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Chicago's White City of 1893

Chicago's White City of 1893

Copyright Date: 1976
Edition: 1
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Chicago's White City of 1893
    Book Description:

    In 1893, the year that marked the four hundredth anniversary of the landing of Columbus in the New World, Chicago was host to an exposition to mark the occasion. Although the World's Columbian Exposition was the fifteenth world's fair, it was of vastly greater scope than any of its predecessors. Chicago created a veritable new city. It was not only larger than any previous exposition but also more elaborately designed, more precisely laid out, more fully realized, and more prophetic. It was the first exposition truly to solicit the participation of the entire world.

    In this study of the White City, David F. Burg shows America at a crossroads in its development. It was in the process of moving from a largely agricultural society to a predominately urban and industrial one. The exposition was an index of American values, achievements, and expectation in this era of profound and complex change. The exposition was an achievement of cooperative endeavor and expertise. It demonstrated that both artistic capacity and technology were available to transform, in agreeable combination, burgeoning industrial cities into well-designed centers of business, culture, and community.

    Burg places his discussion in the context of the United States and Chicago during the early 1890s. Besides dealing with the multifaceted fair itself -- its architecture, artworks, music, technological achievements -- he discusses the congresses that were held on a variety of subjects, two of the most significant being the Congresses of Women and the World's Parliament of Religions.

    In the exposition's theme was the potential of fashioning the Kingdom of God on earth in contrast to the chaotic, dirty, industrial cities of the time. Burg finds in the exposition a significant legacy to architecture, city planning, and civic organization. Its most promising aftereffect occurred in the City Beautiful movement; its influence extended also to such ordinary concerns as well-lighted streets, efficient waste disposal, and honest government.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5047-5
    Subjects: History, Architecture and Architectural History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-43)

    ATTEMPTING TO summarize any age in the brevity of a few pages may seem foolhardy. The attempt is plagued by problems of selection, generality, interpretation. Yet summarizing may not be entirely sinful. The essence of an era might, after all, be evoked in a single phrase. Certainly historians of the American 1890s, and the decades immediately preceding and following, have an addiction to epithets–the Mauve Decade, the Age of Enterprise, the Great Barbecue, the Age of Excess–that are meant to convey an image of the dominant milieu of an exceptional and preoccupying era; and to varying degrees they...

  5. 2 CHICAGO
    (pp. 44-74)

    LONG BEFORE Carl Sandburg sang Chicago’s praises, its citizens believed their city deserving of such euphoric epithets as “City of the Big Shoulders,” for the development of the great city of America’s inland empire was truly epoch-making. Chicago lived up to her motto, “I will.” No visitor overlooked the significance of Chicago’s growth; some exaggerated it. Clarence Clough Buel’s view seems one of the latter: “Homer’s deities might well have shrunk from the building in sixty years of the seventh city of the modern world; but here it has been done by the ordinary earthworm actuated only by the spirit...

    (pp. 75-113)

    ONCE CHICAGO had secured the honor of being host city for the fair, the promoters, the World’s Columbian Exposition Corporation specifically and a host of citizens generally, necessarily focused their attention upon such questions as where in Chicago was the best locale for the fair, what the nature of the architecture and exhibits should be, who should be in charge of what. The board immediately named Lyman Gage as president of the corporation, with Thomas B. Bryan and Potter Palmer as vice presidents.¹ The officers demonstrated sound judgment. They appointed numerous committees–finance, grounds and buildings, legislation, national and state...

    (pp. 114-179)

    THE WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION was many things to many people. Some were intrigued by exhibits of machinery, others by the pleasures of the Midway plaisance. Some were attracted chiefly by the transportation exhibit, others by the art exhibit. But in one response nearly everybody agreed–they felt that the most beautiful, most imposing exhibit at the exposition was its architecture. Commentators on the fair concentrated upon the buildings. Journals of every sort contained lengthy articles upon the architecture written by people from all walks of life–from the experts to the amateurs–in an avalanche of comment. Had nothing existed...

    (pp. 180-234)

    THE MAIN EXHIBIT at the World’s Columbian Exposition was the buildings–the White City itself. But a feature that enhanced and ennobled that city’s vistas, the approaches to the buildings, the expansive esplanades, and the arched bridges was the outdoor sculptural work. Referring to all the statuary on the grounds and buildings, one account declared with exuberant hyperbole, “In the zenith of its achievements Venice was never so statuesque as Jackson Park. Nor Rome, nor Athens in their haughtiest epochs, could point to so many inspiring effigies.”¹ Though mistaken about their quality, the observer was quite right in touting the...

    (pp. 235-285)

    AS AN INTERNATIONAL exposition the Chicago World’s Fair had one feature which made it more truly international and more catholic than all previous fairs: the world’s Congress Auxiliary. The congresses were a series of meetings attended by people who represented virtually every conceivable spectrum and activity of humanity. There was precedent for such meetings at an exposition–for example, there was a congress at the Paris Exposition of 1889–but there was nothing to compare in scope or inclusiveness to the World’s Congress Auxiliary. It was held in Chicago from May 15 to October 28. It included twenty departments and...

    (pp. 286-348)

    THE WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION officially ended at sunset on October 30. The formal ceremonies marking the fair’s end were to have been nearly as elaborate and certainly as celebrative as those featured at the dedication. They were keenly anticipated. But disaster intervened. On the evening of October 28 an office-seeker, disgruntled over failure to receive a political appointment, shot Mayor Carter Henry Harrison on the threshold of the mayor’s home. The assassination shocked and saddened Chicago. What was to have been a suitably festive climax to the great exposition became instead a funeral. The closing ceremonies were austere. They were...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 349-372)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 373-382)