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THE WORLD'S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION
Held in Chicago from May - October 1893

Source: "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois", 1901
© Transcribed by Kim Torp


Lagoons surrounding the Illinois State Building
at the World's Exposition, c. 1893


An exhibition of the scientific, liberal and mechanical arts of all nations, held at Chicago, between May 1 and Oct. 31, 1893. The project had its inception in November, 1885, in a resolution adopted by the directorate of the Chicago Inter State Exposition Company. On July 6, 1888, the first well defined action was taken, the Iroquois Club, of Chicago, inviting the co-operation of six other leading clubs of that city in "securing the location of an international celebration at Chicago of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus." In July, 1889, a decisive step was taken in the appointment by Mayor Cregier, under resolution of the City Council, of a committee of 100 (afterwards increased to 256) citizens, who were charged with the duty of promoting the selection of Chicago as the site for the Exposition. New York, Washington and St. Louis were competing points, but the choice of Congress fell upon Chicago, and the act establish ing the World's Fair at that city was signed by President Harrison on April 25, 1890. Under the requirements of the law, the President appointed eight Commissioners-at-large, with two Commissioners and two alternates from each State and Territory and the District of Columbia. Col. George R. Davis, of Chicago, was elected Director-General by the body thus constituted. Ex Senator Thomas M. Palmer, of Michigan, was chosen President of the Commission and John T. Dickinson, of Texas, Secretary. This Commission delegated much of its power to a Board of Reference and Control, who were instructed to act with a similar number appointed by the World's Columbian Exposition. The latter organization was an incorporation, with a directorate of forty-five members, elected annually by the stockholders. Lyman J. Gage, of Chicago, was the first President of the corporation, and was succeeded by W. T. Baker and Harlow N. Higinbotham.


In addition to these bodies, certain powers were vested in a Board of Lady Managers, composed of two members, with alternates, from each State and Territory, besides nine from the city of Chicago. Mrs. Potter Palmer was chosen President of the latter. This Board was particularly charged with supervision of women's participation in the Exposition, and of the exhibits of women's work.

The supreme executive power was vested in the Joint Board of Control. The site selected was Jackson Park, in the South Division of Chicago, with a strip connecting Jackson and Washington Parks, known as the "Midway Plaisance," which was surrendered to "conces sionaires" who purchased the privilege of giving exhibitions, or conducting restaurants or selling-booths thereon. The total area of the site was 633 acres, and that of the buildings-not reckon ing those erected by States other than Illinois, and by foreign governments-was about 200 acres. When to this is added the acreage of the foreign and State buildings, the total space under roof approximated 250 acres. These figures do not include the buildings erected by private exhibitors, caterers and venders, which would add a small percentage to the grand total Forty-seven foreign Governments made appropriations for the erection of their own buildings and other expenses connected with official representation, and there were exhibitors from eighty-six nations. The United States Government erected its own building, and appropriated $500,000 to defray the expenses of a national exhibit, besides $2,500,000 toward the general cost of the Exposition. The appropriations by foreign Governments aggregated about $6,500,000, and those by the States and Territories, $6,120,000-that of Illinois being $800,000. The entire outlay of the World's Columbian Exposition Company, up to March 31, 1894, including the cost of preliminary organization, construction, operating and post-Exposition expenses, was $27,151,800. This is, of course, exclusive of foreign and State expenditures, which would swell the aggregate cost to nearly $45,000,000. Citizens of Chicago subscribed $5,608,206 toward the capital stock of the Exposition Company, and the municipality, $5,000,000, which was raised by the sale of bonds. (See Thirty-sixth General Assembly.)

