument
like the Eiffel Tower. None of his dreams came to be. At the end of the
fair, he fought with the exposition officials
over the profits from the wheel and in
Patent Court against two other men who
claimed they invented it. He was never able to
find a permanent home for America’s Eiffel Tower. Three years after the
fair, he died at age 37. The wheel was put
up one more time at the St. Louis
World’s Fair in 1904. After the St. Louis
Fair, the wheel was broken up for scrap metal. (choir voices) Beneath the shadow
of the Ferris wheel and the mighty buildings, the fair had a dark side. Because of Chicago’s
legacy of fire, there were elaborate
preparations for firefighting at the fair. Unfortunately for the firemen, the Columbia Exposition
had given more thought to fighting fire than
to preventing it. The Cold Storage
Building was another technological
marvel of the fair. One newspaper man called it “the greatest
refrigerator on earth”. It made the ice and
kept cold the huge stocks of meat
consumed at the fair. It was another giant
building at 130 feet wide by 255 feet long; it was
not just a big refrigerator, it also boasted an ice
rink where fairgoers could skate in the
middle of the summer. It could have been the
first indoor skating rink. Like everything at the fair,
the Cold Storage Building was put up quickly and
more attention was paid to the aesthetic
design of the building and the equipment
than to safety. It was built out
of staff and wood like the rest of the
buildings at the fair. No one knows for sure,
but on July 10th, it’s thought that a spark
from an ice-making machine landed on an exposed wood beam. In the middle of the day with
a full crowd of fairgoers, smoke began to billow
out of the building as the fire spread. Most of those inside had
enough time to get out. Firemen from the nearby
station responded and rushed into the building
to look for survivors and wait for the pump truck. Because the Cold Storage
Building was built to seal out the heat, there
were no windows and few exits. Once the firemen
were in the building, the fire quickly
blocked the exit. It was too smokey to
find another way out. The fire was burning
out of control. There were 17 men
trapped in the building, 13 firemen and 4 workers. With no hope of
reaching the door, they climbed to one of
the top of the towers to escape the flames. The crowd on the ground
watched horrified as the flames climbed
up to reach them. The efforts of the
firemen were futile. They couldn’t get
into the building and their hoses couldn’t
spray high enough to reach the flames that
were threatening the men. All people could
do was watch … mesmerized, gasping,
calling to the men. The men on the roof
called out for help, but there was nothing
anyone could do. As the flames rose up to them, the men knew they were finished. Maybe they prayed, maybe
they cursed the fair. One by one, the men began
to jump to their deaths from the tower. Below, the crowd screamed
and watched the whole thing. It was like a bizarre exhibit. One fireman acknowledging
his audience threw a kiss to the
crowd before he jumped. One or two of the
17 didn’t jump. Their charred bodies
were found the next day as the police and fair
officials searched to see what was salvageable
in the building. There was a Grand Jury inquest
into the fire in August. It was inconclusive. Fair officials
produced testimony that blamed the fire on
a gang of thieves, presumably they
were stealing ice. No one was held
responsible in the end. One Sunday at the
fair was dedicated to
the firemen who died. Receipts from that Sunday
from the entire exposition were set aside for the
families of the 13 firemen. It wasn’t recorded how
much the families received, but Sunday was usually
a busy day at the fair. (music) There were dozens of
other major buildings at the fair containing a
seemingly endless array of subjects and exhibits. The Palace of Fine Art
was an impressive building with plasterwork and
classical columns that sat on the north
shore of the north pond near the state buildings. Unlike the rest of
the fair buildings, the Palace was built to
stay because this building had to be fireproof
to get insurance for all the irreplaceable
paintings inside. The walls were built of
brick covered with staff and the floors and
roof were iron. Inside it was a
sensory overload. Over 10,000 pieces
of art arrived. It was literally
too much to display. It was so densely
arranged that people had trouble taking in
any one part of it. The galleries were too small
for the art that arrived. Paintings were hung
“willy nilly” in a jumble of however many could
