World's Columbian Exposition

Chicago, Illinois 1893

What was the World's Columbian Expostion?

Chicago in 1893 was the second largest city in the United States of America and was the hosting city for the World's Columbian Exposition. At this time the US was still in the Gilded Age under newly elected President Cleveland, marking the end of the Reconstruction Era; also the rise of corruption and thievery. The World's Columbian Exposition was originally held as an anniversary for the famed discoverer, Christopher Columbus, whom was referred to as the discoverer of the Americas. This exposition was held in Jackson Park alongside the banks of Lake Michigan covering over 630 acres of land. People from all over the world including 44 of the 50 US states attended this marvelous event. Visitors of this grand event experienced modern (1800-1900s) technology, entertainment, and food. The fair was significant because it was the first mass gathering of people from all over the world and the country to experience a once in a life time fair hosted in America. The fair also helped to draw many people from the bad society (thievery & corruption) and guide them to living a better life by exposing to people that not all of the world is bad, there are good things too. This exposure of good things in the world eventually led to the end of the Gilded Age; filled with images of a bad society. The fair was seen as an once in a life-time opportunity that nobody should miss out on since it was very astonishing.

Goals of the Exposition

The main goal of the Exposition was to expose the people of the world to a new and modernized lifestyle with up-to-date food, technology, and entertainment. Other goals of the fair included the remaking of Chicago from a dirty meatpacking city to a marvelous metropolis. The fair was an overall success as the fair attracted many people from all over the world. The success was also seen a year later in 1893 when the City Beautiful movement took action and Chicago was one of the cities to look not only beautiful, but also conveyed a confident sense of harmony, order, and monumentality. People responded to this event with awe for the city's beauty. The beauty of the city eventually led to the mass population growth as more people came to reside in the city making the big city an even bigger one.

Why was the Fair held in Chicago?

In 1887, there were four cities placing bids to host the 1893 fair, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and Washington D.C. St. Louis and Washington D.C. soon dropped out of the race to host leaving only Chicago and New York to compete. The Big Apple Financial company agreed to give a $15 million grant to the hosting city to pay for all of the expenses. Chicago had a slight advantage in winning the race due to it's residing meatpacking millionaires Marshall Fields, Philip Armour, and Gustavus Swift who also also agreed to help pay for some of the expenses. Chicago eventually won the race and became the hosting city when president of the largest banks of the Midwest, Lyman Gage, arranged for millions more in financing. This led to Congress awarding Chicago to host

Statistics/Characteristics of the fair

-The exposition ran from May 1,1893 to October 30,1893.

-The exposition costed $31 million.

-Adult admissions were 50 cents.

-Under 12 admissions were 25 cents.

-Entertainment rides were 50 cents each.

-27.5 million total visitors.

-21.5 million visitors paid.

-65,000 exhibits

-150 buildings

-633-684 acres of land

Who organized and created this grand event?

Although there were many people who over watched certain sections of the fair, George R. Davis is the main person in charge as he is the director-general of this marvelous event. Davis was in charge of all of the police forces and security department of the fair, he was also in charge of creating policies and "laws" for the fair. Some of these policies included the restriction of bringing in cameras and using them, if the tourists want pictures they can take it and purchase them by the photographers provided at the fair. The Exposition consisted of many designers and architects who designed and built different parts of the exposition. Two main designers of the Columbian exposition were Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted. The prototype that Burnham proposed for this event turned out to be the final design used not only for the event but also for the City of Chicago. It was designed following the Beaux Arts principles of design. Burnham used the principle design of, European Classical Architecture principles which was based on symmetry and balance. Olmsted was the man responsible for laying out the fairgrounds of Jackson Park.

Experience new technologies, entertainments, & food!

Many of the event goers were able to experience new technologies, enjoy new entertainment methods, and eat new food. One of the most marvelous technology introduced at the fair was electricity. Electricity was so popular at the fair that it inspired commoners that technology was not a force to be feared. Some entertainments that the fair goers got to see included the Ferris Wheel, an Arabian performing gun spinning tricks, a ride on a hot air balloon, and many more! Since these were new entertainment, many people spent lots of money for these new stress relieving exhibits and rides. Some food like the all new lobster croquette was served to the President when he dropped by to visit. Name brand company's like Aunt Jemina's, Juicy Fruit and Wriggly (gum) also originated from this fair as they became popular.
Arabian Gun Twirling video- CLICK HERE

This is one of the performances at the Exposition, an Arabian gun twirler. This show was especially popular to the fair goers because the performer is not American and also because it was never seen performed before.

How extraordinary was the fair back in 1890?

The fair was so extraordinary that you should...

"Sell the cook the stove if necessary and come. You must see the fair."

-Novelist Hamlin Garland to his parents in 1893-

The fair was so fascinating that...

"Everyone who can possibly do so should visit the fair. I saw no disposition to practice extortion on the part of the people of Chicago who are in those lines of business where it would be possible."

-Gen Russell A. Alger of Michigan June 26,1893-

The fair was so amazing that it made someone say...

"Well, Susan, it paid, even if it did take all the burial money"

-Fair Visitor 1893-

The fair was so grand that the Director General said...

"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."

-Fair Director General Davis May 1,1893 excerpt, fair opening speech-

How is the Fair Viewed Today?

The fair is still grand as Clinton stated...

"Just as world's fairs in earlier days popularized the electric light, the telephone, and other technologies that dramatically reshaped our lives, this Exposition will help people everywhere to realize the promise of the future".

-Bill Clinton, March 28,1995-

The fair was so huge that...

"[It is hard to] imagine trying to see all that in one day. Or even a week. You could have spent an entire inside one of the buildings and not see everything".

-Mark Alvey, Field Museum October 22,2013-

The fair was so colossal...

"There were 65,000 exhibits at the World's Columbian Exposition and the number of individual items is almost impossible to count".

-Christine Giannoni, Librarian @Field Museum October 22,2013-

The Fair's Effect on Chicago?

The fair had a huge effect on Chicago on architecture, the arts, Chicago's self image and American industrial optimism. The fair affected the arts and architecture as many new designs and forms of art took birth when the fair was taking place or took action in being built. The fair also had a lasting effect on public buildings, streets, and the parks of Chicago.

The Columbian Exposition still affects Chicago!

The designs introduced during the fair that changed how the public buildings, streets, and the parks of Chicago look are still in effect such as the use of Corinthian columns. These Corinthian column designs could still be seen in the design of the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. The fair's effect on the architecture could be seen in the design methods used to design the Shedd Aquarium. The Columbian Exposition also made Chicago one of the most populated cities in our country which still stands today as Chicago is ranked the 5th largest city in America.

Columbian Exposition and its relevance today

Chicago today, like the Columbian Exposition, is one of the largest mass gatherings of people from all over the country and some even from different parts of the world. Chicago hosts many marvelous expositions and shows for people from all over the country including Sports games (especially if one of the Chicago teams are in a playoff, fans from all over the country come together) , the annual McCormick Place Exposition, and music concerts like Lollapalooza. Not to mention the new entertainments and food introduced during the fair, many are still around today including the Ferris Wheel, lobster croquettes with french peas, sweet bread in tomato sauce and many more! Not only is Chicago a mass grabbing city because of the entertainments and food but also because of the beauty of the city. Like the Columbian Exposition, many buildings today in Chicago are large and grandeur, including the tourist attracting Sears/Willis tower.


Message From the Creator

I hope that you have learned a lot and became interested in the World's Columbian Exposition and the history of Chicago as I have. If you are interested, there are many more resources that can help you learn more including the library or the web. Hope you enjoyed! ~Jesse He