“All the world’s a stage…”: Part 2

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

This is the second blog on the World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893, aka the Chicago World’s Fair.  We have discussed the background and history of the Expo and will examine the Big and the Bizarre—the things that were superlatives (the biggest___, etc.) and the oddities in the final blog of this series.  Today we will look at the “delights” of the Midway and its Ferris Wheel.

In the last blog, we saw the contrast between the White City as “highbrow,” and the “low-brow” side, the Midway Plaisance.  “The Midway Plaisance was an avenue 600 feet wide and a mile in length which connected Jackson Park with Washington Park; it lay between Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth streets and extended westward from a point directly behind the Woman’s Building. Its features were privately sponsored, though they constituted a sanctioned part of the exposition. The character of the Midway was distinctly exotic, polyglot, cosmopolitan, festal. Regardless of the weather, the Midway was always crowded. It was “a side show pure and simple. But side shows are interesting, and to many hundreds of thousands of people who have not been afforded the opportunity of seeing how other hundreds of thousands live, the Midway plaisance is amusing, interesting and instructive.” (Chicago’s white city of 1893, p. 216)

“The inspiration for the Midway came from the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, where the French government and prominent anthropologists turned representations of the French colonies into living ethnological villages featuring people from Africa and Asia. To lend anthropological legitimacy to their enterprise, Chicago’s exposition directors placed the Midway under the nominal direction of Harvard’s Frederic Ward Putnam, who had already been chosen to organize an Anthropology Building at the fair. Putnam envisioned the Midway as a living outdoor museum of primitive human beings that would afford visitors the opportunity to measure the progress of humanity toward the ideal of civilization presented in the White City. All of the ethnographic villages and most of the other attractions on the Midway, however, were commercial ventures organized by entrepreneurs who obtained concessions through the Ways and Means Committee of the World’s Columbian Commission.” (Encyclopedia of Chicago–World’s Columbian Exposition.)

Right away this language rankles modern sensibilities.  We are uncomfortable with the idea of a “living outdoor museum of primitive human beings” and the further comparison between them and the “ideal of civilization,” i.e., the average fair goer.  Imagine looking at any group of living human beings as a museum exhibit!  That said, these were not uncommon attitudes for the time.

“During the “Gilded Age,” every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie, and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before. In New York, the opera, the theatre, and lavish parties consumed the ruling class’ leisure hours. Sherry’s Restaurant hosted formal horseback dinners for the New York Riding Club. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish once threw a dinner party to honor her dog who arrived sporting a $15,000 diamond collar.  While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation’s 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line. Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas. Tenements spread across city landscapes, teeming with crime and filth. Americans had sewing machines, phonographs, skyscrapers, and even electric lights, yet most people labored in the shadow of poverty.” (The Gilded Age—PBS American Experience webpage.)

To delve deeper into the stereotyping prevalent at the time and the role (or lack thereof) of African-Americans in the fair, consult:

Ballard, Barbara J.  “A People Without a Nation.” Chicago History, Summer 1999, p. 27-43.

Cole, Josh. “Cultural and Racial Stereotypes on the Midway.” Historia, v. 16 (2007), p. 12-32.

The World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893, for all its faults (and positive experiences) was an exemplar of the Gilded Age.

One such exhibit on the Midway was the Dahomey (Dahomey is now the country of Benin) village, “described as “the most exclusive and independent of all the exhibits.” It contained three buildings, one of them a museum, and a series of huts to house its forty women and sixty men. “The various dances and other ceremonials peculiar to these people are exhibited, and their songs, chants and war cry are given. They also sell unique products of their mechanical skill, such as quaint hand-carved objects, domestic and warlike utensils, etc.” In the later months of the fair a placard was placed outside the entrance to the Dahomey village requesting visitors not to ask the villagers about their former custom of cannibalism, since they found such questions annoying.” (Chicago’s white city of 1893, p. 219)

Another very popular Midway exhibit was the Street of Cairo.  It had 180 inhabitants in addition to theaters, camels, donkeys, and dogs.  Two times per day a wedding procession or birthday festival was presented to entertain visitors.

In the Cairo Street, 1898. Source: The Banner's Portfolio of Photographs.

In the Cairo Street, 1898. Source: The Banner’s Portfolio of Photographs.

Here are some more exhibits from this eclectic part of the fair.

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This is the Haitian pavillion—the only source of the black perspective in the fair. African Americans utilized it to stake their claim for inclusion. Amazingly, it was NOT located on the Midway, but rather in the White City portion of the fair, 1893. Source: Shepp's World's Fair Photographed, pp. 469.

This is the Haitian pavilion—the only source of the black perspective in the fair. African Americans utilized it to stake their claim for inclusion. Amazingly, it was NOT located on the Midway, but rather in the White City portion of the fair, 1893. Source: Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, pp. 469.

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Head shot of George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., n.d. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Gale_Ferris_Jr.

Head shot of George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., n.d. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Gale_Ferris_Jr.

