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World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

previous: New York, Columbus Celebration 1892   EJ Phillips was playing in Lady Windermere's Fan in Chicago in 1893 and had a few days to visit the Fair

The World's Columbian Exposition, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing in America, was actually held in 1893, a year later than had been planned. New York City, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, and Chicago had all wanted to host the fair and the loud and lively competition occurred. ...  It took three years of preparation and hard work to produce the Exposition. Although dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892, the fair grounds were not opened to the public until May 1, 1893. The Exposition closed on October 30, 1893. World's Columbian Exposition, Just the Arti-Facts, Chicago Historical Society, 1998  http://www.chicagohs.org/history/expo.html

John Spencer, husband of Barbie Dolman Spencer also attended the Exposition and saved his pass. Issued to John Spencer, Press Advocate, Chester Penn, Publicity & Promotion Dept.
. Not Transferable This pass good only for one daily admission.  Holder will obtain pass check on leaving the grounds to return.

White City    Midway Plaisance

Midway Plaisance Park The Midway Plaisance is a magnificent linear stretch of parkland between Jackson and Washington parks. All three sites were originally conceived as a single landscape known as South Park. Soon after the Illinois Legislature established the South Park Commission in 1869 to create and maintain the park, the newly-appointed commissioners hired Olmsted & Vaux, the nationally renowned designers of New York’s Central Park, to lay out the 1055-acre park. Concerned about the flat and marshy conditions of the unimproved site, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. asserted that, “If a search had been made for the least park-like ground within miles of the city, nothing better meeting the requirement could have been found.” He believed, however, that the site possessed one important asset— its relationship with Lake Michigan. Interpreting the lake as a tremendous object of sublime scenery, Olmsted & Vaux used water as the guiding theme for the park’s original plan of 1871.....

Two decades later, Jackson Park was selected as the site for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and Olmsted worked closely with architect Daniel H. Burnham to transform the largely unfinished grounds into the “White City.” The fair authorities decided to use the Midway Plaisance as the site of amusements, restaurants, foreign villages, and ethnological exhibits. These attractions were allowed to charge extra, and helped the fair become a financial success. The most iconic attraction on the Midway was the world’s first Ferris wheel. Standing to a height of 264-feet, it had thirty-six cars, each with a capacity of sixty people. The twenty-minute ride made two revolutions and cost fifty cents per customer (which was the same cost as a full day admission price for the fair.)

More than twenty million people had visited the fair during the sixth month period in which it was open in 1893.After it closed, the South Park Commissioners hired Olmsted’s firm, then known as Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot, to transform the fairgrounds back into parkland. Emphasizing the great success of the electric launches, gondolas, and other types of boats at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Olmsted recommended that his vision for a canal through the Midway Plaisance canal should be considered. The commissioners instructed Olmsted to create a revised plan for the canal, and asked him to estimate the expense of the project including the cost of gondolas. They formally adopted Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot’s plan for the Midway Plaisance with the canal in 1894. http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/Midway-Plaisance-Park/

Maps https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4104c.ct002834/ Birdseye view: https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4104c.pm001522/

A fire in July 1894 destroyed almost all of the buildings, which had been planned to be temporary. The Palace of Fine Arts is now the Museum of Science and Industry, in a different location http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_Museum_of_Natural_History    

Justin Martin's 2011 Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted tells how to get a sense of Olmsted's design "Jackson Park: Stand on the Clarence Darrow Bridge. During the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the Brazilian Bridge occupied this same site. The big building you see: That was once the Palace of Fine arts. It's the only large structure from the White City that remains. Today, it's the Museum of Science and Industry. The water flowing under the bridge: It is one of the languid waterways Olmsted designed for the fair. Continue over the bridge onto the Wooded Island, a natural looking place that Olmsted built out with dredged lakeshore muck. It was intended to provide a respite from the bustle of the fair. Enjouy a stroll on the Wooded Island, which remains a calm spot in hectic modern Chicago."

The World Congress Auxiliary Building  is now the Art Institute http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Institute_of_Chicago_Building (much expanded). 

