an interview with the author
the fair
daniel burnham
dr HH Holmes
about the book
about the author
author tour
press release
related links

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 World’s Fair.

With Chicago’s 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 York’s 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 country’s most famous structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in D.C.

The World’s 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.

A 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.

Home | About the Book | Author Tour
The Fair | Daniel Burnham | Dr. H.H. Holmes
Excerpts | Praise | Press Release | Related Links | Privacy Policy
Copyright © 1995-2008 Random House LLC. All rights reserved.