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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Blogger Liz said...

What a great collection! Love the poster - so colourful!
Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

November 21, 2011 at 2:29 AM  
Blogger Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Liz-

Thanks! I love the colors in the poster, too. So much going on!


November 21, 2011 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Wow, what a great collection of neat stuff! Where did you find it all?

November 21, 2011 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Ashley-

I actually have more, but I don't know where it's all stashed away, LOL! I got some of it on eBay over the years, some at coin shows, some at antique fairs. Since I'm in Chicago, there's more of it around here, it seems!


November 21, 2011 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Richard Cottrell said...

Well this post sure did out shine my 1904. Wonderful collection. How fun. I send you Best Thanksgiving Wishes from My Blog to Yours. Richard from My Old historic House.

November 22, 2011 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Richard-

No, your 1904 World's Fair post was awesome! Your treasures are much nicer than my little souvenirs. Thanks for giving me the idea, though. I collect so many things, I didn't realize I'd never blogged about this collection before!

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 22, 2011 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Bucket said...

Hi there, Eastlake Victorian. I was fascinated with your presentation of 1893 Columbian Expozition photos! A real treasure trove to be proud of! I have an authentic lime green George Washington souvenir hatchet in mint condition from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair for sale, also a silver spoon from there. E-mail me at and tell me how to contact you. Kathleen

January 29, 2012 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Kathleen-

How nice that you are selling some Columbian Expo items. However, I am not in the market at the moment for any more items from the Fair. Maybe another reader would be interested in your items. If so, and it's not too late, they can email you!


January 31, 2012 at 6:35 PM  

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