World's Fairs were a popular form of entertainment and spectacle in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The fairs promoted a vision of American progress based on technological innovation, nationalism, and white supremacy. They enticed visitors with technological wonders, educational exhibits, and amusements. The 1893 fair in Chicago was named the World's Columbian Exposition to commemorate Christopher Columbus's voyage to the New World; the architect Charles E. Bolton published this description of it in 1901.
"The World's Columbian Fair," the wonderful celebration at Chicago of the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, was a worthy commemorative service, in which the world heartily joined. A continent was discovered which embraced an area equal to about one-third of the globe's entire acreage of land. The discovery to-day of men and women, either like or unlike ourselves, on our neighbouring planets, Mars or Jupiter, would not more quicken the pulse of civilization than it was quickened four centuries ago by that accidental feat of Columbus on October 12, 1492.
In the Aladdin-like "White City, " on the shore of Lake Michigan, the "American Adriatic, " the highest aspirations of the human soul seemed satisfied. For a brief period in the summer of 1893, and with Columbus for patron saint, all nationality, creed, and sex were harmoniously blended in ideal skill, beauty, and grandeur.... The study of a map of the "White City" reveals the location and scheme of the World's Fair. This beautiful location of the World's Columbian Fair, with a frontage of two miles on lovely Lake Michigan, is at Jackson Park, with a land and water area of a thousand acres. Here the early "$5,000,000 Exposition" grew like magic into a World's Columbian Fair, costing over $30,000,000, and sheltering a hundred million dollars' worth of exhibits. Millions were expended for piers, roads, bridges, water- supply and sewerage, landscape gardening, administration, operating, and other expenses. And millions more were spent for main buildings....
The "Palace of Agriculture, " facing the Grand Basin, is considered by many the most beautiful structure of the White City. Its design is bold and heroic. Mammoth arches and Corinthian pillars flank the main entrance. Its length is eight hundred feet, its width five hundred feet, yielding a floor space of nineteen acres....
We enter the vast interior. All countries and States make their offerings to this gigantic cornucopia...choice tobacco from Cuba, Virginia, and Kentucky, coffee from Brazil, palm oils from Liberia, silks, teas, and bamboos from Japan, spices from Ceylon, beer from Germany, whiskies from Ireland and Scotland, wools from Australia, rare wines and oils from Italy and France, Cheddar cheese from England, sugar, cotton, and rice from Southern States, sub-tropical fruits from Florida, maple sugar and honey from Vermont and Minnesota, packing companies' displays from Kansas, and from Cape of Good Hope Colony ivory, diamonds, and ostriches. There are acres of agricultural implements, mowers, reapers, and twine-binders in silver and gold plate. You wonder at a model of the first reaper made by the Gauls eighteen hundred years ago. To-day Chicago has one company, whose buildings cover fifty acres, and which employs thirty-five hundred men, that make six hundred machines per day, or one complete agricultural machine for every minute of every working day the year round.
Agriculture now has a seat in the President's Cabinet, and agricultural colleges all over America have trained scientists and educators at their head, seeking to advance this great industry to a foremost place for mankind. How great the advance in the science of draining and of the successful breeding of live stock! What interest the people take in farmers' institutes and experimental stations, in tree planting, in irrigation, and in the production of sugar from sorghum, and the sugar beet! No wonder, when busy men tire of other things, that nature never fails to interest....
Across the bridge we go to the Fisheries Building, an "architectural poem," as it was called.... Every day the aquarium is thronged with adults and delighted boys and girls. On the right and left are great tanks with glass fronts, in which fish are exhibited, from ocean, sea, lake, and river. Part of the tanks have salt water, and part fresh water, and all are supplied from large reservoirs. The tanks are also supplied with rocks, sand mosses, lichens, reeds, and aquatic plants; and from clefts and crevices in the rocks, crystal streams of water gush forth, and keep the tanks full and fresh. You shrink from live sharks and the devil-fish, that dart toward you; you recognize the striped bass, the pickerel, and shad, and admire the speckled trout, the graylings, and the well-fed perch. How curious are the crawling sea-lizards, the clumsy turtles, the water-dogs and the porcupine-fish. For the first time, perhaps, you see pompanos, red snappers, and croakers from the south, and you wonder at the strange life in the deep sea, and in the grottos, the sponges, the sea-anemones, and the coral animal, builder of islands and continents, but you look in vain for a live whale. In fact, you almost wish you had fins, and that you could explore the mysteries of the vast oceans....