fit on the wall. In some places, paintings
were crammed into corners and hung four high on the wall. Sculpture covered so
much of the floor space that there was only a few
feet to walk between them. The galleries were
arranged by nations. The French exhibit was
the biggest next to the US exhibit. The French exhibit had
hundreds of paintings all by the most renowned
French painters of the day. Most of the paintings
were technically perfect portraits
and realistic scenes of historical events,
battles, allegories, peasant life and animal hunts. But in Europe, the end
was approaching for this kind of painting
and impressionism was gaining a foothold. Regrettably, most
visitors made only an obligatory dash to
the Palace of Fine Art. There was never a very
long wait in line. In an attempt to get
some visitors, there were copious amounts of skin
on display at the Palace. French and Italian
painters from the school known as “Orientalism”
had exotic and romantic depictions of life
in Arab countries. The favorite subject
was of course, women in harems. Just like the exhibits
on the Midway, it was an outlet for
Victorian fantasies and sexuality, but
in the art palace, they were under
the guise of art. Nobody protested the
Palace of Fine Art. (gong) The Japanese art
exhibits stood out from the European exhibits
and got as many favorable reviews as
the other Japanese exhibits at the fair. The Japanese exhibit
was the only one that really was put together
as a whole rather than a mish-mosh of paintings
and sculptures, and with a decided different
style than the Europeans. For the artists who saw
it, the Japanese exhibit was one of the most
influential things at the fair in bringing eastern
art to the west. In the progressive spirit
of the Columbian Exposition, and under the influence of the Board of Lady Managers,
was the Woman’s Building full of exhibits
by and for women, dedicated to a
woman and her works. Almost unheard of for the time, the Woman’s Building
was designed by a young architect, Sophia Hayden, who won a competition
among 14 women. The Board of Lady
Managers intended that the building would show
womens’ great achievements for the physical and
moral good of humanity. They only accepted
exhibits from organizations that were made up
entirely of women. The art gallery was hung
with drawings and paintings only by women. Fittingly, the most
powerful woman in the world took a great interest
in the Woman’s Building, Britain’s Queen Victoria, for whom the
Victorian Era is named and whose empire ruled
a third of the globe, sent a special message
of her interest in what this exhibition was doing
for women and donated embroidery by the Royal
School of Needlework. The Empress of Russia
and the Queen of Italy both sent their personal
collections of laces. The Russian Empress
also donated some of her own court costumes. One member of the Board
of Lady Managers said, “Judging from the
contours of these gowns, Her Imperial Majesty is an
extremely shapely woman.” The Columbian Exposition
was the stage for the world debut of the
nation that would be the central player in
some of the bloodiest military conflicts
of the 20th century. In stark contrast to
the Woman’s Building, the industrial heart of
German Military might was on display in Germany’s
Krupp Gun Pavilion, built like a castle
with towers and turrets. Kaiser Wilhelm II of
Germany was crowned in the spring of 1893. He sent his regrets
that he could not personally attend the
fair, but he made sure that the German empire
was well-represented. Alfred Krupp, known
as the “Cannon King”, had run the company since 1826. The Krupp Works was an
enormous industrial plant in Essen, Germany with
over 25,000 workers. The family-owned specialized
in artillery guns. Krupp wasn’t officially
part of the German national exhibit, but they
might as well have been. Krupp’s might was
Germany’s might and the company spent
almost $1 million on an exhibit that
would make any nation think twice about
confronting Germany. 16 artillery guns lined
the side of the exhibit facing the lake. From the middle of the
guns, stuck the barrel of the gun known
as the “Thunderer”. The dimensions of the guns
sounded unreal at the time. The barrel was 46 feet long
and 17 feet in diameter. It weighed 124 tons. It could fire a one ton
explosive projectile 15 miles and was the
largest gun in the world. [unintelligible] Gilhousen,
the engineer running the Krupp exhibit, suggested
that after the fair closed, they could fire the
Thunderer, the concussion would knock down all
the great buildings and save the time of
