Sunday, November 27, 2011

World's Columbian Expo, Continued

This week, I'll give a brief summary of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and set the tone with some photos taken from books and archives.

Statue of The Republic
Statue of the Republic

Planning for the Columbian Expo started in late 1889. It was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's 1892 landing in America. The Fair opened late, in May 1893, and closed in October the same year. 27 million people attended.

Columbian Fountain
Columbian Fountain

The Fair's major buildings were designed in the neoclassical Beaux Arts style, and was soon nicknamed "The White City." The major buildings in the "Court of Honor" were constructed of iron and steel, and covered in a material called "staff," a mixture of plaster, cement and fiber. Most of the buildings and statuary were constructed this way, and were not meant to last.

Gondola  at the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building
Gondola at the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building

Horticultural Building
Horticulture Building

The only surviving building within the fairgrounds, which was built to last, is the Palace of Fine Arts, now Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. In downtown Chicago, the World's Congress Auxilliary Building also survives, and is now the Art Institute of Chicago. The Norway Pavilion was dismantled and taken to Wisconsin, where it now stands in Blue Mounds.

Palace of Fine Art Building
Palace of Fine Arts

While it stood, The Columbian Exposition was a beautiful sight to behold! There were promenades, canals and fountains at every turn. In addition to the main Court of Honor buildings, there were 19 foreign government buildings, 38 state buildings, several individual exhibitors, cafes, restaurants, tea houses and refreshment buildings... a total of 200 buildings to visit! It would take weeks to cover the entire fair.

Interior, Agricultural Building
Agriculture Building interior

Bohemian Glass Exhibit, Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building
Bohemian Glass Exhibit, Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building

France—Sevres Vases, Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building
France—Sevres Vases display, Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building

The Court of Honor buildings included Administration, Machinery, Agriculture, Manufactures and Liberal Arts, Electricity, Mines and Transportation. Some of the other large buildings were U.S. Government, Horticulture, Women's Building, Forestry, Anthropology, Fisheries and the Palace of Fine Arts.

Court of Honor, looking west.
Court of Honor, looking west

Walking toward the Admin. Bldg.
Walking toward the Administration Building

from atop the Manufactures Building roof
View from atop the Manufactures Building roof

Electricity Building
Electricity Building

Electricity was a new an exciting phenomenon at the Fair. The Electricity Building showcased a telephone, electric lamps, gramophones, elevators, fans, burglar alarms, stoves, irons, and engines of all sorts. The world's first telegraph and seisomgraph machines, Edison's Kinetoscope, and a moving sidewalk were also new electric inventions at the Fair. Electric trains brought people to the Fair. The entire Fair was lit with electric lighting both inside and out.

Administration Bldg. at night
The White City

Administration Building at NIght
Administration Building at night

A popular area of the fairgrounds was the Midway Plaisance, a carnival-like street one mile long. It was a lot like Disney's Epcot World Showcase, in that it featured exhibits from foreign lands, with supposed native people brought over to represent the exhibits.

Sudanese Performer at the Midway
Sudanese Performer at the Midway Plaisance

Countries represented displayed an Irish village and goods (with a replica of Blarney Castle), a German village, Old Vienna cafe and shops, Chinese village, Dutch village, Japanese bazaar as well as exhibits from Egypt, Persia, Turkey, Algeria, Tunis, East India, American Indian, Lapland, and Bedouins and Dahomeys. Egypt's "Street in Cairo" featured the most lucrative exhibit at the entire fair: the dancing girls, most famously, "Little Egypt," who did the hootchy-cootchy dance!

Irish Village on the Midway Plaisance
Irish Village and Blarney Castle replica on the Midway

German Village and Ferris Wheel, Midway Plaisance
German Village on the Midway

The Midway also had the Libby Glass Works, Hagenbeck's Animal Show, the Ice Railway & toboggan slide, an International Beauty Show, a Captive Balloon, and Eadweard Muybridge's Zoöpraxographical Hall (early motion picture animal studies).

Tethered Balloon & Ferris Wheel on the Midway Plaisance
Captive Balloon ride on the Midway Plaisance

But the most impressive exhibit was erected to rival the Eiffel Tower that was built in Paris for it's 1889 World's Fair. A contest was held, and George W. Ferris was given the honor of constructing his giant Wheel. It was 250 ft. in diameter and contained 36 bus-sized cars that could hold 60 people each! Two revolutions lasted 20 minutes and cost 50 cents. Boy, would I love to have ridden that very first Ferris Wheel!

Ferris Wheel
Ferris Wheel on the Midway Plaisance

bottom of Ferris Wheel
Base of the Ferris Wheel

On the Ferris Wheel
Riding the Ferris Wheel

Things introduced to the public at the Columbian Exposition were:

Soda pop, hamburgers, Juicy Fruit Gum, Cracker Jacks, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima syrup, elongated coins, picture postcards, the Pledge of Allegiance, Columbus Day, and Scott Joplin's ragtime music! Dvorack composed his New World Symphony in honor of the Fair. And L. Frank Baum was so impressed with the Fair, he based Oz on it!

By the close of the fair, many buildings were already decaying, and some had already tragically burned to the ground. All the treasures were taken back from whence they came. The people went home. All that was left were souvenirs and memories.

1893 World's Columbian Expo — Building on fire
Fairground buildings on fire

the Fair in ruins
Ruins of The White City

Here are some great links I came across while researching the Columbian Exposition of 1893:

FREE Digital books from the time of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. A fantastic source for original material!
ERBzine —Nice collection of images from the Columbian Exposition
Idea, Experience, Aftermath —an excellent overview
some Photos
more Photos
UCLA digitally simulated tour of the World's Columbian Exposition fairgrounds! Rough outline, but they've made progress. View updates on UCLA's site here. I think this project is fascinating!
For more on Muybridge's work, click here.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Greeting


Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!



