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Nicole Akpedeye Professor T. Butler ARCH 162 M21 – Survey History of Architecture II 16 May 2012

The Chicago World’s fair of 1893 After 1893, many visitors were under the impression that America failed to show its true potentials and had no identity during the most famous of it’s world fairs in Chicago. This research paper aims to investigate what really happened prior to the fair and the lasting impressions of the American identity as a reflection of the decisions made by those who had to opportunity to invent, build and ultimately show their creativity to the world. Investigating the history of world fairs that led up to the one in 1893 should shed some light on the disappointment and negative sentiments that rung back from these visitors, both great and small. “An event of immense cultural importance to an America nearing the turn of the century” was not one to be missed. (World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History). How valid were these feelings of deception? Not neglecting the role that technology played in the fair and during this time period can provide a greater understanding of the famous and not so famous White City. The Gilded Age was a time of great change in the urban and industrial society. In the late 1800’s, when buildings rose high in much of Europe and America began to grow into it’s own nation, Industries were born. Man was replaced with the machine and means to make production faster in most fields of labour were sort after. Many handmade goods were being produced by machines and there was no need for much of the skilled labour that existed. Most people were

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out of a trade and lost their jobs to machines that were faster, better and less prone to mistakes. There was a rise in the Upper class wage and a decline in the lower class wages. There was a very unequal balance between the rich and poor and thus led to the creation of many policies to help reduce the tensions most workingmen had. These policies were ineffective, led to strikes and dire economic problems. “The Gilded Age saw the birth pangs of the United States as a global power, an urban, industrial society, and a modern, liberal corporatist state. Many problems remained unsolved, however, for the Progressive Era and New Deal reform policies to address”(Gilded Age). Nevertheless, life continued for most upper class citizens regardless of the cries of the working man. As the people across the globe continued to grow and discovered new ways of production and building, there was a rise in the number of exhibitions around the world. London’s 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition was a large glass and iron structure that was exhibited in London’s Hyde Park in order “to impress the world with Britain’s industrial accomplishments” (Crystal Palace). The first American attempt at world’s fair in 1876 in Philadelphia allowed America to show that it is capable and ready to stand on its own two feet. Ready to compete with the rest of the world and show that it is indeed a global power. “The fairgrounds, designed almost exclusively by 27-year-old German immigrant Hermann J. Schwarzmann, were host to 37 nations and countless industrial exhibits occupying over 250 individual pavilions” (Centennial Exhibition: Exhibition Facts). This event was very popular. “The most lasting accomplishment of the Exhibition was to introduce America as a new industrial world power, soon to eclipse the

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might and production of every other industrialized nation, and to showcase the City of Philadelphia as a center of American culture and industry” (Centennial Exhibition: Exhibition Facts). There is no doubt that America is persistently trying to assert itself as an industrial power in the world considering the fact that it is still a fairly young nation at the time of the fair. Paris' Exposition Universal of 1889 “coincided with the centennial of the French Revolution. The commissioners rejected plans for a 300-meter-tall guillotine, selecting Gustave Eiffel's tower instead. They gathered a stunning array of exhibits and produced one of the most financially successful universal expositions ever” (NGA - Photo Archives: Paris Exposition 1889). A closer look at other world fairs around the world showed that these exhibitions were set up for countries to showcase it’s strength and sometimes dominance in an industrial way. Now, it is clear that America is longing to be an industrial power giant that dominates the world. However, as anticipations build up toward the World Columbian Exposition, the underlying and unaddressed problems that the country faces is sipping through the cracks of the exhibition plans as they get finalized. Oh sweet America, the land of the free and home of the brave! Most veterans and citizens of the country are still recovering from the civil war and the issues brought about the gilded age, but “United America” would like you to think that all is fine on its land - the land of the free and the home of the brave. With all the falsehood that is surrounding this exhibition, one could speculate a low outcome, but contrary to this people from all across the globe were ecstatic to see the advancements in this new land.

This era that experienced social and economic change on a massive scale was marked by many contradictions. Along with the beginning of the modern

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American labor movement and a resurgence of the movement for women's rights, the age saw the implementation of rigid race segregation in the South through so-called Jim Crow laws, sanctioned by the Supreme Court's 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. The Gilded Age also witnessed the emergence of the United States as an imperialist foreign power (Gilded Age). America had been through a civil war and also experienced some social and economic problems, but people are still eager to experience the advertised exposition. Why were people in Europe so willing to come to the Chicago World fair? Do you remember Steel? Yes; cheap, strong and malleable steel! Indeed, the rise of industries and manufacturing in the country made it necessary for raw space and large windows buildings to exist.The Reliance building in Chicago that completed in 1895 by Burnham & Root was made using steel and provided this new type of architecture. Another example would be second Leiter building also in Chicago and completed in 1891 by William LeBaron Jenney. If you haven’t realized, the World Columbian Exposition was set to take place in Chicago. Steel is being explored mostly in Chicago with the new type of architecture that enabled buildings to be really tall. Of course people are eager to come to the Chicago world fair were these big, tall steel buildings existed. They wanted to see these buildings in person and marvel at the industrial advancement of America and their steel technology. How did a plan so right, turn out so wrong? “Planners selected a classical architectural theme for the fair over the objections of the more innovative Chicago architects. Sullivan later predicted that "the damage wrought by the World's Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer." Some architectural historians have shared Sullivan's opinion, but others have emphasized the exposition's positive contributions to city planning, in the City Beautiful