The major attraction in the Midway was clearly the Ferris wheel.  Director of Works Daniel Burnham was looking for something massive and impressive to set the fair apart.  In 1889, just four years prior to this, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the Eiffel Tower had been the centerpiece.  Burnham was determined that American design and ingenuity would out-Eiffel Eiffel.  George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. was a 33 year old structural engineer employed inspecting steel during the fair’s construction. He dashed off a design of a giant wheel, drawing it on a restaurant napkin, and showed it to his peers, who believed that it would collapse under its own weight.  “Undeterred, Ferris spent $25,000 of his own money to prepare detailed blueprints.   When Ferris approached the exposition’s directors, one board member remarked that “Ferris is a crackpot. He has wheels in his head.” Ferris won over a majority of the directors, but they stipulated that he must finance construction with his own money. To do so, Ferris formed a joint stock company, attracted wealthy investors, and then began to order the pieces.  At the core of his “monster” wheel was an 89,320-pound axle manufactured by Bethlehem Iron Company in Bethlehem, Pa.  Thirty-three inches in diameter and 451 1/2 feet long, the massive axle was hoisted on to thirteen-ton cast-iron spiders set on twin 140-foot towers.

“The axle was made six times more stout than was needed to be safe. Ferris' axle, the weight of a large locomotive, was at that time the heaviest piece of steel ever forged.” Credit: The Dream City: a portfolio of photographic views of the World's Columbian Exposition/ with an introduction by Professor Halsey C. Ives, Published weekly by St. Louis, MO.: N. D. Thompson Co., 1893-189, found on Ferris Wheel Inventor Historical Marker. ExplorePAhistory.com

“The axle was made six times more stout than was needed to be safe. Ferris’ axle, the weight of a large locomotive, was at that time the heaviest piece of steel ever forged.” Credit: The Dream City: a portfolio of photographic views of the World’s Columbian Exposition/ with an introduction by Professor Halsey C. Ives, Published weekly by St. Louis, MO.: N. D. Thompson Co., 1893-189, found on Ferris Wheel Inventor Historical Marker. ExplorePAhistory.com

More than 100,000 parts went into building the wheel. The finished structure was 264 feet in height–about twenty-six stories–and, according to one reporter, the wheel “varied from a true circle less than the most delicate pivot-wheel of a watch.”  To turn the giant wheel, Ferris built a power plant with two 1,000-horsepower reversible engines, one for primary power and the other as an emergency backup, connected to a 20,000-pound sprocket chain that turned the wheel. To stop the wheel and hold it motionless when needed, he employed a custom-built marker Westinghouse air brake.  To carry passengers, Ferris mounted thirty-six glass and steel passenger compartments the size of railroad cars onto the wheel, into each of which he placed forty comfortable swivel chairs. The great wheel’s total capacity was 2,160 passengers.”  (Ferris Wheel Inventor Historical Marker.  ExplorePAhistory.com)

Ferris wheel, 1893. Source: The Banner's Portfolio of Photographs.

Ferris wheel, 1893. Source: The Banner’s Portfolio of Photographs.

Random Ticket

Ferris wheel ticket, 1893. Source: http://www.1893columbianexpo.com/ride-tix.html

Because of the complexities of construction, the Ferris wheel did not open until nearly 8 weeks after the fair began.  The first riders were the mayor of Chicago, Ferris and his wife, and a marching band.   Miraculously, this and all subsequent trips were completed safely and without incident.  The 50-cent fee, as much as the fair admission itself, earned the rider two revolutions of the wheel, with six stops on each revolution.  (Many of the Midway exhibits cost an extra fee, but the Ferris wheel ride was one of the most expensive.)

 

Ferris wheel in Chicago, Illinois, 1893. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264-1273.

Ferris wheel in Chicago, Illinois, 1893. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264-1273.

“…The original Ferris wheel offered fairgoers a 10- to 20-minute ride unlike anything they’d experienced before. For many, the Ferris wheel took them as high up as they’d ever been—and the views did not disappoint. As passengers traveled through the air, they could see out over Lake Michigan and glimpse new vistas of the city itself. In all, more than 1.4 million people paid the 50-cent fee to take a ride on the wheel.” (World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.)  The wheel was immensely successful–according to a “week-by-week sales report [that] reveals that 1,453,611 tickets were sold between July 1 and November 6, earning $726,805.50, with the largest number of tickets sold (151,201) the week of October 16. As part of Ferris’s concession agreement, fair organizers received $211,805. No concession came close to earning as much, making the great wheel the most lucrative operation on both the Midway and the official fairgrounds. Without the financial success of the Ferris wheel, it is doubtful that the fair corporation would have showed a profit.” (Lewis, Russell L.  “A Wheel with a View.”  Online exhibit from the Chicago Historical Society)

Ferris wheel after demolition, 1906. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mohistory/3533210033

Ferris wheel after demolition, 1906. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mohistory/3533210033

All may have been rosy during the fair, but neither Ferris or his wheel came to a good end.  Ferris ended up suing the fair for his share of the profits.  At the same time, due to the overwhelming popularity of this attraction, he had to fight off patent lawsuits.  “Ferris soon declared bankruptcy and lost his companies. Then his wife left him. Suffering from kidney failure and typhoid fever, George W.G. Ferris Jr. died in Pittsburgh on November 26, 1896, at the age of thirty-seven. His cremated ashes remained unclaimed for fifteen months until his brother satisfied the funeral debt.” (Ferris Wheel Inventor Historical Marker.  ExplorePAhistory.com)  After languishing for a time on site, the wheel was taken down and reassembled on N. Clark St., operating in that location from 1895-1903.  Here it faced opposition from neighbors and a general lack of enthusiasm.  The Chicago House Wrecking Company purchased it for only $1800.  It was dismantled yet again, shipped via 175 rail cars to St. Louis to be re-erected for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition/St. Louis World’s Fair, in 1904. ” (Lewis, Russell L.  “A Wheel with a View.”  Online exhibit from the Chicago Historical Society) It was equally popular in St. Louis, but after that fair closed, there were still no takers for a permanent location.  “Finally, in May of 1906, a demolition company used 200 pounds of dynamite to destroy the wheel. Its remnants were sold for scrap metal.” (Chicago Architecture Foundation.  (World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.)