dismantling them. The fair officials
laughed nervously, hoping that he was kidding. Major John Schofield
of the US Army was quoted as saying, “The cannon of Herr Krupp
makes a fit addition to an exhibition to
the arts of peace.” Ironically, these
contributors to peace would be bombarding Paris
in just over 20 years. In 1914, Kaiser
Wilhelm led Europe into the bloodbath of World War I. The Kaiser’s armies
blasted their way to Paris with Krupp guns that
were even bigger than the guns at
the Expo in 1893. General Schofield also said, “The people of the
United States are a peace-loving people
and as such, they should learn that only way
to preserve peace is to prepare for war.” (music) And the United States
was doing just that and they let the world know it. In the Government Building,
the Army exhibited an American-made 58
ton artillery gun for coastal defense
and all the latest in antique military innovation. As one headline put it, “All the paraphernalia
for killing men were placed on exhibition.” The US Navy’s exhibit drew
generally favorable reaction, but some observers
seemed embarrassed to point out that the
Navy’s model battleship, The Illinois, that was
moored in Lake Michigan, wasn’t a ship at all. It was a brick building
shaped like a ship that sat in the shallows
on the edge of the lake. “She would not float
even if bricks and mortar could float,” said one observer,
“for she has no bottom.” But the Gatling and the
Hotchkiss machine guns mounted on the deck
were real enough … So was the 13 inch
artillery gun that could throw a thousand
pound shell 13 miles. The United States
still may have been behind Krupp, but in 1893,
they were catching up fast. (water bubble sound) There were a few
more awe-inspiring
buildings at the fair. The Fisheries Building
was tucked between the north pond and the lagoon. Like many of the
buildings, it contained a modern marvel, the
world’s largest aquarium, in fact, several of the
world’s largest aquariums, the only aquariums that
anyone had ever seen. This was a novel idea. The fish were not
just products to be harvested and eaten, they
were for the first time seen as things of beauty. Crowds watched the fish,
sharks, turtles, crabs, even a whale in a way
that had never been seen. The fish were not only
edible, they were beautiful, colorful, and
fascinating to watch. Even the most
commercially-minded observer found himself struck
by the unexpected gracefulness and
beauty of the fish. It was another sea
change in attitudes that started at the fair. This was the birth of
the modern aquarium. One building that
left a legacy was the Transportation
Building which was kept out of the Court
of Honor tucked behind the Mining Building
near the lagoon. The Transportation Building was one of the busiest
places at the fair. Chicago architect Louis
Sullivan, refused to go along with the classical
style of the buildings in the Court of Honor. “An American fair,” he
insisted, “should look like America, not Europe.” The striking red and
gold art deco arched entryway was in
striking contrast to the uniformed classical white
of the Court of Honor. The 19th century was
fascinated by movement and the Transportation
Building fed that fascination. (music) From 1820 to 1896, the
speed at which people could travel had
increased more than it had since the domestication
of horses. In under 80 years, rail travel
had increased to the point where a New York to
Chicago trip was two days. Steamships had cut
ocean passages from months to days,
and the Model T and the Wright Brothers
were not far off. (music) Speaking of movement,
from the Midway to the Grand Basin, the fair
covered more than 600 acres and it was obviously
a lot to see. Quickly transporting
people from one end of it to the other was a big job. Fortunately, exhausted
walkers had many other ways of getting
around at the fair. Estimates were that a
person would have to walk over 150 miles if they
were to see every exhibit. One of the most basic
methods of transportation was wheelchairs, not
for the handicapped, but for people tired of walking. 75 cents an hour would
get you a student to push you around in
a wheelchair for hour. So many of the young
men pushing the chairs were theological
students that the chairs became known as
“Gospel Chariots”. You could also rent the
wheelchair and push yourself for the sale price
of 40 cents an hour. The Intramural
Railway was popular, called Intramural
because it stayed within the borders of the fair,
it ran from the south pond behind the Agriculture Building, along the waterfront
