Celebrating the New World: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893

Overview

It was the most astonishing fair ever. "The grandest exposition this planet has ever witnessed," wrote one observer of the Columbian Exposition. A spectacular neoclassical "White City" designed by the nation's leading architects under the direction of Daniel Burnham; innumerable exhibits of science, technology, and the arts from throughout the world; a meeting place for a remarkable variety of social, intellectual, and religious groups; and a Midway of sometimes up-lifting, sometimes exotic attractions - all ...
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Overview

It was the most astonishing fair ever. "The grandest exposition this planet has ever witnessed," wrote one observer of the Columbian Exposition. A spectacular neoclassical "White City" designed by the nation's leading architects under the direction of Daniel Burnham; innumerable exhibits of science, technology, and the arts from throughout the world; a meeting place for a remarkable variety of social, intellectual, and religious groups; and a Midway of sometimes up-lifting, sometimes exotic attractions - all staged in that boisterous and fascinating city of wealth, culture, and corruption, Chicago. No fair since has so captured the imagination of the American people - indeed, people throughout the world. More than 27 million visitors (an extraordinary figure for 1893) came to see the great Chicago World's Fair, and it entertained them enormously. Its legacies - to literature, music, architecture, and city planning, among many fields - were notable. But the Columbian Exposition was also a telling portrait of American society at the turn of the nineteenth century. No event better illustrated the American rise to world power, better reflected American tastes and values, or better presaged the American Century to come. Robert Muccigrosso explores the history, substance, and larger meaning of the fair in this lively survey.
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Editorial Reviews

Journal Of American Culture
An excellent brief study of the great exposition...splendid and colorful.
Journal of American Culture
An excellent brie study of the great exposition...splendid and colorful.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Acknowledging that recent views of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago deem it ``an exercise in racism, class and gender domination, social control and cultural regression,'' Muccigrosso ( American Gothic ) argues for a more nuanced interpretation in this lucid, informative book. After exploring the culture of 19th-century world's fairs, and the development of Chicago politically, ethnically and architecturally, he turns to the exposition itself: topics include the controversy of the buildings' neoclassical design, the display of new technology, tension between high and low culture and the mixed references to both wilderness and urban life. The exposition had an important influence on architecture and urban beautification; while its focus marginalized Native Americans and African Americans, Muccigrosso urges an understanding of the event's temporal context. The displays of non-Western cultures and world religions, he writes, ``showed an urge to transcend geographical limits and create a world's fair.'' Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Muccigrosso (history, Brooklyn Coll.) turns his attention to America's quatercentenary celebration of Columbus's encounter with the New World. Chief architect Daniel Burnham followed his own dictum--``Make no small plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood''--in the general design of the White City, as the Chicago World's Fair was called. From its inauspicious beginning to its grand finale, the fair is an absorbing story. The author presents an interesting narrative, covering previous fairs, the reasons for selecting Chicago, the design and construction of buildings, the prominence of science and technology exhibitions, the attractions of the Midway, and the variety of world congresses, concluding with the legacy of the fair. The current controversy surrounding the Columbus quincentennial makes this volume's appearance timely. However, it adds little to earlier works, such as David Burg's Chicago's White City of 1893 (1976) or Reid Badger's The Great American Fair ( LJ 8/79).-- Nicholas C. Burckel, Washington Univ. Libs., St. Louis
Journal of American Culture
An excellent brief study of the great exposition...splendid and colorful.
The Journal of American Culture
An excellent brief study of the great exposition...splendid and colorful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566630139
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Muccigrosso is professor of history at Brooklyn College and at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. He has also written American Gothic and is co-author of America in the Twentieth Century.

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