Demolition of the Ferris wheel, 1904. Source: http://atthefair.homestead.com/pkeatt/obversationwheel.html

Demolition of the Ferris wheel, 1904. Source: http://atthefair.homestead.com/pkeatt/obversationwheel.html

Just as there were disparities between the “elegance” of the White City and the more plebian atmosphere of the Midway, so were there disparities between triumph and failure within the Midway itself.  If you have not read last week’s blog on the history of the fair, check it out.  Next week’s blog deals with the “Big and the Bizarre” of the fair—its superlatives and its oddities.

Resources Consulted:

1893 World’s Columbian Expo—Admission Tickets

1893 World’s Columbian Expo—Ride & Attraction Tickets

Atlas Obscura–Your Ticket to the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Ballard, Barbara J.  “A People Without a Nation.” Chicago History, Summer 1999, p. 27-43

Burg, David F. Chicago’s white city of 1893. (e-book, accessible only on campus or to registered USI users)

Chicago Architecture Foundation.  World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Cole, Josh. “Cultural and Racial Stereotypes on the Midway.” Historia, v. 16 (2007), p. 12-32.

Encyclopedia of Chicago–World’s Columbian Exposition.

Ferris Wheel Inventor Historical Marker.  ExplorePAhistory.com

Field Museum—Fun Facts about the World’s Columbian Exposition.

George Ferris.  Famous Inventors.

The Gilded Age—PBS American Experience webpage.

Larson, Erik.  The devil in the white city: murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America.  General Collection  HV6248.M8 L37 2004   also HV6248.M8 L37 2003

Lewis, Russell L.  “A Wheel with a View.”  Online exhibit from the Chicago Historical Society.

Maranzani, Barbara.  “Chicago Was Home to a Serial Killer During the 1893 World’s Fair.”  History Channel online, May 3, 2013.

McNichol, Susan.  The Story of the Mammoth Cheese.  Perth (Ontario, Canada) Museum.

MSS 264, the Thomas Mueller collection. Thomas Mueller was a self-employed photographer in Evansville, Indiana. He worked for the Evansville Courier and Press newspaper until 1945.  This collection is available online from University Archives and Special Collections.

Novak, Matt. Where the Future Came From: A Trip Through the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  Gizmodo.

Ramsey, John G. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and Victorian America: A Humanities Time Capsule©.  Carleton College.

Reardon, Patrick T. “The World’s Columbian Exposition at the ‘White City’.” Chicago Tribune, n.d.

Shepp, Daniel B.  Shepp’s World’s fair photographed.  Chicago, Philadelphia, Globe Bible Publishing Co. [c1893].  Located in University Archives and Special Collections’ oversize collection, T500.C1 S54.

Vazakas, Sue.  Let’s Talk About Chocolate.  Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries Blog July 18, 2011

The World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.  (University of Virginia, 1996.)

 

Posted in American history, Architecture, history | Leave a comment

“All the world’s a stage…”: Part 1

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Ticket (MSS 210-1-32)

Entrance ticket to the Columbian’s Exposition in Chicago, Ill., 1893. Source: Rick Winters collection, MSS 210-1-32).

This famous quotation is from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, but it also applies to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, aka the Chicago World’s Fair.  The world indeed came to Chicago’s stage during the exposition’s 179 day run—total attendance was 27,529,400, for an average of 150,000 daily.  Even accounting for multiple visits by the same people, as many as 12 million people came.  There were 129,000 on opening day; also in attendance was President Grover Cleveland.  The biggest single day attendance was 716,881, on October 9.  This was Chicago Day, celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the great Chicago fire. (Reardon, Patrick T. “The World’s Columbian Exposition at the ‘White City’.” Chicago Tribune, n.d. )  Tickets were 50 cents—this would be about $14.00 today.  Kids got in for half price.  “Out of the tens of millions of people who attended the fair, only a lucky 60,000 managed to get their hands on a “portrait ticket.”  These detailed notes served as season passes for exhibitors, organizers, press members, and other insiders.  Engraved in great detail to prevent counterfeiting, each ticket featured either Washington, Lincoln, Columbus, or a stereotypical American Indian chief—figureheads who, taken together, were meant to represent various stages of the country’s history.” (Atlas Obscura–Your Ticket to the 1893 Columbian Exposition) Below is a picture of one of the portrait tickets, this one celebrating Christopher Columbus.

