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Optimized for viewing with Netscape Navigator. A site on the Internet World Exposition and The Architecture Ring Rated a 4-star site by Webratings. A recommended site by the Encyclopedia Brittanica-Newsweek Internet Guide
Origins of the World's Columbian Exposition can be seen in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia event marked the first large-scale effort of this kind in the United States. As early as 1880, advocates argues that a special exposition should mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus sailing to the New World. By 1888, the movement gained enough momentum to begin being taken seriously by the public, and by government officials. Early on, St. Louis was a leader for the site location. By 1889, public opinion and individual efforts had mobilized enough support to launch the new exposition. Contenders for the massive exposition site included St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D. C. In an effort to woo the U. S. Congress to select their city, Chicago businesses raised $5,000,000 to pledge to the fair, and promised to double the amount if Chicago was selected. After eight ballots, Congress finally selected Chicago as the site, by a vote of 157 for Chicago, 107 for New York, 25 for St. Louis, and 18 for Washington, D. C. The fair was considered the greatest event of its kind in history.
Transportation time to Chicago
|Montreal, Quebec, Canada||29 hours|
|Boston, Mass.||32 hours|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||36 hours|
|Mexico City, Mexico||5 days|
|New York, NY||26 hours|
|San Francisco, Calif.||3-1/2 days|
|London, England||9-1/2 days|
|Berlin, Germany||11 days|
|St. Petersburg, Russia||16 days|
|Vienna, Austria||11 days|
|Edinburgh, Scotland||10 days|
City Statistical Information
Chicago was divided into three divisions "sides": North, West, and South. Additional townships include Hyde Park, Lake View, Cicero, and Jefferson. According to the school census of 1892, the population of the South Division was 515,736 , and of the West Division 645,428, and of the North Division 278,846. Total resident population in 1893 was about 1,550,000. One third of the population was of foreign birth, more Germans and Irish, the Scandinavians, Poles, and Central Europeans. The local economy was booming. Chicago was a major port and transportation hub. Population was up 400% from 1870-1890 and the economy grew even faster. Dominant industries like grain trade and meat packing boomed, with the meat packing industry increasing 900% the same period. The new wealth brought Chicago great development in the arts, literature, music, and other fine arts. Due to the fair, beer consumption nearly doubled, to 2.7 million barrels in 1893. And, Chicago faced urban problems typical of a fast-growing city, including overcrowded schools, hundreds of bordellos, and high street crime. As an indicator of municipal transportation modes and rates, a two horse "hack" cab could be ridden one-way for $1 for under 1 mile and $2 for 2 passengers under 2 miles. A full day's rental of a coach ran $8 or $2 for the first hour and $1 for each additional hour. By city ordinance passed in 1892, one-animal conveyance rates were capped at 50 cents per mile for 1-2 passengers and 25 additional cents per mile per additional passenger.
In the Chicago of 1893, the Mayor was elected to a 2-year term and received a salary of $7,000. The city council was composed of 68 aldermen, two each from the 34 wards. One alderman is elected from each ward in alternate years.
Chicago was gutted by a great fire in 1871 that destroyed over 2,000 acres of the built environment and caused a loss of over $196 million (in 1871 dollars). Largely rebuilt after the fire, Chicago exhibit several distinctive architectural characteristics. Large buildings were constructed to be fireproof, with steel and brick construction. The "Chicago" style developed here with the works of such prominent architects as Louis H. Sullivan, John W. Root, and W. L. B. Janney. The Chicago style was the first manifestation of the skyscraper, whose steel frame construction allowed for taller buildings. The Chicago style was less ornate than the then-current Victorian style, and was much more functional in nature, primarily due to the commercial nature of the buildings.
General Admission: Adults: 50 cents
Children 6-12: 25 cents
Children under 6: Free
Tickets Sold: approx 21.5 million
Free Admissions: approx. 6 million
Total Attendance: approx. 27.5 million
Additional: Free passes were initially available for those who came to visit the site to watch construction in progress. The crowds eventually ran up to 5,000 people a day, so admission was charged to be on the site to watch construction, first 25 cents, then to 50 cents.
Dedication Day was October 26, 1892. Vice President Levi Morton dedicated the site. The fair was officially opened May 1, 1893 by President Grover Cleveland.
Largest single day attendance: October 9, 1893 (Chicago Day), over 700,000 in attendance.
Private cameras were allowed admittance to the site, for only $2 a day.