The Maine State Building was moved to Poland Spring Maine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_State_Building

The Norway Pavilion moved to Blue Mounds Wisconsin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Norway,_Wisconsin 
  The Dutch House is now at 20 Netherlands Rd, Brookline MA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dutch_House

Souvenir Map World Columbian Exposition

Sherman House
J Irving Pearce
Chicago, Oct 19th 1893

My dear daughter Neppie,
On Saturday is what they call Manhattan Day [Oct. 21] at the Fair and a great many are expected from NY City & State.  The papers think fully 5000 will come, so perhaps Albert will make one of them.  There are a great many strangers now in town - every street is crowded - they are coming and going all the time and the number of Express wagons loaded with trunks going to & fro from hotels and Depots is astonishing.  I only took a little look at a few of the State buildings on Tuesday.  Did not get into the interesting part of the grounds.  Kept that for another day.  Would like all my children to be with me, then I might enjoy it. 
Dr. & Mrs. Nagle are here and came to see me at the back door afterwards, but I had left the theatre.  They are stopping at 54 East 34th Street  - quite a distance from here and about half way to the Fair grounds.
Hattie was still waiting for the arrival of the little stranger.  She did not expect to wait so long.  I am glad I had the pleasure of visiting the Homestead before it passes into the hands of strangers.  I enjoyed that day so thoroughly that I have the whole landscape before me. 

I believe we are to remain here three weeks and perhaps longer.  We have very strong attractions against us but so far we have done very well.  The theatre we play in is called the Schiller.  It is a new theatre and very comfortable in regard to dressing rooms &c.  With love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Ted and your dear little self I remain your loving  Mother   E.J. Nickinson

State Buildings at the 1893 Columbian Exposition https://chicagology.com/columbiaexpo/state001/   State buildings at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 were utilized to show off the major resources of each state. Promotion of resources at the Fair was intended to create new channels of trade and display goods to new potential markets. Sometimes, even the structures of the buildings themselves were giant advertisements for a state’s major resources. 

Special days at the Columbian Exposition http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/days.html

J. Irving Pearce
Chicago  Octr 28th 1893

My dear Son,
I had looked daily for your arrival, and not hearing from you feared you had started and something had happened to you.  I have not enjoyed a pleasant state of mind, but duty is duty and business is business, and you were right not to come when you could not do so without inconvenience to others.  But you might have written, if only one line to let me know you had heard from me.
I am sorry you could not have taken advantage of so low a rate of fare to and from Chicago, not on account of the World's Fair but to see the City itself.  But as you say, it is over now.  I see by the papers that the last Erie Excursion train left N.Y. on the 25th.  On Monday the Fair closes, and by the end of the week all the buildings will be empty.
I have been twice.  The day after I arrived, and last Monday Mrs. Fay, Kittie and I spent about four hours there.  Mrs. Fay was disappointed that you did not come.  I do not think the arrival of Frank would have pleased her more.  He, by the way, was to have come, but was taken sick, and could not avail himself of the employee excursion train.  Mrs. Fay has not seen him since he came to New York.  Must be seven years.  She said five, but it is more than that. 

We play here next week, 6th Milwaukee, 13th Detroit, 20th Cleveland, 27th Cincinnati, Decr 4th St Louis.  Love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Ted and Neppie from their loving Mother

Thursday Novr 2nd/93
Chicago, Ill.

My dear daughter Neppie,
Tuesday I paid my final visit to the Fair, making my third visit there and yet I cannot say I have seen a quarter of what it contained.  Yesterday I had to watch the great gathering of the people at the City Hall, which is just opposite this hotel, to pay their last tribute of respect for their late Mayor Carter Harrison who was so suddenly killed last Saturday.  I never saw so many people & carriages together, the largest funeral I ever saw.  In the Afternoon I had a Matinee.
[This letter] would have been longer but that a lady took me into the parlor as I came out from lunch to tell me how much she admired me last night, and how beautiful my dresses were.  Kept me two hours talking.  I have the Palmer Co playing at Hooleys and have met many of my old companions.  Love and Kisses dear to my 3 darling children Albert, Ted and Neppie from their loving Mother

Mayor Carter Harrison was shot at his house (after spending the day at the Fair with mayors from other cities) by a disappointed office-seeker.  Harrison had been active in organizing the Fair and was to have been married (for the third time) the week after he was shot, to Miss Howard of Biloxi.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter_Harrison_Sr http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-history-cop/2015/10/the-murder-of-the-white-city-mayor-carter-harrison-by-patrick-eugene-prendergast/