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movement that followed” (History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition). If my dentist told me to stay away from sugar beverages because they would cause tooth decay, I would most likely listen. To some degree, he would have the most knowledge about the teeth because he went to school, studied and became a dentist. Why is that the Chicago architects were ignored? Couldn’t the planners with their ‘heads in the sky’ stop dreaming about their profits for one second to listen to the advice of those who practiced what they wanted to create? This is were the Chicago’s world fair of 1893 fails its audience. The architects were still put to work to design the buildings that would show at the fair. The board of architects included: Adler & Sullivan from Chicago, Solon S. Beman


Chicago, Burling & Whitehouse from Chicago, Henry Ives Cobb from Chicago, Richard M. Hunt from New York, Jenney & Mundie from Chicago, McKim, Mead & White from New York, Peabody & Stearns from Boston, George B. Post from New York and Van Brunt & Howe from Kansas City. This group of architects were led by Daniel Burnham - Chief of Construction (World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History). With the consensus to design with a classical architectural theme,

work was started at Jackson Park with an expected

completion by late 1892. However, the date was pushed back to May 1893 further increasing the public anticipation of the fair. The buildings and statues were mostly made out of stucco and plaster as they were supposed to be temporary.

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The Fair was incredibly popular until it closed on October 31, 1893. The World's

Columbian Exposition paid off all of its operating expenses, even returning $1

million to its 30,000 subscribers, a portion of their initial investments. It had a

great influence on turn of the century American society, as well as social,

economic, cultural, and political legacies to modern America. The Fair presented

itself to the country and the world as a celebration of the advance of American

civilization; but how was it received, and what has been its lasting legacies?

(World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History)

The fair was successful and showed so much of what Americans were capable of accomplishing. The only draw back was the classical theme of architecture which left Europeans and even some Americans that came from other parts of the country feeling deceived and disappointed. “A total of over 27.5 million people visited the fair (21.5 million paid admissions, 6 million free). Figures for the number of American visitors is not available, nor is the percentage of those admissions that



visits�(World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History).

Considering the attendance at the fair, the impact of this feeling of deception was huge. The White City made of plaster - you are fake! Comparing the strength and long-lasting capabilities of steel with the temporary nature of the plaster, one would understand the negative reactions received from the fair. Even though some of the architects that designed for the fair were using steel in their real building projects, these tall buildings that had been built were mostly for commercial needs. You do not see steel being used in the same way when you consider the churches, libraries, government buildings and other building types. Actually, these buildings existed in the American society with classical architecture design. Although the

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architects built these government buildings and the other building types the way they would exist in the Chicago area, it wasn’t what people expected. “The Fair's official ideology was an attempt, in large part, to assert a sense of American unity as a bulwark against the fear of change through pride in the country's accomplishments. It was asserted, in the Exposition's architecture, that America had reached cultural parity with Europe, through its appropriation of the European Beaux-Arts form, and through its emphasis on education throughout the Fairgrounds.” (World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History). "White City represented itself as a representation, an admitted sham. Yet that sham, it insisted, held a truer vision of the real than did the troubled world sprawling beyond its gates." (Trachtenberg, 231) Regardless of the mixed feelings to the architecture that had been displayed during the exposition, America was able to assert itself as a force to be reckoned with as a result of their electricity advancement and growth in the commerce industry. “In fact, the tension between European and vernacular forms, entertainment and amusement, has not been resolved as we move into the twenty-first century” (World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History). America, why did you want to assert dominance with deception and imitation. Your tall steel buildings are beautiful! Stop making excuses and stand for what is yours. You were stirred on by the need for more space and you came up with a new form of architecture. Till this day, people are still talking about your disappointment towards them from the world columbian exposition. Your steel frame buildings cried when you chose to focus on fake foreigners over them. Don’t be afraid to stand for what is yours and design with what is yours. Don’t repeat what happened during the Chicago World Fair of 1893. Incase you forget what happened, here are some fake images to remind you!

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Works Cited Badger, Reid. The Great American Fair: The World's Columbian Exposition and American Culture. 1979. "Centennial Exhibition: Exhibition Facts." Centennial Exhibition: Exhibition Facts. Web. 16 May 2012. <>. "Crystal Palace." BBC News. BBC. Web. 16 May 2012. <>. "Gilded Age." Dictionary of American History. 2003. 16 May. 2012 <>. Harris, Neil, Wim de Wit, James Gilbert, and Robert Rydell. Grand Illusions: Chicago's World's Fair of 1893. 1993. "History Files - The World's Columbian Exposition." Chicago History Museum |. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>. "NGA - Photo Archives: Paris Exposition 1889." NGA - Photo Archives: Paris Exposition 1889. Web. 16 May 2012. <>. Rydell, Robert W. All the World's a Fair: Visions of Empire at America's International Expositions, 1876–1916. 1984. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 – A Photographic Record with Text by Stanley Appelbaum "World's Columbian Exposition: The Official Fair--A History." American Studies at the University of Virginia. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.

Survey History of Architecture 2 Research Paper  

Research paper on the Chicago World's fair of 1893