Columbian refers to the fact that this fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World.  Fierce competition to host the event began a decade earlier, with New York, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. vying with Chicago for bragging rights. “By 1890, it was clear that the U.S. Congress would have to decide where the fair would be held and that the principal contenders, by virtue of their superior financial resources, would be Chicago and New York. New York’s financial titans, including J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and William Waldorf Astor, pledged $15 million to underwrite the fair if Congress awarded it to New York City.  Not to be outdone, Chicago’s leading capitalists and exposition sponsors, including Charles T. Yerkes, Marshall Field, Philip Armour, Gustavus Swift, and Cyrus McCormick, responded in kind. Furthermore, Chicago’s promoters presented evidence of significant financial support from the city and state as well as over $5 million in stock subscriptions from people from every walk of life. What finally led Congress to vote in Chicago’s favor was banker Lyman Gage’s ability to raise several million additional dollars in a 24-hour period to best New York’s final offer.”  (Encyclopedia of Chicago–World’s Columbian Exposition)

Tombstone of Wilhelmine Reitz (1853-1926), n.d. Source: Findagrave.com.

Tombstone of Wilhelmine Reitz (1853-1926), n.d. Source: Findagrave.com.

The first hurdle crossed, Chicago moved on to select a site, finally settling for Jackson Park in what was then a low-lying area some seven miles south of the Loop.  Daniel H. Burnham was chosen as the exposition’s director of works, and George R. Davis, his director-general.  The act of Congress that awarded the fair also stipulated that there would be a Board of Lady Managers that took part in governance and decision making.  A local woman, Wilhelmine Reitz, was a member.  (Wilhelmine was the daughter of lumber baron John Augustus Reitz.  Her home is now a museum at 112 Chestnut St.  This is her gravestone from St. Joseph Cemetery.) Many prominent architects and artists signed on to design the major buildings of the fair.

In designing the exhibits themselves, it was decided that the fair would exemplify no less than the story of civilization.  No small ambition, that!  Civilization would be depicted, on the high-brow side, through exhibitions of industrial prowess, agricultural production, and displays of fine art.  These exhibitions would be housed in magnificent Beaux-Arts buildings, all covered with plaster of Paris and painted white.  Thus the nickname of “the White City” was born.  Among the 14 major buildings were:

Administration                         Fisheries                                         Manufactures & Liberal Arts

Agricultural                               Forestry                                          Mines and Mining

Anthropology                            Horticultural Building                 Transportation

Electricity                                   Machinery Hall                             Woman’s Building

Columbian Expo

Map of the Columbian Exposition, n.d. Source: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/title.html

The construction of these buildings was a mammoth undertaking.  Before it could even begin the issue of a swampy location had to be addressed.  “The huge dredging and filling operation necessitated by this condition was begun on February 11, 1891, and resulted in a total cost of over $615,000. The unimproved area of Jackson Park, consisting of 469 acres of the total site, was leveled upward by six and a half feet and interspersed with waterways, while the demand of the South Park Commissioners that the black earth there must be initially removed and then replaced over the filling to preserve the ground for park purposes “required the handling of 400,000 cubic yards of earth twice.”” (Chicago’s white city of 1893, p. 83)  With this done by May, it was time to move on to the actual construction.  A special railroad spur had to be created just to bring materials to the site.  From May to early July, 36,407 train carloads of structural materials, fuel, and supplies were delivered.  The White City consumed and employed:

20,000 tons of steel/iron

70,000,000 feet of lumber

Thousands of tons of glass

12,000-14,000 workers during the last few months.

“The interest surrounding the construction of the Fair became so great–in large part due to the competition and controversy that went into the selection process–that Burnham decided to allow spectators into the Fair compound. Paying a fee of 25 cents to watch the progress of construction, over 3000 people visited per week.  Burnham and the Directory had plenty of opportunity to make this pre-Fair interest a profitable venture. With a total area of 633 acres (including 80 acres for the Midway Plaisance, an entertainment strip), 75 million board feet of lumber, 18,000 tons of iron and steel, 120,000 incandescent lights, 30,000 tons of staff [a type of artificial stone covering temporary buildings], 14 main buildings with total floor space of 63 million square feet, the construction process was slow. In fact, the enormity of the task at hand forced Burnham and the commission to push the opening day back from late 1892 to May, 1893.”  (The World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.  (University of Virginia, 1996.)

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In addition to the White City buildings, there were buildings/pavilions/exhibits from 43 U.S. states and territories, as well as at least 23 foreign countries.  Unlike the White City construction, these exhibits were not under any central control.  “Each state or foreign committee was responsible not only for the appropriation of funds for their building and exhibits, but for the design of the building as well. …The exhibits were as unique and widely varied as the structures that contained them.”  (The World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.  (University of Virginia, 1996.))  Besides the United States, there were exhibits from Japan, Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Brazil, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Spain, Norway, Russia, Belgium, and France.  There were smaller displays from to Jamaica, India, China, Mexico, Persia, the Argentine Republic, Ceylon, Korea, Monaco, Siam, Turkey, New South Wales, Bulgaria, and Portugal. (Chicago’s white city of 1893, p. 200)

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The Exposition was not just buildings, however.  America’s foremost landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead (he designed Central Park), utilized the location’s features to design a series of waterways, basins, and grand walkways.  There was a Grand Basin, a lagoon, and a Wooded Island.  These features were used for transportation, beauty, and for recreation.