to the north inlet next to the Viking ship. It was an elevated
electric third rail railway like a metro. For 20 cents, it didn’t
cover a great distance, but it took you quickly
where you needed to go. There was also the
movable sidewalk which was a big deal in
the promotional
material for the fair, but it didn’t work very well. The idea was to have a
flat escalator with benches like the people-movers
in modern airports that would take people
from the boat landing at the end of the
pier to the casino on the waterfront
next to the Peristyle. The movable sidewalk
wasn’t ready until the middle of the
fair and after that, it broke down so much
that the Directors figured it wasn’t
worth maintaining. The movable sidewalk turned
into a white elephant and the crowds had to walk
the length of the pier. Water transport was
a big part of the practical transportation
at the fair. You could travel by
water all over the fair by way of the lagoon,
the canal and the ponds. The boats were also
one thing that added to the romantic Venetian
feel of the White City. There were all kinds
of boats, including the quaint electric
launches that carried groups from one spot to another,
but most romantic of all, there were gondola
rides around the lagoon to complete the
feeling of Venice. The Directors claim that
the gondolas were steered by real Venetian
Gondoliers nicknamed “The Champions of the Lagoon”. (music) Walking throughout
the miles of the fair, everyone was bound to
get hungry or thirsty. Food and drink at
the fair was another massive undertaking. Fairgoers had a lot of
restaurants to choose from and the casino at the
end of the pier was probably the biggest
and the most prominent. But there were places
to eat everywhere. Visitors wondered why the
fair’s official restaurants offered a lot of the same menus. It turned out that the
Wellington Catering Company of Chicago had been
awarded a monopoly on food concessions by
the fair Directors, in a sweetheart deal
that had the fingerprints of Chicago’s Mayor
Harrison all over it. Other restaurants were
required to buy all their food from Wellington, who
slaughtered 50 cattle a day to keep the restaurants in meat. Wellington’s concession
went beyond food and meat, vendors were also
required to buy cigars, spring water and
other items from them. The Chicago newspapers
during the fair were full of stories about
price-gouging by Wellington. The Directors promised several
times to look into the prices. In the fair, pork and
beans and pumpkin pie cost 50 cents which
was expensive in 1893. One writer reported
paying 90 cents for a sweet potato,
bread and butter. A lot of people ate
outside of the fair where Chicago vendors sold
a 25 cent meat supper. If you wanted to eat
at one of the enormous ritzy restaurants like Old
Vienna or the Marine Cafe, you waited a long time in line. Even though each
restaurant could have had a staff of around 2,000
cooks and waiters, the crowd didn’t move very fast. A big crowd got quick
meals every day at the New England
Clambake Building which was near the foreign
buildings on the north end of the fair and would seat
several thousand patrons. Clams and oysters were
a very common meal in America then, and
the clambake produced a mountain of shells every day. If you were like most
ordinary visitors, with only a day or
so to visit the fair, you didn’t waste time
in the restaurant line. Most fair visitors
ate lunch at a counter selling quick meals
or at a snack vendor. Chocolate and cocoa
were especially popular. People strolling between
exhibits stopped at the Dutch [Houten and
Zoon] cocoa concession in a large exhibit building
strategically placed along the lakefront
walk right in front of the Manufactures Building. Walking around the fair
in the summer was hot, especially in the
heavy jackets and vests that almost all the men
wore in Victorian America, but the women were
even more overdressed in hats, bustles,
petticoats and long-sleeved dresses buttoned
severely at the neck. Women could always have
ice cream or seltzer water from the concession stands
at the Wellington Company, but the men had a relief
from the heat that most respectable women wouldn’t
resort to in 1893 … Beer! (opera singing) (“Elijah,
Chorus: And Then Shall
Your Light” by Infam) There was quite
a variety of beer at the Columbian
Exposition and because of Chicago’s large
German population, there was a brewing tradition. At a time when water
quality could be bad, beer was the daily drink
of a lot of working men. There were several beer gardens on the Midway Plaisance;
you could get beer at the German garden, in