Sunday, November 20, 2011

The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893

World expositions, or world fairs, became a big hit after the famously successful Great Exposition in the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Every major world city dreamed of hosting one! These fairs displayed the latest technological advances of the Industrial Revolution. They also displayed the latest style trends of fashion, art, architecture and design. New products made debuts at these fairs, and world cultures and entertainments were brought together for the benefit and enjoyment of the fairgoer!

For years, I've been fascinated with the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, also known as the World's Columbian Exposition. I've collected souvenirs from the Fair, and have acquired books from the time, as well as modern day history and photo books. In other words, if it has anything to do with the Columbian Exposition, I want it!

This week, I'll show you some of my collection of souvenirs and books from the Columbian Exposition. These are things I probably would have picked up if I had attended!

This is a reprint of a poster from "Chicago Day" hanging in my stairwell. October 9th was designated Chicago Day at the Fair in memory of the Great Chicago Fire of October 9th, 1871.

Chicago Day poster

I have a large, original photographic print showing the Administration Building framed and hanging on my library wall. I love gazing into the photo, and imagining walking along that elegant walkway in my finest dress and parasol!

Columbian Exposition, Administration Building print

Columbian Exposition, Admin. Bldg.

Here's an actual ticket from Chicago Day. It's unused... I wish I could still go!

Chicago Day ticket

I would certainly have enjoyed the impressive glass exhibits, and probably would have purchased this miniature ruby flashed souvenir creamer.

Souvenir ruby glass miniature creamer

Who could leave the Fair without a souvenir spoon depicting Columbus himself?

Souvenir Spoon handle

Souvenir Spoon, bowl

I don't know the purpose of this shallow aluminum souvenir tray. Maybe it could be used on a ladies dresser to hold hair pins or spare change.


A woman's shoe made of pot metal. This used to be a pincushion!


A napkin ring made of a soft metal, possibly lead.

Napkin Ring

A 50¢ piece minted by the U.S. Treasury. These were sold at the Fair for a dollar apiece.

50¢ Piece-obverse

50¢ Piece-Reverse

Sheet music of the World's Columbian Exposition Waltz!

Columbian Exposition Waltz

Of course, I have lots of stereographs of the Fair!


I love reading anything I can about the Fair. Here are some of the guidebooks that helped people navigate the fairgrounds and exhibits.

Columbian Exposition guidebooks

These two large volumes were published shortly after the Fair closed. They contain very comprehensive histories and photographs.

Shepp's World's Fair Photographed

History of the World's Fair, book

I collect modern materials about the World's Columbian Exposition, too. This book from Dover is one of my favorites. It's a really nice overview of the Fair with great photographs and narrative.

Columbian Exposition, great book

This bestseller is a semi-fictionalized account of the true story of the Fair and a murderous monster who preyed on innocent tourists outside the fairgrounds. A great read!

Devil in the White City

And finally, here's a fairly well done documentary narrated by Gene Wilder. It brings the Fair to life like no book can. My only gripe is that they show too much new footage of a scantily-clad dancing girl. More about her next week!


Next time, I'll tell you about the Fair itself, what went into the planning and building phases, the most popular attractions, and the last days of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition!

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Recent Finds

Last weekend, Terry and I decided to go to the Kane County Flea Market! We haven't gone in a few years, and it's really close by, so we have no excuses. Other than we used to go too often, and everything started looking the same. But we really enjoyed ourselves!

I've been wanting to buy an antique white tablecloth for the kitchen. I didn't find one at the flea market, but look what I found instead!

Wind Chime

It's a cute tea pot and silverware wind chime! Made from real silverplated items, though obviously not valuable or really old pieces.

Wind Chime

Wind Chime

It makes a sweet tinkling sound when the wind blows.

Wind Chime

Not something a true Victorian would have, mind you, but I couldn't resist!

Wind Chime

Wind Chime

This is what my old wind chime looked like:

Old Windchime

Now you know why I needed a new one.

Then I lucked out on eBay and found myself an antique white tablecloth!

Madeira Cutwork Tablecloth

Isn't it pretty? It's Madeira cutwork with a gray embroidered thread. I didn't even wait to iron it. I wanted to see how it would look!

Madeira Cutwork Tablecloth

But I've always saved my white tablecloths for holiday teas and special family dinners. Can we use a white tablecloth as our everyday cloth? We eat a lot of spaghetti. Will this pretty antique linen clean well?

Madeira Cutwork Tablecloth

I usually go for a patterned tablecloth, like this one. This hides spaghetti and red wine stains very well!

Current Tablecloth

Another eBay find was this cute little spreader!

Wallace Sterling Spreader

It's Wallace Sterling. The seller didn't know the pattern, but I didn't care.

Wallace Sterling Spreader

I wanted it, and now it's mine. It will work nicely with the lemon curd I like to serve at our teas.

Wallace Sterling Spreader

And lastly, I should know better than to set foot in a book store. I always find something I want. Like this book:

Crafting With Cat Hair

Yup, Crafting With Cat Hair. Phoebe didn't know what to make of it. I cracked up when I saw it, and basically bought it for the title alone! Although, I could get into cat hair crafting. Do you think there's a market for that on Etsy? Phoebe provides us with (what seems like) a few bushels of it every day. I'll give it some thought.

Meanwhile, I'll be admiring my new wind chime from inside!

Wind Chime - Window View!

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