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If the White City was “high brow,” then the “low-brow” side, if you will, was the Midway Plaisance.  “The Midway Plaisance was an avenue 600 feet wide and a mile in length which connected Jackson Park with Washington Park; it lay between Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth streets and extended westward from a point directly behind the Woman’s Building. Its features were privately sponsored, though they constituted a sanctioned part of the exposition. The character of the Midway was distinctly exotic, polyglot, cosmopolitan, festal. Regardless of the weather, the Midway was always crowded. It was “a side show pure and simple. But side shows are interesting, and to many hundreds of thousands of people who have not been afforded the opportunity of seeing how other hundreds of thousands live, the Midway plaisance is amusing, interesting and instructive.”” (Chicago’s white city of 1893, p. 216)  The Midway was the site of the giant Ferris wheel, also.  The Midway Plaisance will be the source of next week’s blog entry.

Everything about the fair was over the top, larger than life.  Another blog entry will highlight some of its superlatives and oddities.  But above all, the fair was a success.  “The World’s Columbian Exposition was financially immensely successful. By October, attendance had reached over 6.8 million paid visitors–doubling August’s 3.5 million. Chicago Day (October 9) alone saw 716,881 Fairgoers entering the White City. The concession stands brought in over $4 million, the Ferris Wheel turned a profit, and when all the calculations were complete, the Exposition itself more than broke even, with a $1 million surplus to be returned to its 30,000 stockholders.” (The World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.  (University of Virginia, 1996.)

Center of the Exposition grounds, 1893. Source: The Banner's Portfolio of Photographs

Center of the Exposition grounds, 1893. Source: The Banner’s Portfolio of Photographs.

The fair ended successfully, although with some sadness.  “The fair came to a close amid mourning, rather than the scheduled speeches and parties. On the evening of Oct. 28, two days before the fair’s final day, Mayor Carter Harrison was assassinated in his Near West Side home by a 25-year-old job-seeker. Four months later, fire destroyed or damaged six fair buildings and their still-valuable exhibits. Another fire occurred in February, and then in July 1894, a final conflagration leveled nearly all of the remaining structures.” (Reardon, Patrick T. “The World’s Columbian Exposition at the ‘White City’.” Chicago Tribune, n.d.)

Despite the fires and death, the World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893 did leave a lasting legacy.

The Palace of Fine Arts, reconstructed, now houses the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Field Museum opened in the Palace of Fine Arts in 1894 and operated there until it moved to its current building in the 1920’s.

Art building, 1893. Source: Shepp's World's Fair Photographed, p. 293.

Art building, 1893. Source: Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, p. 293.

“Over 50,000 objects on display at the fair became part of the Anthropology collections of the Field Columbian Museum, later renamed The Field Museum. The founding collections of the Museum came mainly from three of the fair’s main buildings–the Anthropology Building, the Horticulture Building, and the Mines, Mineralogy, and Metallurgy Building–as well as from the cultural villages displayed in the fair grounds and Midway.”  (Field Museum—Fun Facts about the World’s Columbian Exposition.)

Other fair exhibits ended up in the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.

The Art Institute of Chicago predates the fair, but it did not move into its permanent location until 1893, in what was the World’s Congress Auxiliary.  The two lions that guard its entrance today came from the entrance to the Palace of Fine Arts.

The celebration of Columbus Day as a national holiday grew out of the popularity of the fair.

Shredded Wheat, Cracker Jacks, diet carbonated soda, Aunt Jemina syrup/pancake mixes, and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum all debuted at the fair.

Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum, 2017. Source: Wikimedia.org/

Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum, 2017. Source: Wikimedia.org/

The Emerald City in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is said to have been inspired by the White City.

Book cover of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz

Book cover of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz

Even though all this transpired 125 years ago, it still holds fascination and meaning for us today.  Be sure to check out next week’s blog on the splendors (and horrors) of the Midway Plaisance.

Resources Consulted:

1893 World’s Columbian Expo—Admission Tickets

1893 World’s Columbian Expo—Ride & Attraction Tickets

Atlas Obscura–Your Ticket to the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Ballard, Barbara J.  “A People Without a Nation.” Chicago History, Summer 1999, p. 27-43

Burg, David F. Chicago’s white city of 1893. (e-book, accessible only on campus or to registered USI users)

Chicago Architecture Foundation.  World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Cole, Josh. “Cultural and Racial Stereotypes on the Midway.” Historia, v. 16 (2007), p. 12-32.

Encyclopedia of Chicago–World’s Columbian Exposition.

Field Museum—Fun Facts about the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The Gilded Age—PBS American Experience webpage.

Larson, Erik.  The devil in the white city: murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America.  General Collection  HV6248.M8 L37 2004   also HV6248.M8 L37 2003

Lewis, Russell L.  “A Wheel with a View.”  Online exhibit from the Chicago Historical Society.

Maranzani, Barbara.  “Chicago Was Home to a Serial Killer During the 1893 World’s Fair.”  History Channel online, May 3, 2013.

McNichol, Susan.  The Story of the Mammoth Cheese.  Perth (Ontario, Canada) Museum.

MSS 264, the Thomas Mueller collection. Thomas Mueller was a self-employed photographer in Evansville, Indiana. He worked for the Evansville Courier and Press newspaper until 1945.  This collection is available online from University Archives and Special Collections.

Novak, Matt. Where the Future Came From: A Trip Through the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  Gizmodo.

Ramsey, John G. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and Victorian America: A Humanities Time Capsule©.  Carleton College.

Reardon, Patrick T. “The World’s Columbian Exposition at the ‘White City’.” Chicago Tribune, n.d.