the Austrian village, at the Irish villages,
you could get sampler of stouts and
ales that were not often brewed in America. You could get beer in
the Algerian Theatre and the Alhambra and beer and
wine in the Turkish village. Near the beer gardens
were the cigar vendors that were all over
the fairgrounds. Full of the cigar
smoke and the clink of foaming schooners of
beer, the beer gardens were a man’s world, they
were nearly always full. A lot of men, it seems,
didn’t see much of the fair other than the beer garden and the dancing women on the Midway. Tucked away in the
Horticultural Building next to the wooded island
was the most discreet and the classiest way to
get a drink at the fair … Wine! Because winemaking
involved working with vines and fruit,
it made sense that the Horticultural
Building would have wine exhibits among the
flowers and pear trees. It was probably the
biggest selection of wine that had ever been
available in America with exhibits, tastings
and bottles for sale from every winemaking
country in the world. California easily led
the American winemakers. Others came from Missouri,
Ohio, New Jersey and New York. The French had the
largest exhibit with 60 varieties of
their best Clarets, and an even larger
number of Burgundies. Germany had a large
selection of Mozelles and other Rhine wines
and a display of an operating wine cellar. Italy sent its
famous dry red wine. There was sweet wine
from Spain and Portugal. New South Wales displayed
the first exhibit of a wine from the growing
Australian vineyards. (opera singing) (“Elijah,
Chorus: And Then Shall
Your Light” by Infam) (music) A lot of the firsts
credited to the Columbian Exposition are
related to food and drink. A new treat made of
popcorn and molassis first appeared at the
fair, although nobody called it Cracker
Jack until after 1900. Chili con Carne first
appeared in America at the Chicago fair; ground
beef and chili sauce with beans, modern chili like
on a chili dog. Aunt Jemima made her first
appearance at the Expo. A new word appeared at
the fair for a place to get an informal fast
meal, the cafeteria. (accordion music) Along with food,
visitors found music everywhere that they
went; with everything from enormous classical
orchestras and choirs to exotic ensembles
on the Midway. Like so much else, the
less planned popular music did much better than the carefully planned serious music. The Directors put a
lot of money and effort into attracting renowned
composers and orchestras which almost all went to waste. They built the Choral
Hall which could hold an enormous choir with
thousands of voices and a Music Hall for
classical works and 114-piece orchestra. The Directors’ efforts
didn’t go very well. The biggest problem was
the size of the building. The enormous halls
were impressive, but the buildings were just
too big to hear anything. The sound was lost
in the vastness. (piano music) Another problem with the
serious music was the piano war. Western piano makers
led by Chicago’s Kimball Piano Company
were determined that the eastern piano makers led
by New York’s Steinway, would not dominate the fair. It was a replay of
the competition that brought the fair to
Chicago in the first place. The music directors tried
to create a competition for the best piano
which Steinway refused to take part in
because it was beneath the company’s dignity. Steinway pianos were
banned from the fair. When the famous pianist,
Ignacy Jan Paderewski, offered to perform a
free concert at the fair, his Steinway had
to be smuggled in. Fairgoers were simply
not interested in hearing heavy symphonic music anyway. The evening concerts
of serious music only drew a few hundred people. The big, empty music
halls seemed even bigger and even emptier. The only orchestra that
anyone really wanted to hear was the Javanese orchestra
performing on the Midway. Among the wealthy and royalty
of Europe and United States, everyone who was anyone
came to the fair. The American press fawned
over their every move. Some of the most popular were the Duke and Duchess of
de Veragua, from Spain. The descendant of
Columbus seemed to be everywhere at the
fair at center stage, clearly enjoying himself. But the biggest royalty
celebrity was the teenage Infanta Do■a
Eladia, who caused a commotion wherever she went. She was the Princess
Diana of the day. Reporters covered
what she visited, what she wore, what
she ate, who she met. Archduke Franz Ferdinand
of the Austro-Hungarian Empire visited, the
same Franz Ferdinand who would be assassinated
in Sarajevo in 1914 to spark World War I. An endless list of American