Rooms single or en suite
$1.00 upwards
European plan
Absolutely fireproof
Milwaukee, Novr 8th 1893 

My dear daughter Neppie,
I left Chicago on Sunday 3 PM and arrived here at 5:15 PM.  Wish all my railroad trips could be so short.  I am comfortably located in the above hotel and it is adjoining the theatre. Everything is new, clean and elegant.  Consequently I regret we remain here only one week.
Have you heard that Nellie [Law]'s new baby is to be named Harriet Nickinson?  If not, I have the pleasure of informing you of the fact.  Such is the decision of Mr. & Mrs. Law.  It was quite a surprise to Hattie but she says she feels highly honored and pleased.  And I suppose will take upon her the responsibilities of GodMother.  Nellie is getting along splendidly.  Is down in the kitchen attending to cooking and dishwashing.  Mrs. Robinson, her nurse, was with her three weeks.  Left her on Monday.  Mrs. Law, Will's Mother, is with her though. 
I do not know how my affairs are going to turn out.  The Palmer Co open in San F'co on Xmas day and my name is on the list and has been rumoured in the papers as going with them, but so far nothing has been said to me by either [AM] Palmer or [Charles] Frohman about the matter.  If they do want me, I shall kick considerably against going, for the Company is to play new plays almost every week for three months which means daily rehearsals, eight performances and getting dresses ready for each new play.  I do not think my strength would hold out and there certainly would not be any money in it for me at present salary.  If they are willing to double my salary then I may accept, if asked!
We go to St Louis the week beginning Decr 4th.  The week following I do not know yet what becomes of us  yet!  Week before Xmas I hear we close.  Xmas week we are either in Washington or Baltimore and New Years day open in Philadelphia for two or more weeks at Broad St theatre.  This is supposed to be the route of this Co but it appears Messrs Frohman and Palmer engage people and pass them to each other as they see proper without asking "by your leave" of the actor.  The Actor's life is not now a happy one.
I did not see a great deal of the Fair.  I was not well enough to risk overtiring myself for my nightly work.  To have thoroughly seen the Fair and all the exhibits would require a daily attendance for a month or six weeks.  It was truly wonderful and beautiful, but I did not see one third of it.  I think its only fault was being on too gigantic a scale.  The residents of Chicago were tired of the tumult it caused and were glad to see it close.  Unfortunately the hand of a crank gave it a very sad ending in the death of Carter Harrison.   With love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Edward & Neppie I remain their loving Mother

X A great big Kiss right under that X for Ted from Grandma Nickins.  Enclosed find balance of birthday gift in envelope.             

next: Detroit, Nov 1893

St. Louis Dec 1893 Ted's ring is called the Isabella ring.  They were very popular at the [Columbian Exposition] Fair as souvenirs.  When Ted is old enough he can wear it on his watch chain.  Love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Edward and Neppie from their loving Mother

The Columbian Exposition included an Electric Building. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_Columbian_Exposition#Electricity_at_the_fair
Electricity at the Fair and the Opening Ceremony http://www.teslasociety.com/columbia_expo2.htm 

Isabella ring
This sterling silver ring and bracelet set is among the most exemplary souvenirs from the World's Columbian Exposition 1893 that we have encountered. The two pieces are part of a small number of souvenirs created by the Gorham (Silver) Manufacturing Company commemorate the Exposition. The paperwork included with the ring translates the inscription on the jewelry. It reads as follows: "The Isabella Ring - This token is intended to recall in after years the World's Columbian Exposition, and also to suggest the occasion of its celebration; carrying the mind back through the centuries both to the great Discoverer and to his sovereign patroness, Isabella of Castile, known in history as "The Catholic," by whose noble faith and help the marvelous discovery of a world was made possible, and the names Isabella and Columbus immortal. Online Antiques Mall http://www.the-forum.com/collect/93isabel.htm