The site, while admirably adapted to the purpose, was, when chosen, a marshy flat, crossed by low sand ridges, upon which stood occasional clumps of stunted scrub oaks. Before the gates of the great fair were opened to the public, the entire area had been transformed into a dream of beauty. Marshes had been drained, filled in and sodded; driveways and broad walks constructed; artificial ponds and lagoons dug and embanked, and all the highest skill of the landscape gardeners art had been called into play to produce varied and striking effects. But the task had been a Herculean one. There were seventeen principal (or, as they may be called, departmental) buildings, all of beautiful and ornate design, and all of vast size. They were known as the Manufacturers' and Liberal Arts, the Machinery, Electrical, Transportation, Woman's, Horticultural, Mines and Mining, Anthropological, Administration, Art Galleries, Agricultural, Art Institute, Fisheries, Live Stock, Dairy and Forestry buildings, and the Music Hall and Casino. Several of these had large annexes. The Manufacturers' Building was the largest. It was rectangular (1687x 787 feet), having a ground area of 31 acres and a floor and gallery area of 44 acres. Its central chamber was 1280x380 feet, with a nave 107 feet wide, both hail and nave being surrounded by a gallery 50 feet wide. It was four times as large as the Roman Coliseum and three times as large as St. Peter's at Rome; 17,000,000 feet of lumber, 13,000,000 pounds of steel, and 2,000,000 pounds of iron had been used in its construction, involving a cost of $1,800,000.
It was originally intended to open the Exposition, formally, on Oct. 21, 1892, the quadri-centennial of Columbus' discovery of land on the Western Hemisphere, but the magnitude of the undertaking rendered this impracticable. Consequently, while dedicatory ceremonies were held on that day, preceded by a monster procession and followed by elaborate pyrotechnic displays at night, -May 1, 1893, was fixed as the opening day -the machinery and fountains being put in operation, at the touch of an electric button by President Cleveland, at the close of a short address. The total number of admissions from that date to Oct. 31, was 27,530,460-the largest for any single day being on Oct. 9 (Chicago Day) amount ing to 761,944. The total receipts from all sources (including National and State appropriations, subscriptions, etc.), amounted to $28,151,168.75, of which $10,626,330.76 was from the sale of tickets, and $3,699,581.43 from concessions. The aggregate attendance fell short of that at the Paris Exposition of 1889 by about 500,000, while the receipts from the sale of tickets and con cessions exceeded the latter by nearly $5,800,000. Subscribers to the Exposition stock received a return of ten per cent on the same.

The Illinois building was the first of the State buildings to be completed. It was also the largest and most costly, but was severely criticised from an architectural standpoint. The exhibits showed the internal resources of the State, as well as the development of its governmental system, and its progress in civilization from the days of the first pioneers. The entire Illinois exhibit in the State building was under charge of the State Board of Agriculture, who devoted one-tenth of the appropriation, and a like proportion of floor space, to the exhibition of the work of Illinois women as scientists, authors, artists, decorators, etc. Among special features of the Illinois exhibit were: State trophies and relics, kept in a fire-proof memorial hail; the display of grains and minerals, and an immense topographical map (prepared at a cost of $13,000), drafted on a scale of two miles to the inch, showing the character and resources of the State, and correcting many serious cartographical errors previously undiscovered.





Key to Map

1 = Manufactures and Liberal Arts
2 = Agriculture
3 = Machinery
4 = Annex
5 = Machine Shop
6 = Saw Mill
7 = Stock Pavilion
8 = Adminstration Building
9 - Mines
10 = Electricity
11 = Transportation
12 = Horticultural
13 = Choral Building
14 = Office Grounds Building
15 = Women's
16 = Illinois
17 = Art Galleries
18 = Various individual States' exhibits
19 = Germany
20 = Mexico
21 = Great Britain Cafe
22 = Miscellaneous South American Countries (Brazil & Rio, Columbia, Chili, Argentine Republic)
23 = Fisheries
24 = U.S. Government
25 = Exhibit of Agriculture, Horticulture & Irrigation
26 = Parade Grounds
27 = Greenhouse
28 = Indian School
29 = Leather Exhibit
30 = Dairy
31 = Forestry
32 = Stock Exhibit
33 = Sewerage Cleansing works
34 = Custom House
35 = Cold Storage
36 = Bazaar of Nations in the MIDWAY PLAISANCE: Street in Cario, German Village, Dutch Settlement, Jap. Bazaar, Libbey Glass Co., Moorish Palace, Turkish Village, Dutch Settlement
37 = Gas Industries



1893 Worlds Fair Ferris Wheel
Ferris Wheel
Picture and Ferris Wheel data courtesy of wikipedia.org

The original Ferris wheel was designed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., as a landmark for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The name later came to be used generically for all such rides.

The wheel was intended as a rival to the Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition. This first wheel could carry 2,160 persons. The Ferris wheel was the largest attraction at the Columbian Exposition, standing over 250' tall and powered by two steam engines. There were 36 cars, accommodating 60 people each (40 seated, 20 standing). It took 20 minutes for the wheel to make two revolutions—the first to make six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter; the 2nd, a single non-stop revolution—and for that, the ticket holder paid 50 cents. When the Exposition ended, the Ferris Wheel was moved to Chicago's north side, next to an exclusive neighborhood. William D. Boyce filed an unsuccessful Circuit Court action against the owners of the wheel, to have it moved. It was then used at the St. Louis 1904 World's Fair and eventually destroyed by controlled demolition in 1906. At 70 tons, its axle was the largest steel forging of the time. It was 26 stories tall, only a quarter of the Eiffel Tower's height.

Sections of this Ferris wheel were used to construct a bridge across the Kankakee River, about 45 miles south of Chicago, just north of Tefft, Indiana.


Just for fun, let's compare the original Ferris wheel to the current one on Chicago's Navy Pier:

Then and now ferris wheels
Picture courtesy of http://www.spudart.org/blogs/randomthoughts_comments/2951_0_3_0_C/




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