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The 1933 Chicago World's Fair

The 1933 Chicago World's Fair: A Century of Progress

Cheryl R. Ganz
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The 1933 Chicago World's Fair
    Book Description:

    Chicago's 1933 world's fair set a new direction for international expositions. Earlier fairs had exhibited technological advances, but Chicago's fair organizers used the very idea of progress to buoy national optimism during the Depression's darkest years. Orchestrated by business leaders and engineers, almost all former military men, the fair reflected a business-military-engineering model that envisioned a promising future through science and technology's application to everyday life. But not everyone at Chicago's 1933 exposition had abandoned notions of progress that entailed social justice and equality, recognition of ethnicity and gender, and personal freedom and expression. The fair's motto, "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms," was challenged by iconoclasts such as Sally Rand, whose provocative fan dance became a persistent symbol of the fair, as well as a handful of others, including African Americans, ethnic populations and foreign nationals, groups of working women, and even well-heeled socialites. Cheryl R. Ganz offers the stories of fair planners and participants who showcased education, industry, and entertainment to sell optimism during the depths of the Great Depression. This engaging history also features eighty-six photographs--nearly half of which are full color--of key locations, exhibits, and people, as well as authentic ticket stubs, postcards, pamphlets, posters, and other items.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09550-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1833 Chicago was a tiny backwoods settlement on the western frontier.¹ By 1933 it had become the nation’s transportation hub, an industrial and meat-processing giant, and the fourth-largest city in the world, surpassed only by New York, London, and Tokyo.² The Great Depression’s staggering blows, however, cast much of its industrial labor force into desperate idleness. Further, a well-deserved reputation for underworld crime and political scandal plagued the city.

    Chicago’s centennial year, 1933, saw one-fourth of the nation’s labor force out of work. Well over one-third of all banks had closed their doors. In the previous November exasperated voters...

  5. 1 Sally Rand and the Midway
    (pp. 7-27)

    Years after glimpsing the poster showing Sally Rand’s bottom, Donald Richie remembered the exhilaration he felt as a nine-year-old when he and his mother escaped their cheerless daily life in Lima, Ohio, by visiting A Century of Progress.¹ His aunt had given them the money for the train ride to Chicago. Despite the passage of years, recollections of the fair’s magic never slipped away . . . the Sky Ride, the Hall of Transportation, exhibits of Kraft cheese and flashy new cars and Pabst’s Blue Ribbon Beer. Relaxing in a Midway café, he recalled, his mother hummed “The Isle of...

  6. Black-and-white section 1
    (pp. None)
  7. 2 Chicago Boosters Set the stage
    (pp. 28-51)

    Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson entered the city council chamber at Chicago’s city hall on December 13, 1927, to find civic leaders absorbed in a charged discussion. Should they or should they not hold a second world’s fair? Who would finance it? What location would guarantee its success? Given the state of municipal affairs, could they really pull it off in a nonpolitical, professional, and legitimate manner?

    Soon after Thompson took his seat, an expectant and calculating Charles Simeon Peterson, the city treasurer, gave the floor to the banker and business mogul Rufus C. Dawes.¹ That Peterson had called on Dawes...

  8. 3 A New Vision for a World’s Fair
    (pp. 52-66)

    Charles Gates Dawes arrived in Chicago on May 24, 1929. He soon announced his intention to raise ten million dollars for the fair from Chicago sources before he left to serve as ambassador to England. He phoned civic leaders whom he regarded as essential to the effort, all powerful leaders in their own fields who also served on boards of key organizations.¹ Most belonged to the same private clubs as Dawes and also had connections to the banking business. Dawes planned a meeting in his office with his brother Rufus; the fair treasurer, George Woodruff; and several other influential guests...

  9. Black-and-white section 2
    (pp. None)
  10. 4 The Vision on Display
    (pp. 67-84)

    It was the evening of May 27, 1933. Opening day at A Century of Progress had enchanted over 120,000 spectators. The sun had set, shadows were long and gray, and the time neared 9 P.M. In hushed anticipation, tens of thousands of visitors flowed toward the Hall of Science’s great courtyard. Something truly miraculous was about to happen, and they would witness it. They understood that astronomers, scientists, and other geniuses had somehow captured the light of a far, far distant star named Arcturus and converted its light to electrical power. Incredible. Soon the power would trigger a switch, and...

  11. Color section
    (pp. None)
  12. 5 Women’s Spaces at the Fair
    (pp. 85-107)

    The Chicago Woman’s Club organized a 1933 lecture series entitled “Woman’s Contribution to Civilization” as one component of women’s limited role in A Century of Progress.¹ The series fittingly stressed women’s contributions to the nation’s development. Speakers were to focus on the accomplishments of women in their respective fields. When the historian and women’s rights activist Mary Beard, wife of Charles A. Beard, spoke, she offered her insights in an address entitled “The Social Role of Women in History.” The presentation lambasted historians for falsifying the record by failing to acknowledge women’s vital contributions to world progress alongside those of...

  13. 6 African Americans and the Du Sable Legacy
    (pp. 108-122)

    On April 3, 1928, fourteen African American women met at the home of Annie E. Oliver to hear a talk by Robert S. Abbott, editor of the African American newspaper theChicago Defender.¹ Abbott spoke about black men in history and promoted a project to further the recognition of Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable as the founder and pioneer settler of Chicago. Du Sable had established a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River about 1774 and lived there with his family until 1800. His father was from a French Quebec mercantile family, and his mother was a...

  14. Black-and-white section 3
    (pp. None)
  15. 7 Ethnic Identity and Nationalistic Representations of Progress
    (pp. 123-136)

    After parading around the cinder track at Soldier Field, ethnically costumed immigrants and their families from twenty-seven different nations formed a huge heart at the center of the stadium to symbolize that, in 1928, Chicago’s heart was its diverse population.¹ Marchers waved the Stars and Stripes along with flags from their native lands. Then an entourage of police, soldiers, and bands escorted the guest of honor, Dr. Hugo Eckener, commander of the German airshipGraf Zeppelin,and his crew around the stadium’s field to the roaring applause of fifty thousand spectators. Five hundred people in the stands lifted lanterns bearing...

  16. Black-and-white section 4
    (pp. None)
  17. 8 Aviation, Nationalism, and Progress
    (pp. 137-150)

    Approaching Chicago at daybreak on October 26, 1933, Commander Hugo Eckener ordered theGraf Zeppelin,a 775-foot-long German airship, to fly west beyond the city and then circle clockwise, although a northerly route from Indiana with an approach to Chicago from the east over Lake Michigan would have been more expeditious.¹ After circling above the city for about an hour, theGraf Zeppelinflew north to suburban Glenview for a brief exchange of passengers and mail.² Willy von Meister, the United States special representative of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin G.m.b.H., the Zeppelin Company, was in the control car with Eckener during the...

  18. Epilogue
    (pp. 151-158)

    The turnstiles clicked more than six hundred times per minute on October 31, 1934, as Chicagoans jammed the fairgrounds for their last chance to absorb the jubilation of their city’s second world’s fair.¹ Buglers broadcast a call for assembly from the elevated train platforms. Schools and public offices closed for the day. Military units, high school bands, ethnic groups in native dress, and people in Halloween costumes contributed to the carnival atmosphere. The throngs included the mayor and governor and R. E. Wedgwood, a seventy-eight-year-old man who had attended more than any other fairgoer—314 times in two years. Each...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 159-198)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 199-206)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-209)