Shepp, Daniel B.  Shepp’s World’s fair photographed.  Chicago, Philadelphia, Globe Bible Publishing Co. [c1893].  Located in University Archives and Special Collections’ oversize collection, T500.C1 S54.

Vazakas, Sue.  Let’s Talk About Chocolate.  Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries Blog July 18, 2011

The World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.  (University of Virginia, 1996.)

 

Posted in American history, Architecture, history | Leave a comment

Labor Day Plans?

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

School has been in session now almost two weeks and you need a break—one last goodbye to summer before saying hello to serious studying!  Let us look at a recreational activity chosen by many back in 1972.

Two young and inexperienced promotors had been promoting the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival for Labor Day weekend.  They promised a star-studded line-up that included Black Sabbath, The Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Ravi Shankar, The Eagles, and even Cheech and Chong.  It was going to be “bigger than Woodstock.”

One big problem arose—where were they going to hold this festival?  Over 8,000 tickets had already been sold, and there was no venue.  The original location was to be the Chandler Raceway Park, now called Chandler Motor Speedway.  Local officials, however, concerned about security, water, sanitation, traffic, etc. in dealing with the 60,000 expected attendees, got a restraining order in Warrick County Circuit Court.  Evansville and Vanderburgh County, Posey, Gibson, and Pike Counties all followed suit.  Not in MY backyard!!

WLS Radio in Chicago got wind of the festival and began to talk about it on air a lot.  With a signal that reached all the way to New Orleans, news of the festival spread quickly and widely.  With avid fans arriving in the area a week ahead of time, it was clear that some location had to be found or a riot would ensue.  At the last minute (literally—this transpired August 31 and the three day Labor Day weekend began September 2) a location was found—the festival was going to be held at Bull Island.  The festival quickly became known by this name.

Bull Island is not really an island.  It is a peninsula that juts out into the Wabash River—really just a swampy area of farmland.  Even though it is on the east side of the Wabash River, the small town of Carmi, Ill. has legal jurisdiction. Here is Bull Island before the festival.

Future site of Bull Island music festival before the event, 1972. Source: Sonny Brown collection, MSS 228-0002.

Future site of Bull Island music festival before the event, 1972. Source: Sonny Brown collection, MSS 228-0002.

It is only accessible from Indiana.  And only via 2 roads. Chaos ensued. People left their cars alongside the road and hiked the rest of the way.

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Sex, drugs, and rock and roll was the order of the day. So was pandemonium. Crowds far exceeded expectations, rising to as many as 300,000.

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Security was completely inadequate, with only three deputy sheriffs on duty, although later the Indiana State Police were called in to keep order and help with injuries or overdoses.  Sanitation was non-existent—the Wabash River became a giant bathtub.  A torrential downpour did nothing to improve the situation.

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Many of the promised bands did not show up.  Ravi Shankar was there, and Cheech and Chong came in on a helicopter during the rain, played for 15 minutes, and then left. Food was inadequate, and when it began to run low, there were tales of price gouging.  A riot ensued, and one of the few catering trucks was destroyed.  The stage was torched.  Garbage was everywhere.   “It would be months before Bull Island was cleaned up. “This 900-acre ‘island,’ although not completely evacuated,” one news report said, “looked like a sanitary landfill … Piles of trash covered hundreds of acres, and the smell of campfires, burning garbage, marijuana and human waste permeated the area.””

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When all was said and done, the promoters faced lawsuits for many years to come, there were two deaths (a drowning and an overdose), and very little music was heard.  Festival goers were disenchanted—this was a far cry from the “peace and love” found at Woodstock.

May your Labor Day plans be far better!  Enjoy, and come back ready for a good fall semester.

Resources consulted:

Sonny Brown photographic collection, MSS 228.  Everett “Sonny” Brown (1932-2015) was a photographer for the Evansville Courier and Press.

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Chamberlain, Patrick.  “Was 1972’s Bull Island the Worst Festival in History?”  Everfest magazine online, August 12, 2015.

Hayden. Maureen and Jessica Levco.  “Bull Island.”  Evansville Living Magazine online, July/August 2008.

Khawaja, Jemayel.  “How Hippies Put on the Worst Music Festival in History.”  The Daily Dose online, October 16, 2017.

Mcdevitt, Sean.  “Woodstock on the Wabash: The Bull Island rockfest, 40 years later.”  September 2, 2012 Evansville Courier and Press online.

Posted in history, Local history, music, rock music | 1 Comment

Recycling … It’s not what you think

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Recycling is a hot topic today–there’s a lot of concern about our air, our water, our atmosphere, even Earth itself.  If you live within the city of Evansville, every other week curbside recycling pick-up is part of your water and sewer utility bill. USI promotes it—surely you’ve seen a blue “We Recycle” bin in an office or public area.

Paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum are not the only things that can be recycled, however.  Ever thought about a building being recycled? Does a building have to be torn do when its original tenant leaves? Could it be used for a new purpose? Granted, it can be financially challenging to retrofit an old building for today’s needs, but it’s not impossible. Evansville’s Greyhound bus station is a stellar example of what can happen when there’s a will to find a way.

Located at the corner of NW 3rd St. and Sycamore St., this Art Deco beauty was built 1938-1939.

RH 033-214

Greyhound bus terminal in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1960. Source: Regional Postcards collection, RH 033-214.

