The Collective Picture

Vintage Photography Redefined

admin On August - 10 - 2009

The architecture of World Fairs have always been of particular interest to me and my favorite has always been Chicago in 1893 or the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The ‘White City’ has an ethereal beauty to it unlike anything that I have stumbled across in my readings. The white stucco walls at the Court of Honor were said to glow at night when the surrounding lights reflected off of it. This combined with the parks, canals, architectural wonders and displays of vast technological advancements created a space unlike anything Chicago or the world had seen before.

Chicago fought hard to get the fair, wanting to assert itself as a city of artistic and architectural significance, attributes that were more often applied to such American cities as New York or Washington. After being awarded the right to host the World Fair it became clear that Chicago had to do its utmost to validate why it had received this honor. The city put a great deal of effort into showing its American neighbors and the world at large the cultured side of Chicago that had long been undervalued.

The World Fair of 1893 was also of particular significance because it followed on the heels of the exposition that had occurred in Paris in 1889, leaving France with such monuments as the Eiffel tower. While Chicago did not get a tower they did have the first Ferris Wheel ever built. Created by George Ferris it was a highlight for many and drew crowds to the massive structure who could ride while listing to a live band that played as the wheel was in motion. During its construction many daunting feats were concurred as the surrounding city of Chicago watched this massive wheel being erected and turned into an amusement ride that, once operational, offered unprecedented views of the surrounding landscape.

Chicago’s exposition was the most successful fair of its time period, providing a template from which future events of its magnitude would be measured. It challenged patron’s views of their surroundings by providing a space that seemed more ordered, clean, technologically advanced and architecturally inspiring then the urban spaces many individuals lived in during the late 1800’s. Ultimately leaving an imprint on the world of the progress and potential that the future seemed to hold.

1983 fair builidings chicago world exposition The World Fair: Chicago 1893events
At the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893, a view of some of the fair buildings around the reflecting pool.
http://photography.si.edu/SearchImage.aspx?t=5&id=3932&q=12929 Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accession number: 12929
1983 Chicago exposition gondal court of honor The World Fair: Chicago 1893events
At the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, visitors ride in a gondola in the ‘Court of Honor.’ http://photography.si.edu/SearchImage.aspx?t=5&id=3934&q=12188. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accession number: 12188
1893 worlds columbian exposition ferris wheel chicago 1024x954 The World Fair: Chicago 1893events
World’s Columbian Exposition: Ferris Wheel, Chicago, United States, 1893. View of Ferris Wheel, [which dwarfs surrounding buildings,] Sept.; Starks W. Lewis, Amateur, Brooklyn, N.Y. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (S03_06_01_016 image 2194).1893 world columbian exposition chicago illumination night 1024x913 The World Fair: Chicago 1893events
World’s Columbian Exposition: Grand Basin, Chicago, United States, 1893. Grand Basin [photographed during illumination; at night]. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (S03_06_01_016 image 2206).
1893 administraion building night chicago world exposition 1024x824 The World Fair: Chicago 1893eventsWorld’s Columbian Exposition: Administration Building, Chicago, United States, 1893. Administration building at night, Sept. 1893; Starks W. Lewis, Amateur, Brooklyn, N.Y. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (S03_06_01_016 image 2152).1893_World's_Columbian_Exposition_Administration_BuildingWorld’s Columbian Exposition: Administration Building, Chicago, United States, 1893. Administration building, Sept.; Starks W. Lewis, Amateur, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Seb. 2 Class D. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (S03_06_01_016 image 2153).1893_fountains_ Chicago_World's_fair Close up of the fountains and sculpture of the ‘Court of Honor’ at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893. Buildings of the Exposition can be seen in the background. http://photography.si.edu/SearchImage.aspx?t=5&id=3935&q=12156 Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accession number: 12156
1893 Fair building Chicago expostion The World Fair: Chicago 1893eventsAt the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, visitors stroll in front of one of the fair buildings. http://photography.si.edu/SearchImage.aspx?t=5&id=3933&q=12932 Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accession number: 12932
1893 chicago exposition architecture The World Fair: Chicago 1893eventsAt the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. A view of the reflecting pool traversed by several bridges and several Exposition buildings. The large dome of one of the buildings is visible in the background.http://photography.si.edu/SearchImage.aspx?t=5&id=3938&q=12137 Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accession number: 12137

The historical significance of this event can further be appreciated through such references as Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, for online resources there is also such links as
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World’s_Columbian_Exposition
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/WCE/title.html

more photographs that could not be posted here can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/field_museum_library/archives/date-posted/2009/05/28/

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