Worlds Columbian Exposition (1893)

A Time for Innovation

Although the Columbian Exposition was a large event in the late 1800's, its enormous presence is still eminent in Chicago and its people today.

What was this event?

The Colombian Exposition was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the new world. It was believed by the people that such a significant event deserved a grand fair. May 1, 1893 was when the gates opened, allowing 26 million visitors to scour the 600 acres of fairgrounds. Over 200 buildings housed art, food, entertainment, and technological innovations. This event was successful because it would spark the innovation for urban planning in Chicago and other places, which are still in place today.

Who attended?

The general public attended, over 27 million people were recorded

What did the visitors see?

The visitors saw awe-inspiring gadgets, popular exhibits, and curiosities, yet there was not as much attention to the serious technology. A lot of times visitors were enthralled by the sites that they were confused by their presence.

Who organized or created it?

Frederick Olmsted was responsible for the miraculous architecture. There was also a group of architects, such as Henry Ives Cobb, Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim, George B. Post, and Louis Sullivan. It was an immense task for fair planners and workers to complete the fair in just three years.

What were the goals?

The goal was to illustrate the progress of America, since Columbus' founding and establishment of the Americas was such a great discovery that marked improvement. This was reason Chicago was believed to not be sufficient enough to demonstrate the significant progress. Chicago,at that point, was still agriculturally based and did not represent the most modern place compared to other eligible states, Although the progress of America was intended to be represented, the fair also represented civilizations progress.

Was it a success?

While an architect Sullivan predicted that "the damage wrought by the World's Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer." He did not consider the later beautification and effective planning that was introduced to Chicago. Not only this, but other cities have followed the same urban planning. The fair's success was derived from its after effects, such as the architecture and city planning. It also increased the population, therefore providing a flourishing environment that was only available in the places that were not agriculturally dependent.

How did people respond to it?

Depending on what aspect was presented, some people responded to the exploitation of certain groups in a negative manner. Sometimes it empowered women because of the building built dedicated to women. Mostly, people found it amusing.

Relevance to Chicago-ans today (Its contribution to the background's buildings)

The Colombian Exposition showcased the progress that America as a whole has experienced. At this time many places in America were still based on agriculture, yet Chicago, a city that was believed to not demonstrate the progress of Americans, was able to host such a grand event. Intellectual attractions that sparked the imagination later led to edification, yet there were still attractions that intrigued the curiosity of the mind, which were not intended to improve anything. Attractions such as the replica of " the Street in Cairo" gave stockholders almost one hundred percent profit on their investment. This demonstrates the profit made as a result of the fair. The Midway Plaisance was a money making and entertaining exhibit that distracted visitors from Chicago's industrial sites. This demonstrates the fun and profit that the fair brought. Sights also included the an eleven ton cheese and a 1,500 pound Venus de Milo. “among monuments marking the progress of civilization throughout the ages. ( The Book of the Fair, 1893). The monuments demonstrate the evolution of human architecture that later sparks the edification of the urban setting and its effectiveness after the deconstruction of the city because of a disaster. While, Sullivan later predicted that "the damage wrought by the World's Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer." The fair proved to be effective in inciting the urban planning that shaped Chicago then and continues to benefit Chicago today. After the Chicago fire, architects and city planners were motivated to improve the set up of the city and had evidence that they could take on such a task because of the vibrancy of the Chicago fair. Large-scale planning was introduced, which would shape urban planning. A plan, established by Daniel Burnham, Edward Bennet, and the Commercial Club of Chicago, that organized the city that continues to affect Chicago today because the blueprint they used become the basis for which the cities layout is constructed. This planned had six main goals:

1) water

2) transportation appropriated to the landscape

3) Improving the railway systems ( both freight and passenger)

4) creating an outer park system

5) organizing methodical streets

6) establishing a municipal center and cultural institutions and government

Those aspects of city planning continue to affect Chicago today, but they have been altered to accommodate to more modern times. To guide regions from 2009 and beyond, the Centennial identified their own principles, yet they are inspired by the Burnham Plan. The six principles are the following:

1) water

2) transportation appropriated to the land

3) public transit and freight

4) ecosystem and energy

5) create a connection between people and opportunity

6) "on region, one future"

These six principles that were established and the marketing done by civic leaders resulted in North Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive, Chicago's notable lakefront parks, and regional forest preserves.

"The Columbian Exposition was open for 6 months and had a couple of years of preparation time, so its had a little bit deeper impact on the city than a potential Olympics could." (Duis) This is an evident spark of sensationalism because the historian is aware of the modern view of the Olympics, but does not take into consideration the foreground the exposition set for the architects that made the blueprints that would shape modern urban planning. The Olympics impact the people in another aspect and encourage ride, yet the Columbian Exposition led a legacy of effective and appropriate planning. Also, the inventions introduced certainly encouraged other inventions that have benefited people today because they were continuously edited to make the great gadgets we have today. "The Exposition was quite influential in its position on commerce and technology--during the 1890s and into the 1990s." ( Rose) During the fair, there was definitely buying and selling on a large scale. It bolstered the spirit of those that invested in such an event. Investments that encouraged the modern America.

Works Cited

1) Columbian Exposition." N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. <>.

2) "Historians' views of Chicago Events." Timetoast. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <>.

3) "History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition." History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <>.

4) "Manuscript/Mixed Materials World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1893." World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1893. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <>.

5) "The Plan of Chicago." Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <>.

6) "The World's Columbian Exposition (1893)." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. <>.

7) "Without Bounds or Limits: Introduction." Without Bounds or Limits: Introduction. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <>.

8) "World's Columbian Exposition: Reactions to the Fair." World's Columbian Exposition: Reactions to the Fair. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014. <>.