The 1930s were the heyday of bus travel. America was still struggling with the Depression, so money for travel, if it existed at all, was tight. In 1939 the average car cost $700.00; before you think, “what a great deal!,” consider that the average yearly income was only $1,730.00.  Roads were not that great, either—the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which kick-started our interstate highway system, was not passed until 1956. The average Joe, if he traveled from Evansville at all, may have started off here.

Vendome Hotel (center) and the Greyhound Bus Station (right) at NW Third Street and Sycamore Street in Evansville, Indiana, 1946. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264-0454.

Vendome Hotel (center) and the Greyhound Bus Station (right) at NW Third Street and Sycamore Street in Evansville, Indiana, 1946. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264-0454.

Take a closer look at this picture and notice the taxis lined up outside the station to take passengers to their final Evansville destination. Note that overnight guests could stay at the Vendome Hotel, just across the street.

Times change, and so do travel needs. More and more people purchased cars, roads improved, and airlines became more popular. People began to travel more, but they either transported themselves or they flew. Greyhound had 4,750 stations prior to WWII; today its website site gives the number as 230 “branded” stations, with other partner stops and curbside service. Circa 2007 Evansville closed its Greyhound station (little used for some time before that) and moved Greyhound operations to its city bus terminal.  The city gave the building to Indiana Landmarks in 2013.

After repair and restoration, including the re-lighting of the iconic running Greyhound atop the neon sign, Evansville’s 1930’s era Greyhound station was recycled into a restaurant. Bru Burger Bar opened in 2016, giving new life and purpose to a beloved building.  (Photo below courtesy of Indiana Landmarks.)

Entrance of Bru Burger restaurant, formerly the Greyhound Bus Station, n.d. Source: Indianalandmarks.org

Entrance of Bru Burger restaurant, formerly the Greyhound Bus Station, n.d. Source: Indianalandmarks.org

Resources consulted:

Indiana Landmarks: From Greyhound Station to Restaurant

The People History 1930s

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  America by Air.

Vault Guide to the Top Transportation Industry Employers.  Vault, 2006.  Available online

Posted in Architecture, Evansville, Indiana, Local history | Leave a comment

USI Building Names: Why Do They Call It That?

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

As you arrive on campus and start to go to classes, you’ll soon learn that some buildings have specific names.  The same thing is true about most of the academic colleges.  Where did these names come from?  Who are these people?  Let’s take a brief look.

Dr. David L. Rice walking in front of the construction of the Science Center, 1969. Source: University Archives and Special Collection (UP 00484)

Dr. David L. Rice walking in front of the construction of the Science Center, 1969. Source: University Archives & Special Collection (UP 00484).

Since this is a library blog, we’ll start with the David L. Rice Library.  Dr. Rice was appointed dean of this campus, then called Indiana State University Evansville (ISUE) in 1967, two years after its founding.  In 1971 he became its president, serving in that capacity until 1994.  “During his tenure, enrollment grew to over 7,400 on a master-planned campus with 1,400 acres. Dr. Rice oversaw the expansion of curricula from limited two-year degree programs to a comprehensive range of baccalaureate and master’s degree programs, as well as many cooperative programs with other universities.”  In addition to building the university, Dr. Rice also saw its establishment as a separate state university, USI, in 1985.

Robert H. Pott, the namesake of Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education, holding a cigar in his right hand, n.d. Source: USI.edu

Robert H. Pott, the namesake of Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education, n.d. Source: USI.edu/

Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education:  Robert H. Pott (1890-1964) was born in Sheboygan, WI, and moved here with his wife in the 1920s to become plant superintendent for Vulcan Plow Works. Pott was largely self-educated, but he always maintained a love for learning and for all things scientific and technical.  “In 1963, the Potts established the Robert H. and Elaine H. Pott Foundation to benefit educational institutions with engineering programs in Indiana and Wisconsin. He died in 1964 and she died in 1974.  In 1998, during Campaign USI, Pott Foundation committee members in cooperation with Fifth Third Bank contributed $2 million toward the development of the College of Science and Engineering. At that time, the gift was the largest in USI Foundation history. In recognition of this generous gift, the college bears the Pott name. Income from the endowment provides funds for student scholarships, the purchase of scientific equipment, and professional development and educational support of students and faculty in the Pott College of Science and Engineering. The Pott Foundation also supports the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair, hosted by the Pott College since 2007.”

"The Vulcan Plow Co.'s plant, Evansville, Ind." at 101 1st St., formerly 101-27 Lower 1st St. The City Foundry was formed by William Heilman and his brother in-law, Christian Katz, in 1847, with the name changed to Vulcan Plow Works after the death of Heilman in 1890. This building was razed in 1957 with only a small portion in the rear remaining. The statue of Vulcan seen atop the front corner is now housed at the Evansville Museum.", n.d. Source: University Archives and Special Collections (RH 033-034)

Postcard of the Vulcan Plow Company’s plant was located at 101 1st Street. This building was razed in 1957 with only a small portion in the rear remaining, n.d. Source: University Archives and Special Collections (RH 033-034).

This postcard depicts the company that brought the Potts to Evansville—Vulcan Plow.  Although the factory is long gone, that statue of Vulcan atop the corner can be found at the Evansville Museum.

