An Exposition of the World

1893: Chicago's World Fair

The 400th Anniversary

The World's Columbian Exposition served as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering the New World, a showcase of the newly renovated Chicago after the wreckage of the 1871 Chicago Fire, and a way to make Chicago a huge economic and cultural power. Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, but the Fair opened in 1893, a year later than it was supposed to. The Exposition opened to the public on May 1, 1893, and closed on October 30, 1893. In the six months that the fair was open, over 27 million people visited the fairgrounds. The fair took up 633 acres of land, and held more than 65,000 exhibits based on technology, art, food, and entertainment. On the opening day of the Fair, one hundred thousand people filled up the Crowd of Honor to gaze on as President Cleveland pulled a golden lever that sent the dynamo engines into travel. While the Fair was open, about 25% of the United State's population visited. All types of people visited the Exposition, because it related to all walks of life. Every single day, the Fair had a new theme. The World's Fair offered people cultural enlightenment, let them explore huge changes in society, and celebrate current society.

Organization of the Fair

On July 22, 1889, Chicago's City Council began to strive towards hosting the World's Columbian Exposition. Mayor De Witt C. Cregier was directed to appoint a group of 100 citizens to complete the project. Lyman Gage (Bank President), Andrew McNally (Publisher), George Pullman (Railroad tycoon), and J.P. Morgan (assistant to Charles Schwab) were included in the business leaders who helped come up with five million dollars in stock to establish Chicago's chance of hosting the Fair. The House of Representatives dealt with the issue in late 1889, considering requests from St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. After months of chaos, the House gave Chicago the honor of hosting the World's Fair.

Inside of the Fair

The 1893 World's Fair was a chance for innovators from all around the globe to show off new technologies and ideas. Many of the products created by these innovators made their debut at the Fair. Many of the well-known products that are used today were introduced at the World's Columbian Exposition. These products included Juicy Fruit gum, Cream of Wheat, Aunt Jemina syrup, the dishwasher, the Ferris Wheel, Cracker Jack, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

The 1893 World's Fair was the first World Fair to have an isolated amusement area. The attractions were not inside of the Fair, but they were located on the Midway Plaisance. The attractions on the Midway spanned from a Ferris Wheel and carnival rides to the "Street in Cairo". The Ferris Wheel made it's debut at the World's Fair. The Ferris Wheel was 264 feet high, and could hold 2,160 people all at once. The ride included 36 cars, and each car could carry 60 people at a time. The Wheel cost 50 cent to ride. The "Street in Cairo" proved to be the most successful attraction on the Midway. This attraction established exotic dancing in America.

Novelist Hamlin Garland told his parents in 1893, "Sell the cook, the stove if necessary and come. You must see the fair."

In an excerpt from the Fair's opening speech, General Davis, Fair Director stated, "This exposition is not the conception of any single mind; It is not the result of any single effort, but it is the grandest conception of all the minds and the best obtainable results of all the efforts put forth by all the people who have in any manner contributed to its consideration.'

Matt Novak of Paleofuture (2013) says, "If I had a time machine, I'd go visit the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. The 1893 World's Fair was the fair to end all fairs."

The Chicago Historical Society stated in 1999, "Although the glory of the World's Columbian Exposition was transient, its influence lived on long after the fair closed."

The World's Columbian Exposition was a massive success. By the month of October, the Fair had hosted over 6.8 million visitors. Chicago Day (a day that commemorated the Great Chicago Fire) hosted 716,881 fairgoers on October 9, 1893. No exposition in the same century had seen as much success as the World's Columbian Exposition. The 1893 World's Fair became the model by which other fairs studied.

The World's Fair In Comparison to The Great Gatsby

In 1871, the largest fire the city of Chicago had ever seen occurred. The Chicago Fire tore the city down, spreading through the city and ruining lots of landmarks. The city was in shambles after the Great Fire. Although Chicago was a mess just 22 years before the World's Columbian Exposition, everything came together on May 1, 1893. This reflects the same ideas as The Great Gatsby. In The Great Gatsby, the popular Jay Gatsby started off as James Gatz. James Gatz came from nothing, but he wanted to turn into something. He was obsessed with the idea of wealth and extravagance, because it was something he hadn't had in his younger years. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby did everything he could possibly do to achieve wealth and rank. This is exactly what Chicago did in the 22 years between the Great Chicago Fire and the World's Fair. Chicago strived to be the city that hosted the Fair and they made sure to restore and rejuvenate the city of Chicago. Both the Great Gatsby and Chicago's rapid recovery give the message that no matter how bad things are or how little you have, you can always achieve greatness, and that's what made the Fair significant.


  • Rose, Julie K. "World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History." World's Columbian Exposition. N.p., 1996. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  • Maranzani, Barbara. "7 Things You May Not Know About the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair." A&E Television Networks, 01 May 2013. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  • Novak, Matt. "Where the Future Came From: A Trip Through the 1893 Chicago World's Fair." Paleofuture. N.p., 7 Dec. 2013. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
  • "History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition." History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition. Chicago Historical Society, 1999. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.
  • Telautograph circa 1893 from RedOrbit