A Look Into The Past
Chicago Hosts the Columbian Exposition
What Was It and its Goal?
The Worlds Fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing on the Americas. The fair had two purposes. One to serve as a social and cultural presentation of the science, art and historical achievements made by humankind in many departments of life. Two to showcase the new vibrant Chicago; skillfully rebuilt after the Chicago Fire 22 years back. The fair lasted from May 1, 1893 to October 30, 1983
However did the Fair accomplish its luxurious goal of presenting advancement in human society, or did it display an ironic false American Dream?
"Sell the cookstove if necessary and come. You MUST see the Fair." -Hamlin Garland, 1893
Who Attended and What Did They See?
The first Ferris Wheel, standing 264 feet tall, 36 cars, and holding 60 people in each car
People sitting along the shores of Lake Michigan waiting for the replicas of Columbus's vessels, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria
This was the Court of Honor, center of the Columbian Exposition
Who Organized It and Was It Successful?
What Is the American Dream?
American Dream Relevance to Worlds Fair
As I stated above in the false American Dream discussion, it was very evident at the Fair. It was designed to be a utopian society, and with all along the clean streets and well behaved people, the goal seemed to work. Although the Fair had an extravagant interior and exterior, and was widely known for its marvelous buildings and exquisite people, the negative side of the American Dream was also revealed. In one instance, the coordinators decided to display one of the low class living arrangements as a display of "how the other class lives". -Jacob Riis, 1890. As this was not already humiliating, sometimes they would display the lives of minorities the wrong way:
"African villages," , had a very different purpose: "to exhibit the Negro as a repulsive savage." -Frederick Douglass
This obviously is not the American Dream because, according to my definition, there was no luxury or liberty if they exposed the lives of these individuals in an unjust way.
Another point to be made was that not only did the Fair have a negative effect on social classes, it also affected economically. According to Julie K. Rose, "There were constant reminders of the growing economic problems of the country, which deepened into a four-year depression in the summer of 1893."
This statement definitely deflects the great image of the American dream because there was a big money issue, and according the my definition of the American dream, one did not have to stress about money because in this new nation, everything came to you freely. So the Fair countered the idea of the perfect lifestyle.
In total, it was very ironic how hard creators made Chicago seem like an utopian society, and hard they made it seem like the setting of a perfect American Dream. However they themselves set up a display of the lower class and included them in the Fair.