celebrities came to the fair, but most of the
visitors were from the American middle class. Visitors from as
far away as New York could arrive at the fairground
without changing trains. Like modern tourists, a
lot of visitors arrived at the Columbia Expo
with a definite plan of what they were going
to see on their day and relied on guidebooks. Beside the cost of
railway tickets, food, lodging and the 50 cents
to get into the fair, there were the extra costs
if you wanted to do anything. The 50 cents only covered
seeing the exhibits in the main fair, it didn’t
cover any fun on the Midway. 25 cents for an
elevator ride here, 50 cents for a Ferris
wheel ride there, for working people, the
fair could add up quickly. (music) The fair had one great free
convenience for all visitors … Toilets. The discreetly-named
“Bureau of Public Comfort” provided toilet facilities
on a huge scale. Even on a busy day,
the 1,500 lavatories and 2,000 urinals
kept the lines short. (violin music) There were even more fees. Visitors weren’t allowed
to take photos for free. $2, which was as much
as the most expensive attraction at the fair,
bought a photo permit for one day only. Cameras of the day
were too big and bulky to sneak into the
fair and the photo ban was strictly enforced
which is why you rarely see photos not taken by an
official fair photographer. The Columbian Guard, the
official police force for the fair, spent much
of their time watching for errant photographers. Among the visitors to
the Chicago fair were an untold number of pickpockets,
thieves and con artists. The huge crowd with
money in their pockets, unfamiliar with Chicago,
was just too tempting. The Columbian Guards,
when they weren’t stopping illegal photographers
and arresting drunks, were chasing down reports of
stolen purses and wallets. The Guards weren’t
very effective. By most accounts, they sound
like the Keystone Cops. Some Guards got into
an argument with waiters at the Hungarian
Orpheum that led to a fight. The waiters beat up the Guards. The Guards arrested the Head of
the Commission from Paraguay. Another commissioner was punched
in the face by a gatekeeper. The guards also
arrested the Chief of the Manufactures and
Liberal Arts Department. To be fair, the Directors
had laid off 700 of the guards in June
to cut costs and they were understaffed and annoyed. The fair was set to
officially close on Monday. The closing ceremonies
were to be as grand as the opening; instead,
they became a show of optimism in the face
of terrible events. On Saturday night, October 28th, Mayor Carter
Harrison was at home. He could bask in the
triumph of the fair. Harrison hadn’t
organized the fair, but his lively
money-making spirit, even if a bit corrupt, was
behind every part of it. Carter Harrison had made
the Expo a great success for Chicago, even if the
fair hadn’t made much money, the people of Chicago had … And the people of Chicago
voted for Carter Harrison. All around the globe,
the name of Chicago was on everyone’s list. Outside of Harrison’s
house, a young man named Patrick Eugene
Prendergast was pacing the walk. Prendergast had been a
great admirer of the mayor and worked in his home ward
for Harrison’s election. Prendergast felt he was owed
something for his loyalty. Harrison had doled out
hundreds of patronage jobs and contracts
around the fair … Where was Prendergast’s reward? He had watched the progress
of the fair all summer. He had sent the mayor letters
that he never answered. Surely he was not going
to be left out … As the fair came to an
end, Prendergast realized that there would
be nothing for him. As he paced to work up his
courage to face Harrison, he fingered the small
revolver in his pocket. Maybe he was coming only
to intimidate Harrison. Maybe Harrison would
give him that plumb job. Prendergast knocked
on the door … (thumping sound) The mayor was available
to the people. It was not unusual
for him to greet a constituent at the door… Harrison opened his own door and let Prendergast into his foyer. Prendergast forgot whatever
speech he may have rehearsed. (gunshot) With a mad shout, he
pulled out the revolver and shot Harrison three times. Harrison bled to death
within a few minutes. Prendergast didn’t try to
get away from the police. The public concluded
he was insane. (choir voices) The celebration of
the end of the fair became the funeral dirge. Harrison’s body lay
in state in City Hall throughout the ceremonies. Many people in Chicago
lined up to see him in his casket rather than
seeing the end of the fair. His funeral was held
