America's Dream Exposition

Chicago Worlds Fair and the American Dream

"life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" -James Truslow Adams, an American writer and historian

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." -Declaration of Independance

The American Dream is the idea that everyone, regardless of heredity or class or any other distinction, has the chance to succeed. The idea is that one is not born into a position, hard work will get them there. The Columbian Exposition is the American Dream realized. People saw for the first time many creations that did not exist before the industrial revolution, that were all the result of pure hard work, and it gave them hope for the upward mobility that America fosters.

What was the Exposition?

The Columbian Exposition, or Chicago Worlds Fair, was an event held from May 1, 1893 to October 30, 1893 where people from all over the world came to Chicago to showcase new inventions and ideas. At the peak of modern innovation, such inventions as the ferris wheel, Pabst Beer, and Aunt Jemima maple syrup.


"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

Many people contributed to the making of this historic fair. It was known for its amazing architecture and electricity. some people who helped were Administration, by Richard Morris Hunt; Agriculture, by Charles McKim, William Mead, and Stanford White; Electricity, by Henry Van Brunt and Frank Howe; Horticulture, by William L. Jenney and William B. Mundie; Fisheries, by Henry Ives Cobb; Machinery Hall, by Robert Peabody and John Stearns; Manufactures and Liberal Arts, by George B. Post; Mines and Mining, by Solon Beman; and Transportation, by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan


Proud Americans, African-Americans included since this was after the abolition os slavery, as well as people from all over the world attended this historic fair to witness new inventions being exhibited and experience exotic foreign entertainments. Vendors from Germany, Egypt, and Switzerland proudly displayed their heritage, the likes of which had never been publicized so extensively, so the whole world could see it. This Arabian Gun Twirler is an example of the curiosities people came to see at the fair.


First and foremost, this fair was to compete with other successful world fairs that had been happening for years in Europe. There were many goals of the fair, as there often are when bringing large diverse groups of people together. Originally it was to educate the world about the great innovations Americans had made since the industrial revolution. But as it gained popularity it became more about the luxuries of other countries.

Was the Fair a Success?

Overall, many would say the fair was a huge success. It exhibited the intelligence of many people and entertained thousands of others. It also gained Chicago a lot of revenue. However, some are reluctant to say the fair was a success. Fredrick Douglass, for example, believed the fair should be a place for African-Americans to showcase how far they had come since emancipation.

He stated:"The colored people of America are not indifferent to the good opinion of the world, and we have made every effort to improve our first years of freedom and citizenship. We earnestly desired to show some results of our first thirty years of acknowledged manhood and womanhood."

But the day meant to honor them, "Colored Day", was turned around to ridicule them, as visiters handed out free watermelons to African-American fairgoers.


Arabian Gun Twirler video

Arabian Gun Twirler. Dir. Thomas A. Edison. Perf. Cheriff. Edison Manufacturing Co., 1899.

Motion Picture.

Video link:

Darkies at the Fair picture

Opper, Frederick Burr. Darkies' Day at the Fair. Digital image. Library of Congress. Library of Congress, 1893. Web. 11 Jan. 2014.

Douglass, Frederick, Irvine Garland Penn, and Ferdinand Lee Barnett. "The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition. The Afro-American's Contribution to Columbian Literature." Digital Library of UPenn. Ed. Ida B. Wells and Robert W. Rydell. University of Pennsylvania, 1999. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.

Egyptian Dancing Girl picture

Egyptian Dancing Girl. Digital image. Library of Congress. Library of Congress, c1893. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.

Exposition Grounds picture

Johnston, Frances Benjamin. Exposition Grounds. Digital image. Library of Congress. Library of Congress, c1893. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.

Long boat on Venecian Canal picture

Johnston, Frances Benjamin. Long Boat on Venecian Canal. Digital image. Library of Congress. Library of Congress, c1891. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.

Rydell, Robert W. "World's Columbian Exposition." Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society, 2005. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.

"The World's Columbian Exposition." Web log post. Chicago Historical Society, 1999. Web. 17 Dec. 2013.

"The World's Columbian Exposition (1893)." PBS. PBS, 1999. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.