FOR CHICAGO IT WAS DO OR DIE
The pressure of hosting the
1893 Exposition was enormous. There was so much at stake—was Chicago more
than a giant stockyard, was culture alive west of New York, and could
Chicago compete with previous World Fair hosts: Vienna, London, and Paris?
The Paris Exposition of 1889, four years earlier, was a tough act to follow.
The outstanding attraction of the Paris Expo was the design and erection of
the Eiffel Tower—an instant worldwide attraction. The engineer/designer, Gustave Eiffel, even offered his design services to the Chicago group. But
Fair designer Daniel Burnham knew this had to be an American show, and we
would live or die on the abilities of American artists and designers.
the fair did need something special that would bring out the “Holy Cow!” in
visitors. The big idea was presented in the final year of construction, and
Burnham wasn’t all that crazy about it. He grudgingly approved it but
harbored a deep fear of “what if it doesn’t work?”
Burnham had good reason
to worry—the idea was gargantuan and equally preposterous. The designer,
George W. Ferris, proposed a giant wheel, 264 feet high, with 36 suspended
cars that would each carry 60 passengers. The man was either truly mad or an
engineering genius. Ferris didn’t get the go-ahead until Nov. 1892—leaving
him an impossible deadline to meet the May opening date.
Ferris got the job done, and in June a band conductor blew his whistle, and
the Iowa State Marching Band—40 strong—began playing and marched into one of
the waiting cars. And the band kept on playing as they went up in the air in
the world’s first and biggest ever Ferris wheel.
The Chicago World’s Fair of
1893 boasts an impressive resume: It was the largest and most impressive
exposition ever staged. Over 27 million attendees—almost half of America’s
population—came to Chicago to see the latest wonders of the world. And
travel in the 1890’s wasn’t a snap. Your choices were horse & buggy,
passenger trains, or steamships from Michigan or Europe.
It cost 50 cents to
get in the fair, but there was so much to see a visitor would need three
weeks and have to walk over 150 miles to see everything!
Chicago set the bar
so high no other world’s fair or exposition ever came close. Chicago’s city
motto is “I WILL” and they did.
by Rob Carey
|SAUGATUCK Oct 6, 1893—Chief Simon Pokagon of
the Potawotomies, addressed the Indian committee of the World’s Fair
congress the other day and told them that just 60 years ago his father sold
for his tribe one million acres of ground including the site of the
Columbian exposition to the United States for three cents an acre. He has
been to Washington and says his people will get their money this fall. Chief
Pokagon is nearly seventy years old and lives in Berrien county with the
remnant of the tribe made immortal by J. Fennimore Cooper in “Oak Openings,”
the principal scenes of which are located along the Kalamazoo river.