Admission to Midway Plaisance Attractions
|Algerian Theater||$0.25||Austrian Village||$0.25|
|Balloon Ascension||2.00||Bernese Alps Panorama||0.50|
|Blarney Castle||0.35||Chinese Theater||0.50|
|Dahomey Village||0.25||Donegal Castle||0.25|
|Eiffel Tower||0.25||Electric Scenic Theater||0.25|
|Ferris Wheel||0.50||German Village||0.50|
|Hagenback's Menagerie||0.50||Hungarian Orpheum||0.25|
|Ice Railway||0.25||International Costume||0.25|
|Javanese Village||0.50||Kilauea Panorama||0.50|
|Lapland Village||0.25||Lecture Hall||0.25|
|Libbey Glass Works||0.10||Log Cabin||0.10|
|Persian Theater||0.50||Sliding Railway||0.10|
|South Seas Islanders||0.25||St. Peter's Model||0.25|
|Street in Cairo (all features)||1.10||Turkish Village (all features)||1.00|
Electric Boats-plied lagoons, basin, and North Pond - 1 hour, 50 cents.
Gondolas-replicas of Venetian gondolas - round trip, 50 cents.
Steamship-route from South Pond through South Inlet into Lake Michigan, then into Middle Basin and through North Inlet to landing near Fisheries Building- round trip, 25 cents.
Intramural Railway-. Trains traveled between stations at 12 miles per hour on loops around exhibition site. One complete trip took 20 minutes. Fare any distance: 10 cents.
Rolling Chairs- Chair with guide, 75 cents per hour or $6 per day. Chair without guide, 40 cents per hour or $3.50 per day.
Sedan Chairs-handled by natives of a Turkish village. Cost: 75 cents per hour, 40 cents per half hour, or 25 cents per quarter hour.
Moveable Sidewalk-from steamship landing to peristyle, 5 cents.
A bill to authorize the exposition was introduced by Sen. Daniel of Virginia in March 1890. The bill was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on April 25, 1890. The act was entitled An act to provide for celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, by holding an international exhibition of arts, industries, manufactures, and the products of the soil, mine, and sea, in the city of Chicago, in the State of Illinois. The act provided for the establishment of the World's Columbian Commission. It stated that dedication of the buildings should take place with appropriate ceremonies on Oct. 12, 1892, and that the exposition itself should not open later than May 1, 1893 and close not later than October 26, 1893. Provision was made for a U. S. government exhibition building, with a cost to not exceed $400,000. The entire sum for which the U. S. would be liable could not exceed $1,500,000. A section of the act called for a naval review in New York harbor in 1893 and invited foreign nations to send warships to join the U. S. Navy at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The WCC quickly laid the groundwork for the exposition and formally notified the President of the United States that all of the preliminary requirements of the Congressional act had been fulfilled. He then issued a proclamation of invitation to all nations. This proclamation was accompanied by a letter from the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury detailing regulations and insrtuctions for foriegn exhibitors, as well as a prospectus for the World's Congress Auxilliary. The exposition was promoted by the Department of Publicity and Promotion of the Exposition. For two years before opening day, the Department sent out 2,000 to 3,000 mail packages per day. Circulars, pamphlets, and books were distributed in all majors languages. Nearly every rail station in Europe featured a flier showing a view of the exposition. An unprecedented level of mass mailing and press releases built the anticipation level so high only a fair of such magnitude could avoid disappointment. The excitement level was such that there was not sufficient space on the site, even on a site with more than 5 million square feet of exhibition space, for the size and scope of the plans of all of the participating nations. The exhibition truly marked the first World's fair, as it was the first opportunity for all nations to exhibit their resources and goods on neutral ground.
Exhibiting Nations: Argentina, Austria*, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada*, China*, Colombia*, Costa Rica*, Denmark, Danish West Indies, Ecuador*, France*, Germany*, Great Britain*, Greece, Barbados, British Guiana, British Honduras, Cape Colony (South Africa), Ceylon*, India, Italy*, Jamaica, Leeward Islands (Caribbean islands), New South Wales (Australia), New Zealand, Trinidad, Greece, Guatemala*, Haiti*, Hawaii (still an independent nation in 1893), Japan*, Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Dutch Guiana (Suriname), Dutch West Indies, Nicaragua*, Norway*, Orange Free State (South Africa), Paraguay, Peru, Russia*, Salvador (El Salvador), San Domingo (Dominican Republic), Spain, Cuba, Sweden*, Turkey*, and Uruguay.
Countries with their own buildings are marked with an asterisk (*)
Square footage of major exhibiting nations' buildings:
|Nation||Square Feet||Nation||Square Feet|
Contributing Nations. The governments of these counties received concessions for theaters, shops, and representations of native life: Algeria, Austria, China, India, Dahomey, Ehypt, Hungary, Pacific Islands, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Persia (Iran), Hawaii (also called Sandwich Islands), and Tunis.