Photograph of Connie and Ronald Romain, the namesake of the Romain College of Business, at USI, n.d. Source: USI.edu

Photograph of Connie and Ronald Romain, the namesake of the Romain College of Business, n.d. Source: USI.edu/

Romain College of Business: Ron and Connie Romain have long been friends of the university.  They both are USI graduates, and his degree in marketing helped him become the owner, president, and chief executive officer of United Companies which is comprised of Professional Transportation, Inc., the Romain Automotive Group, and United Leasing, Inc.  Naming the college for them “recognizes the Romains for their lifetime of dedication to and involvement with the Evansville community, the University, as well as a generous $5 million leadership gift to Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence. Ron serves as chair of the campaign, and the couple was deeply involved with USI’s first capital campaign in 1995. Ron also has been a member of the USI Board of Trustees since 2008 and is a life director of the USI Foundation.”

Oil on canvas portrait of former governor, Robert D. Orr, drawn by Lucian Lupinski, n.d. Source: in.gov/governorhistory/

Portrait of former governor, Robert D. Orr, drawn by Lucian Lupinski, n.d. Source: in.gov/governorhistory/

 

 

Robert D. Orr Center: The Orr Center (OC) is a classroom and office building housing many of the student services departments. It was named for former Indiana Governor Robert D. Orr (1917-2004), who was governor of the state 1981-1988, during which time USI gained its independence.  Although not born here, Orr grew up in Evansville—the site of the family business, the Orr Iron Company.

 

 

 

Housing:

Joseph O'Daniel

Joseph O’Daniel (left) is the namesake of the O’Daniel apartments with his wife, Marie (right), n.d. Source: Faces of Philanthropy, Vol. 1 (2008).

O’Daniel Apartments: Joseph E. O’Daniel  (1912-2001) was the founder of D. Patrick automotive business and a long-time friend and supporter of USI.  He was instrumental in acquiring land for the university. “In 1967, Southern Indiana Higher Education, Inc., (SIHE) raised nearly $1 million to acquire 1,400 acres for the Mid-America University Center. Groundbreaking was held June 22, 1968. Since September 1969, the University has occupied 330 acres, mostly donated by SIHE. On April 16, 1985, legislation was signed which made USI a separate state university. All legal matters were effective July 1, 1985. On June 30, 2008, SIHE transferred ownership of over 900 acres of land and remaining assets to the USI Foundation.”   SIHE also provided funding for the first housing on campus.  O’Daniel was a past president of the USI Board of Trustees.

 

Frank F. McDonald, Sr. (right) was an early supporter of USI and former Evansville mayor, n.d. Source: Faces of Philanthropy (p. i, Vol. 1, 2008).

Frank F. McDonald, Sr. (right) was an early supporter of USI and former Evansville mayor, n.d. Source: Faces of Philanthropy (p. i, Vol. 1, 2008).

McDonald Apartments   Frank F. McDonald (1912-1997) was the mayor of Evansville 1960-1972.  “In the fall of 1968, Dr. David L. Rice, president emeritus of the University of Southern Indiana, and Byron C. Wright, vice president emeritus for Business Affairs and Treasurer, met with Mayor Frank F. McDonald Sr. in his office in downtown Evansville. Mayor McDonald was an avid supporter of the young campus and had a profound conviction that the University would be a tremendous benefit for the City of Evansville and the State of Indiana. He often referred to it as “an industry without a smokestack.”  The mayor’s support was key to the University’s success and Dr. Rice and Mr. Wright visited regularly with him to discuss issues affecting higher education on the Evansville campus. At the end of this particular meeting, Mayor McDonald said, “You will need private gifts to help make that place a success. Folks around here will not want to send their hard-earned money out of town, so I suggest you establish a foundation to benefit our University.” He then opened his wallet and pulled out two $100 bills. “Here is $100 from me and $100 from my wife to begin that foundation.””

O’Bannon Residence Hall: Frank O’Bannon (1930-2003) was governor of Indiana 1997-2003.

Portrait of Frank O'Bannon, former governor of Indiana, created by Michael Allan Chelich, n.d. Source: in.gov/governorhistory

Portrait of Frank O’Bannon, former governor of Indiana, created by Michael Allan Chelich, n.d. Source: in.gov/governorhistory/

Newman Residence Hall   Fred C. Newman (1905-1998) was a former president of Old National Bank and one of the first to endow a Presidential Scholarship for the university.

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Ruston Residence Hall   Henry W. Ruston (1921-2005) was a fervent supporter of the university.  He was a life member of the board of trustees, and at the time of his death in 2005, he was the largest single benefactor in the history of the university.

Henry Ruston, longtime supporter of USI and namesake of Ruston Hall, n.d. Source: Faces of Philanthropy (p. 63, Vol. 1, 2008).

Henry Ruston, longtime supporter of USI and namesake of Ruston Hall, n.d. Source: Faces of Philanthropy (p. 63, Vol. 1, 2008).

Hopefully, knowing a bit more about USI will help you appreciate and enjoy your college experience even more.  Good luck with this semester, and don’t forget the library for help with all your research needs.

Resources Consulted:

Browning Obituary Index

Indiana Governor History

USI website: Former USI Presidents.

USI website: Housing and Residence Life…About Us.

USI website: Pott College…Pott College Name.

USI website: Romain College…College of Business Gives Name to Romain Legacy.

USI website: USI Foundation….Faces of Philanthropy: Generous Friends of Vision, v.1:2008.

USI website: USI Foundation….USI Foundation History.

Posted in history, Indiana history, USI | Leave a comment