Author: Milagro O'Grady

World's Columbian Exposition 1893

Souvenir Map of the World's Columbian Exposition at Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance, Chicago, Ill, U.S. A. 1893

Bird's Eye View of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

What relevance does the Columbian Exposition have for Chicago today?

The relevance that the Columbian Exposition have for Chicago today is that it transformed and influenced the city, also it created the idea or thought that comes to mind about Chicago.

What is the significance and effects of the World's Fair?

The World's Fair was meant to show of new technology that had never been seen before and to show off what each country has uniquely done for the world. Many cities and towns tried to advance ideas and modern America. The Fair was a cultural statement, a symbol for power, and a proof that a society can be risen from the ashes and become something so beautiful. When people came to Chicago for the Fair everyone called it the "White City" or the "Windy City" from their experience. After the Chicago Fire Chicago was not known for any type of brilliance, but the Fair made Chicago known, beautiful, and important. Now, the Exposition is no longer there, from being demolished, burned down, or relocated, the only remains is the Palace of Fine Arts (Museum of Science and Industry) and a park.

What was the World's Columbian Exposition?

The World's Columbian Exposition was created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of America by Christopher Columbus in 1893, which the general public can attend. The goals for the Fair was to encourage unity, to celebrate technology and commerce, and to showcase a city that was reborn 22 years after the Chicago Fire. The buildings in the exposition holds 65 exhibits that follows the theme of the building. The popular exhibits that the visitors saw were curiosities than displays of technology and progress, such as the 11 ton cheese and a 1,500 pound chocolate Venus de Milo in the Hall of Agriculture. The exposition featured nearly 200 buildings of different types of cultures from 46 countries. President Benjamin Harrison signed the act that designated Chicago as the site of the exposition on April 25, 1890.

It took three years to prepare and work on the exposition. Dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892, but the fairgrounds were not opened to the public until May 1, 1893. The exposition was closed on October 30, 1893. Also, the exposition engrossed 630 acres in Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance. But most of the noisy and distracting attractions, such as the first ferris wheel,were by the Midway Plaisance, so it wont disturb the type of atmosphere by Jackson Park. Along with Federick Law Olmsted, who was responsible for laying out the fairgrounds, Henry Ives Cobb, Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim, George B. Post, and Louis Sullivan designed the exposition's buildings. Also the first woman architect, Sophie Hayden, designed the famous Women's Building.

Responses to the World Fair

"No one, who has not seen it, can form any idea of the immensity and grandeur of the exposition; nor can I give any adequate description of it. It has been fitly called the "White City," and one standing under the Peristyle and looking down the Court of Honor, surrounded by magnificent buildings with their chaste white columns and gilded domes glittering in the sunlight . . . might easily imagine himself in a fairy city."

-James Weldon Johnson from Atlanta University saw the world fair and he described it to his friends, faculty and family. (1893)

"The wonderful group of buildings, with their marvelous, beautiful surroundings of land and water, created as if by magic, cannot adequately be described or portrayed by either pen or pencil. The eminent architects and artists to whom all this is due laid under tribute the traditions and models of historic art, and all the ripe experience of the distant and the past were combined with the present to form the most beautiful and remarkable collection of architectural monuments that this world has ever witnessed."

-Charles S. Smith, president of the New York Chamber of Commerce, October 22, 1893

"Meanwhile the virus of the World's Fair, after a period of incubation ... began to show unmistakable signs of the nature of the contagion. There came a violent outbreak of the Classic and the Renaissance in the East, which slowly spread Westward, contaminating all that it touched, both at its source and outward.... By the time the market had been saturated, all sense of reality was gone. In its place, had come deep seated illusions, hallucinations, absence of pupillary reaction to light, absence of knee-reaction-symptoms all of progressive cerebral meningitis; the blanketing of the brain. Thus Architecture died in the land of the free and the home of the brave.... The damage wrought by the World's Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer."

-Louis Sullivan The Autobiography of an Idea (1956)

"Organized women saw the Columbian Exposition as a chance to promote "organized womanhood" and the advancement of women. They also wanted to promote women's work, believing that all work was valuable if it remained faithful to women's "moral responsibilities to wards home and society." The efforts made at the exposition strengthened the women's movement and expanded the notion of women's politics."

-Gullett, Gayle. "'Our Great Opportunity': Organized Women Advanced Women's Work at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893." Illinois Historical Journal 87 (1994): 259-76.


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Heinze, Hermann. Souvenir Map of the World's Columbian Exposition at Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance, Chicago, Ill, U.S. A. 1893. 1892. Photograph. Chicago, Illinois

Mcnally and Company, Rand. Bird's Eye View of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. 1983. Photograph. Chicago Illinois.

Paul V. Galvin Library Digital History Collection. "World's Columbian Exposition of 1893."World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. N.p., 1999. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Read, Christopher Robert. "World's Columbian Exposition of 1893:The Black Presence at "White City": African and African American Participation at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, May 1, 1893 - October 31, 1893." World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. N.p., 1999. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

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"World's Columbian Exposition." World's Columbian Exposition. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <>.