Every epoch has a defining event against which future
generations will forever measure its greatness; for the Gilded Age, that
event was the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.
With Chicagos honor on the line and the expectations of the entire
country resting on his shoulders, head architect Daniel Burnham had the
staggering task of rebuilding a desolate part of Chicago branded the Black
City into a majestic revelation of beauty and hope that became known
as The White City. Enlisting some of the greatest minds of
his time, including Frederick Olmsted, who designed New Yorks Central
Park, Burnham fought weather, tragedy, and above all time to build the
great fair. He would go on to create a number of the countrys most
famous structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union
Station in D.C.
The Worlds Fair introduced America to such classic favorites
as Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat. and Juicy Fruit and was the birth of
historically significant symbols like Columbus Day, the Ferris Wheel,
and the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a truly magical place, where the
most important figures of the late 19th century made their appearance,
among them Thomas Edison, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Clarence Darrow,
the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Buffalo Bill, and Helen Keller. Many
looked to the fair as a source of inspiration, from Walt Disney, whose
father, Elias, helped build the White City, to L. Frank Baum and his
illustrator, who visited the fair and created the grandeur of Oz based
on what they saw.
view of the Ferris Wheel, the star attraction of the 1893 World's
Fair. George W. Ferris invented the wheel specifically for the
fair as an answer to France's Eiffel Tower. The wheel was a wondrous
feat of engineering: supported by two 140-foot steel towers and
connected by a 45-foot axle, it was the largest single piece of
forged steel ever made at the time. With a diameter of 250 feet
and thirty-six cars holding sixty riders each, the Ferris wheel
carried 1,450,000 paying customers over the course of the fair.
A woman stands on the balcony of the Manufactures
and Liberal Arts Building, overlooking the canal, the Machinery
Building, and the Agriculture Building. The Machinery Building
contained exhibits such as Whitney's cotton gin and the world's
largest conveyor belt, as well as the fair's power plant, which
provided electricity for the entire fair. The Agriculture Building,
designed by New York's McKim, Mead & White, contained weather
stations, animals, machines, tools, cigarette booths, a model
of the Liberty Bell constructed with oranges, Canada's 22,000-pound
"Monster Cheese," and the popular Schlitz Brewery booth.
A view of the Court of Honor and the Statue
of the Republic (also known as "Big Mary"). Created by sculptor
David Chester French, the statue was a 65-foot figure atop a 40-foot
base and depicted a woman covered in gold leaf holding an eagle,
a globe, and a lance (symbolizing the republic of the United States).
A replica of the original statue can be found today at the former
site of the Administration Building, in Chicago's Jackson Park.
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The Fair | Daniel Burnham
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