World's Columbian Exposition
mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New
World, Chicago built a "White City" consisting of classically-styled
buildings located along lagoons and canals. The fairgrounds were
illuminated by 120,000 incandescent lights and 7,000 arc lights.
Some 27 million visitors came to the fair, where they could see
65,000 exhibits including a 1,500 chocolate Venus de Milo and
a 46-foot long cannon.
1871, Chicago, then a city of 300,000, had suffered a devastating
fire that destroyed three square miles and left 300 dead and 100,000
homeless. Over the next two decades, Chicago's population had
grown to 1 million, and the city had become the link between the
Great Plains, the Great Lakes, and the East. Its was the home
of grain elevators, meat packers, and the two leading mail order
companies, Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck. It was also the
city that pioneered the skyscraper.
the fair, many Americans saw their first car. Products launched
at the fair included the zipper, Aunt Jemima's syrup, Cracker
Jacks, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum, and Pabst beer. The fair's
symbol was the world's first Ferris Wheel, which stood 250-feet
high. Its 36 cars could each carry 60 passengers.
exposition's most popular feature was the Midway Plaisance. Along
the Midway, visitors could watch a hootchie-koochie show, look
at models of the Eiffel Tower and St. Peter's Basillica, and view
a Javanese village. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show performed just
outside the fairgrounds.
was at the Columbian Exposition that historian Frederick Jackson
Turner presented his thesis that the frontier, which the Census
announced had been completely settled, had been responsible for
shaping the American character. Turner argued that the frontier
promoted individualism, nationalism, and democracy.
What does the White City tell us about its designers' ideals
about cities and urban design at the end of the nineteenth century?
Describe popular reactions to the exposition.
for the Columbian Exposition
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