The Ferris Wheel is one of the wonders of the fair, and is a worthy rival of the Eiffel Tower of Paris. Its inventor is Mr. G. W. G. Ferris, a young engineer of Pittsburg. The structure resembles a huge bicycle wheel hung between two steel towers, 137 feet in height. The axle is thirty-three inches in diameter, forty-five feet long, and weighs fifty-six tons, and cost $35,000. Bars of steel hold together the two wheels, which are twenty eight and a half feet apart. From trunnion-pins are suspended thirty-six passenger cars, which, when loaded, accommodate 2, 160 passengers. Total weight of the great wheel is 4,300 tons. Two 1000 horse-power engines give motion to the wheel. At night three thousand incandescent lights of various colours add a beautiful effect. Fifty cents admits you to a seat, and you are hurled 264 feet into the air for an outlook over Chicago, the Exposition grounds, and Lake Michigan. Visitors were given two turns of the wheel, doubtless on the principle that one good turn deserves another. The cost of this gigantic novelty was $368,000. The Ferris Wheel while at the fair gave great pleasure, and proved a financial success. Not only did it pay all the cost, but for a time handsome profits....
Adjacent to the Mines Building is the Electricity Building...where stands the heroic statue of Benjamin Franklin, executed by the Danish sculptor, Carl Rohl-Smith. He was one of the most dramatic subjects in American history. Franklin's head is thrown back, revealing a face glorious in triumph. The whole pose is one of mastery; one hand grasps the kite, while the other holds aloft the key that has unlocked the greatest of all nature's mysteries. A child's plaything brings electricity down from the angry heavens, and in this simple manner begins the subjugation to man's use of one of the mightiest powers of the universe. Above the arched portal is Turgot's famous epigram concerning Franklin, "Eripuit Coelo Fulmen Sceptrumque Tyrannis. " "He snatched the thunderbolt from heaven, and the sceptre from tyrants. "
We enter where it is possible to study the whole history of the wonderful new science of electricity. An area of five acres of flooring is occupied by exhibits made practical and popular so as to enlighten the people. Electricity is neither a fluid nor matter, any more than it is light- or heat. It seems to be a force, or cause of a force, or a rapid mode of motion. Greece gave art to the world, Rome gave: law, and America has given mechanics and inventors. Somebody has said that steam is the half of the Englishman, and that electricity is the half of an American. Everywhere in the great Hall of Electricity are seen early electrical inventions, dynamos with direct and alternating currents, motors for street-cars and for a variety of purposes, strange devices for lighthouses, apparatus for testing ocean cables, and electrical fire and police service. Bell's elegant telephone exhibit invites you to enter. Over there stands a tower of insulators, and there another tower of carbons. You wonder at Edison's duplex and other devices for rapid telegraphic service, at his almost human phonograph and hundreds of patents, at Gray's telautograph, and at the well-nigh countless electrical inventions of Great Britain, France, Germany, and other foreign countries; and you call to mind the first telegraph message sent by Samuel F. B. Morse, "What hath God wrought?"
A desideratum of today is to remove the terrible smoke nuisance from the centres of manufacturing. This will be accomplished when all the soft coal is converted at the mines into electricity, and conveyed perhaps on aluminum wires at high voltage to towns and cities. Abundance of cheap electricity will solve innumerable difficult economic and social problems. It will quicken speed, and neutralise congested population. It will prove a life-saver on the sea, and perhaps help us to navigate the air. Now we hear by electricity, why not see and think by electricity?
Questions: (Answer on a separate sheet of paper.)
1) What do you think was the main purpose of Chicagos Worlds Columbian Exposition?
2) Whose company might Mr. Bolton be speaking about when he discusses a reaper company in Chicago?
3) How does Mr. Bolton seem to feel about this exposition? Cite examples from his writing.
4) Why was Benjamin Franklin honored with a statue?
5) What are some of todays commonly used items/inventions that are suggested by Mr. Bolton as possibilities of the future if cheap electricity become available?