Jackson Park in Chicago was selected as the site for the historic exposition. Smaller buildings and concessions were located on a small strip of land connecting Jackson Park to Washinton Park. This 80 acre strip became known as the Midway Plaisance. Jackson Park covered 533 acres and had two miles of frontage on Lake Michigan. Nearby Washington Park covered 371 acres. The amount of space the fair actually covered was 633 acres.
A photograph of the site under construction.
The site also had two water treatment plants, with a combined capacity of 64 million gallons per day. The pumping stations were available for visitors to see as a sort of 'working' exhibit that handled the drainage requirements of the site and the sewer needs of the more than 6,500 lavatories and toilets. A steam plant, costing over $1 million, generated 24,000 horsepower , of which 17,000 hp are used for electricity, which was three times the electrical consumption of the city of Chicago and ten times the electrical consumption of the 1889 Paris Exposition. 9,000 horsepower was for incandescent lighting (for 93,000 incandescent lights), 5,000 hp for arc lighting (for 5,000 arc lights), and 3,000 hp for machinery. The buildings with electricity were: Mines, Electricity (obviously!), Agriculture, Transportation, and Manufactures. The fate of the site was sealed. Even before the fair ended, the first major fire hit, July 10, 1893. The Cold Storage Building burned, killing 17 people. A fire on January 8, 1894 burned the Casino, Peristyle, Music Hall, and Manufactures Building. A fire the following month burned the Colonnade. A massive fire on July 5, 1894 burned the Court of Honor, Machinery Hall, Electricity Building, Administration Building, Mining Building, and the Manufactures Building.
An 80 acres strip of land connecting Washington Park with the main exhibition site at Jackson Park. The Midway was the first separate entertainment area deliberately made as a self-contained entertainment district. The popular, profitable Midway kept the fair solvent, as the admission revenues were not sufficient to offset the incredible expenses of building the fair. The Street in Cairo attraction gave the world the "Snake Charmer" tune (you know it... hum along with me: "There's a place in France,..... "). The Midway was so successful that it defined the entertainment district. To this day, entertainment areas at fairs are known as "Midways".
|Algerian Theater||Algerian and Tunisian village, museum|
|Austrian Village||reproduction of old Vienna|
|Balloon Ascension||as described, 1,500 ft. ascension above site|
|Bernese Alps Panorama||as described|
|Blarney Castle||as described, with a Blarney stone to kiss|
|Brazil Concert Hall||music hall and restaurant|
|Chinese Theater||Chinese village and theater|
|Dahomey Village||Dahomey villagers in native pursuits|
|Diamond Match Company||advertising only|
|Donegal Castle||Irish village and castle replica, featuring Irish industries and customs|
|East India Bazaar||for sale of East Indian goods|
|Eiffel Tower||as described, in miniature|
|Electric Scenic Theater||landscapes and other scenes under changing colored lights, some used lighting effects to show changing light as the day passes|
|Ferris Wheel||carried passengers 250 feet up for 2 revolutions|
|French Cider Press||for sale of cider|
|German Village||exhibit, museum, and concert garden|
|Hagenback's Menagerie||animal show and circus|
|Hungarian Orpheum||restaurant and music hall combined, music by Gypsy band|
|Ice Railway||as described|
|International Dress & Costume||40-50 native women of various nations modeling expensive gowns|
|Japanese Village||for sale of Japanese goods only|
|Java Lunch Room||restaurant, for pure Java coffee|
|Javanese Village||theater and other attractions|
|Johore Village||as described|
|Kilauea Panorama||Showed the Kilauea volcano.|
|Lapland Village||Laplanders, reindeer, hair workers, circus ring featured|
|Lecture Hall||examination of the science of animal locomotion|
|Libbey Glass Works||demonstration of glass molding and glass blowing and a free, custom glass souvenir for the price of admission|
|Log Cabin||structures of 1776, with restaurant|
|Model Workingman's Home||as described|
|Moorish Palace||restaurant, museum, and theaters|
|Natatorium||with Vienna restaurant, as described|
|Nursery Exhibit||as described|
|Persian Theater||restaurant, museum, and theater|
|Sliding Railway||as described|
|South Seas Islanders||village and theater|
|St. Peter's Model||as described|
|Street in Cairo (all features)||theater, Egyptian temple, tombs, and Sudanese huts|
|Turkish Village (all features)||mosque, bazaar, Persian tent, theater, Bedouin camp, and restaurant|
|Venice-Murano Exhibit||glassware exhibit|
Moveable Sidewalk-A continuous double platform, half moving passengers at 3 miles per hour, the other half at 6 miles per hour.
Ferris Wheel The Ferris Wheel was invented for the 1893 fair,
Gray's Teleautograph-A device that electrically reproduced handwriting at a distance.
Kinetograph-Thomas Edison's kinetograph was a precursor to the movie projector.
Famous Firsts from the fair...