Food http://www.foodtimeline.org/restaurants.html#1893
"The great restaurant concession of the fair is held by A.S. Gage in the name of the Wellington Catering company and covers 137,800 square feet of floor space. It also embraces privileges in all the buildings erected by the World's Columbian Exposition, sixteen in number, as well as a supply depot to be erected by the company. The concession provides for three classes of eating places. The first will include the finest restaurants, with service equal in excellence to that maintained in any hotel in this city. The second grade will be on an equality with the style of caravansary known as the popular restaurant, while the third takes in lunch-counters and the buffet system, where cold meats sandwiches, hot coffee, pies, and cakes will be served. This class will be operated in the building where the odors of a kitchen cannot be permitted to float around promiscuously among the exhibits and sightseers. These counters and buffets, whowever, says Mr. Gage, will be as fine and supplied with just as good food as can be found anywhere. The total space involved in this concession will be allotted to the different classes in these proportions: To the first 20 per cent, the second 40 per cent, and the third 40 per cent. These eating capacity at tables throughout the different buildings is estimated at 12,000 and the lunch counters aggregating 7,500 feet, or one and one-half miles in length, 4,000 person may dine at one time. On the supposition that this capacity can be changed five-times--and that is a low calculation--the Wellington will feed 80,000 people a day. This number may be increased to 100,000 a day. The company will not only adopt its own standard, such as prevails now in the Wellington Hotel cafes down-town, but proposes to serve the best of wholesome food at each and every one of its places...In the general supply estimate something like fifty head of good-sized bullocks that will dress out 30,000 pounds of beef a day, with two and a half tons of ham for sandwiches, will cover the meat demand. Sixty barrels of flour a day will be consumed in bread, pies, and cakes, with potatoes and other vegetables of all kinds in proportion. The quantity of milk that will be consumed is beyond the limit of advance figures. The very finest restaurant to be conducted by this company will be located in the Administration building, and it is understood it will be the best place on the grounds."  ---"Catering Company's Plans: Extent of the Eating Houses and the Supplies Which Will be Needed," Chicago Daily Tribune, February 18, 1893 (p. 9)  

If you want to recreate an authentic period dinner, we suggest you start by examining the recipes offered in Favorite Dishes: A Columbian Autograph Souvenir Cookery Book, compiled by Carrie V. Schuman. This book is a collection of recipes of Chicago's "leading ladies" in the early 1890s. The edition recently reprinted by the University Of Illinois Press (2001) contains scholarly essays on both the fair and the book.

If you want to feature some popular foods introduced at the Exposition this book suggests: "Cracker Jack, Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Gum. Prominent, too, were Aunt Jemima (with Nancy Green playing the eponymous cook) and the H.J. Heinz Company's Sour Spiced Gherkins. It is said that a million visitors flocked to Heinz's display, where they were given small "pickle pins." Conserves and pickles were serious components of the American diet. Foods like these were industrial products made for mass consumption. While some, such as Heinz pickles, were hand packed, foods were becoming entirely industrialized, raised with farming machinery and artificial fertilizers and cooked and packed in factories." (p. xl)"

Columbian Exposition webpages include
Encyclopedia of Chicago, World's Columbian Exposition http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1386.html
Favorite Dishes,
A Columbian Autograph Souvenir Cookery Book. Over Three Hundred Autograph Recipes, and Twenty-three Portraits, Contributed By The Board Of Lady Managers Of The World's Columbian Exposition. Illustrated By May Root-Kern, Mellie Julian Ingels, Louis Braunhold, George Wharton Edwards. Comp. By Carrie V. Shuman...  Chicago [R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Printers] 1893 http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/books/favoritedishes/favd.pdf
Illinois Institute of Technology World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 
Kathryn Kuenzel, Scenes from the 1893 World's Fair http://washingtonmo.com/1893/index2.htm
Larson, Erik Devil in the White City 2003 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_in_the_White_City
Martin, Justin, Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmstead: Abolitionist, Conservationist and Designer of central Park, Cambridge, Da Capo Books, 2011  Olmstead's landscape -- and boat -- designs for the Columbian Exposition are described in the chapter "A White City Dreamscape" https://www.amazon.com/Genius-Place-Frederick-Olmsted-Lawrence/dp/0306821486
Julie Rose, The World's Columbian Exposition, Idea, Experience, Aftermath http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA96/WCE/title.html
Sabin, Pat Columbian Exposition Postcards
State Buildings at the 1893 Columbian Exposition http://www.rebeccaedwards.org/statephotos.html

Last updated August 25,  2020

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