on November 1st, the day after the closing. Charles Dudley Warner
covering the last day of the fair for
Harper’s Weekly wrote, “There is always a
touch of tragedy in
the career of Chicago. It is the pathetic penalty
of great achievement.” (bagpipe music) While it lasted, the fair seemed
like it would go on forever. Nothing so big, so
proud, so full of life could just end in one day. But on October 31st, it did end. After midnight, the exterior
lights shut off one by one, and the White City began
to pass into history. The lights remained on
inside the buildings where the untold
number of exhibits from every corner of the world
were being packed into crates. It was a huge job and
the work had started even before the fair was over. Out in the Midway, the
last night was anything but simple, calm beauty … It was probably the biggest
party of the whole fair as the crowd sought
to have one last beer, one last cigar, buy one
last trinket and camel ride, say goodbye to the Arabs,
Javanese and Dahomeys. The whole little world
of people that had sprung up on that one-mile
strip would be missed. (snare drums) George Ferris and
his crew of mechanics began planning the
careful work of dismantling the wheel. Chicagoans started arguing
through the newspapers about what to do with
the fair building even before the fair was over. Some even wanted to let
them stand, but everyone who understod the
construction of the buildings knew that they couldn’t
stand, they wouldn’t last. As the cold storage showed,
all the wood framing under the staff
was a fire hazard. In January, a fire
broke out in the casino and the peristyle. The fire damaged a
number of buildings in the Court of Honor and
firemen died fighting it. As the Chicago winter
of 1894 settled on the White City,
newspapers reported that there was snow falling
through the great roof of the Manufactures Building. A few of the buildings
found new homes. Some of the state
buildings were dismantled and relocated, and so
was the German Building. The Swedish Building
was taken apart piece by piece and
shipped back to Sweden, just as it had come. The Japanese Buildings on
the wooded island stayed up. They were a permanent
gift from Japan … Permanent until they
were burned down by an arsonist during World War II. But the great buildings
at the center of the fair were too big to move
and couldn’t be spared. Chicago was too practical
a town for nostalgia and picturesque ruins. When the fire started, the
White City’s fate was sealed. The great buildings
were torn down even faster than
they had been built. “Even in its ruin,”
one writer said, “The Expo will be grand.” Among the Columbian
Expo buildings, only the Palace of
Fine Art survives. The only one of the
main buildings that was ever intended
to be permanent, the palace was refaced,
strengthened and rebuilt in the 1930s and is now the Chicago Museum of
Science and Industry. It still looks out
over the north end of the lagoon in Jackson Park. The rail lines and the
Great Terminal are gone, but the landscape of Jackson
Park still looks much like Frederick Law Olmsted’s
vision of Venice on the shore of Lake Michigan. The wooded island is
still at the center of the lagoon in the
middle of the park. A highway runs along the shore, roughly on the route of
the Intramural Railway. (violin music) The Midway Plaisance
is in the middle of the University of
Chicago campus. It’s still called
the Midway Plaisance. The Chicago Bears are nicknamed “The Monsters of the
Midway” after the landmark. The Midway is laid
out as it was in 1893, but it’s hard for one to
imagine the Ferris wheel, the Cairo street and
the thousands of people strolling through
gawking at the marvels and the curiosities
that had camped there. (violin music) There’s not much
evidence of the most memorable event that
ever took place here. In the summer of 1893,
this park was the center of all the earth, the place
where all thoughts turned, the goal of every traveler, where the newspapers
of the world all had correspondence
to tell the story for the folks back home. The Chicago World’s
Fair is gone. (violin music) Nothing like the Expo’s
glorious, immense, confident and hopeful spectacle
will ever be seen again. Or will it? If history repeats itself,
then perhaps we can all look forward to
another glorious exposition bringing the world
together in peace for a few beers and to
gawk at the wonders of a diverse planet, progress,
optimism, ambition, and humanity’s sheer delight
in variety and discovery. (choir sings) (“Gloria
in D major, RV 589:
Domine Fili unigenite”)


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