Board of Architects and their assignments:
Richard M. Hunt-Administration Building
W. L. B. Jenney-Horticultural Building
McKimm, Mead, & White-Agricultural Building
Adler & Sullivan-Transportation Building
George B. Post-Manufactures Building
Henry Ives Cobb-Fish and Fisheries Building
Peabody & Stearns - Machinery Building
S. S. Beman- Mines and Mining Building
Van Brunt & Howe-Electricity Building
C. B. Atwood-Peristyle, Music Hall, Casino, Fine Arts Building, Forestry Building, Dairy Building, Terminal Railway Station. Atwood was the Designer-in-Chief of the Construction Department.
Sophia B. Hayden-Woman's Building
Consulting Landscape Architect-Fredrick Law Olmsted & Co.
Consultant for sculptural design- Augustus St. Gaudens
Buildings were constructed of iron, wood, glass, and staff. Staff was invented in France ca. 1876 and first used in buildings of the Paris exhibition in 1878. It is composed of Plaster of Paris molded around a fibrous jute cloth. These are mixed with water and cast into molds. The material is off-white and is usually about 1/2 inch thick and cast around the fibers to help prevent brittleness. Castings can resemble cut stone, rock, faced stone, or any other type of masonry. 32,000 carloads of staff were used in the construction. Staff is impervious to water and is 1/10 the cost of construction with stone. The lower portions of the walls were often reinforced with concrete, to provide added stregnth.
Staff being applied to a building during construction of the exposition.
120 carloads of glass, enough to cover 29 acres of land, were used for the roofs of the buildings. About 70 million feet of timber were used in the construction.
Total cost for the exposition was $27,245,566.90, excluding the $3-4 million spent by state, federal, and foreign governments on their exhibit buildings. Provision was made for a U. S. government exhibition building, with a cost to not exceed $400,000. The main buildings were estimated to have a combined cost of over $8,000,000.
The only permanent building was the Fine Arts Building, which was constructed with a steel frame and with bricks. Dredging Jackson Park cost $615,000 and required over 800,000 cubic yards of soil.
Work done under supervision of the Director of Works, Daniel H. Burnham. At peak construction, more than 12,000 workmen were busy with the site and structures.
Grading and filling- $450,000
Viaducts and bridges-$125,000
Vases, lamps, etc.-$50,000
Water supply and sewage-$600,000
Total, this section: $5,943,000
For the costs of various buildings, please see the Architectural Profiles.
This compares with the estimated $9,500,000 cost of the 1889 Paris Exposition.
Buildings & Grounds
The White City, origin of the "City Beautiful" movement in the United States, represents an unprecedented collaboration of artists, architects, engineers, sculptors, painters, and landscape architects who joined forces to create a single work - an ideal model city. The White City truly was the largest single common artistic undertaking ever. To preserve harmony in this ideal city, some general guidelines were given to artists and architects. Within these guidelines, they had wide latitude on the creation of the final product. One standard was that the cornice height was always to be 60 feet. Another was that the buildings should be within the Classical style. The dominant Classical themes were Roman Imperial and Greek. Roman Imperial themes were especially prevalent, manifested in the many domes, arches, and arcades. For the grand celebration of a republic, it is interesting to note the lack of Roman Republican influences in the architectural style. The underlying themes of the White City, the true main exhibition of the fair, were scale, harmony, and ensemble. The style is known most commonly as the Beaux Arts style, as the architects who designed the expsotion were tarined at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France.
After the fair, the City Beautiful movement accelerated, and grand designs were made for many major cities. Daniel Burnham assisted with city plans for Washington, D.C. as well as for Cleveland (Ohio), San Francisco, and Manila (Philippines). A plan was created for Chicago itself ca. 1903-1909. The Beaux Arts style swept the nation and remained popular until European modernism became influential in the 1920s.
The White City was not originally planned to be quite so white. To speed up the painting process, it was decided to use one color of paint for most buildings. For the Court of Honor, it was specified by Francis D. Millet, Director of Decoration, that white would be the only suitable color. To keep the White City white, there was a ban instituted on coal as an energy source during the exposition.
The White City could have never been built, had other schemes for the fair's design been considered. One scheme was to house the fair entirely in a 1500 foot tall tower with a 5000 room hotel inside of it. Another idea was a 3000 foot diameter tent-like structure that would have housed the entire fair under one roof. Another was to purchase and relocate Rome's Colosseum to Chicago for the fair, just as an exhibit.
Read an interesting article about the White City and its influences.
Appelbaum, Stanley . The Chicago World's Fair of 1893. New York: Dover Publications, 1980.
Burg, David F. Chicago's White City of 1893. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1976.
Flinn, John J. (compiler). Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exhibition. Chicago: Columbian Guide Co., 1893.
Hancock, Scott. Web Book of The Fair, 1996.