Atwood was designer in chief; and Frederick Law Olmsted was entrusted with landscaping. The Ferris wheel invented by G. Ferris, a Pittsburgh engineer and a dazzling new wonder—electricity—were presented for the first time in America. Electricity had been introduced and exploited at the Paris Exposition of , but in it was still unfamiliar to most Americans. The exposition was opened by a dramatic act when U.
Grover Cleveland pushed a button on a ceremonial platform in front of the Administration Building and set the great Allis engine in motion, turning on the electric power for the exposition.
The engine, the dynamo, and the alternating-current generator displayed for the first time by George Westinghouse later became the basic tools of the electric power industry. There were some However, because some visitors were counted twice, the total figure is sometimes reported as having been between 27 and 28 million. The Palace of Fine Arts, a ,square-foot building, was rebuilt in permanent limestone in —32 to house the public exhibitions of the Museum of Science and Industry.
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. World's Columbian Exposition. Article Media. The noise of the future wasn't for everybody. I recently spent half a year looking at the TV show "The Jetsons," arguably one of the most important TV shows of the 20th century for its use as a cultural touchstone about the future. And the Chicago World's Fair presaged one of its key creations nearly 75 years before it went on the air.
You may recall that the Jetson family is kind of lazy. Machines do all their work for them, and there are moving sidewalks absolutely everywhere. But contrary to the assumptions of many people who grew up with "The Jetsons" and real-world moving sidewalks in places like airports, this promise of the future predates that mid-century cartoon family. In fact, the electric moving sidewalk made its debut at the Fair.
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The illustration above comes from the proposal by Alfred Speer for a moving sidewalk. Speer patented the idea two decades earlier, but his "movable pavement" wouldn't see the light of day until Chicago took up its cause. These belts were to be made up of a series of small platform railway cars strung together. The first line of belts was to run at a slow velocity, say 3 miles per hour, and upon this slow belt of moving pavement, passengers were expected to step without difficulty.
The next adjoining belt was intended to have a velocity of 6 miles per hour, but its speed, in reference to the first belt, would be only 3 miles per hour. Each separate line of belt was thus to have a different speed from the adjacent one; and thus the passenger might, by stepping from one platform to another, increase or diminish his rate of transit at will.
Seats were to be placed at convenient points on the traveling platforms.
Somewhat strangely, few photographs of the moving sidewalk that was actually built in Chicago remain in existence. Below is the only photo I've been able to find of the moving walkway at the World's Fair. Sadly, I've never seen a photo with people actually using it. The acres of the Fair was to be a "pure" environment. The map below shows where the Midway was placed: Way out west, quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks.
The Ferris Wheel made its debut at the Midway of the Fair. It was supposed to rival the Eiffel Tower, which was the centerpiece of the Paris Exposition of But needless to say, it didn't quite have the same staying power. But after that fair, it was demolished in When the World's Fair opened in , equal rights for women was still a futuristic dream. American women couldn't vote and were relegated to the margins of public life. But the times they were slowly changing. Prominent women spoke at the Fair about a number of issues, including women's right icon Susan B.
When the Chicago World's Fair was funded through Congress, money was specifically allocated to make sure that women were represented. As Susan Wels explains in her paper about the role of women at the and World's Fairs, futuristic technology was seen as a liberating force for many middle class American women at the time:. By authorizing and funding the Chicago fair's Board of Lady Managers [in ], Congress was in fact recognizing the increasingly organized and influential role of women in American society. New technologies such as domestic plumbing, canning, commercial ice production, and the sewing machine had freed middle-class women from many household tasks, and more and more women were entering college and the professions.
Many, including upper-class and professional women, were also joining social reform groups, and these women's organizations had, in turn, organized to increase their visibility and influence. It was during a series of articles published in the lead up to the Fair that suffragist Mary E. Lease explained how the future of food would liberate women from the drudgery of cooking and cleaning.
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Writing in an article that would appear in newspapers throughout the U. Agriculture will be developed by electricity, the motive power of the future. Science will take in condensed form from the rich loam of earth the life force or germs now found in the heart of the corn, the kernel of the wheat, the luscious juice of the fruits. A small phial of this life from the fertile bosom of mother earth will furnish man with subsistence for days, and thus the problems of cooks and cooking will be solved. The slaughter of animals, the appetite for flesh meat that has left the world reeking with blood and bestialized humanity, will be one of the shuddering horrors of the past.
Slaughter houses, butcher shops and cattle pens will be converted into conservatories and beds of bloom. Despite the presence of prominent women at the Fair, there were still some important slights. The Fair's single largest event, held on July 4, , didn't include a single woman speaker.
In response, five women from the National Woman Suffrage Association stormed the Independence Day program and handed a copy of their Declaration of Rights for Women to the chairman of the event. Women in the United States wouldn't get the vote until nearly three decades later with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.
Constitution in Some foods that are still popular today made their debut at the Columbian Exposition, including Cracker Jack , shredded wheat, and Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum. And while it didn't debut at the Fair, one beer popular with those darn kids today did get a name change thanks to the Chicago fair. While this was true, in fact, the best beer distinction didn't come with a blue ribbon. And according to some people, it really needs to stop coasting on its 19th century win. Admittedly, there are dozens of technologies, people, ideas and generally futuristic spectacles that were present at the Fair that I'm not even aware of.
Sometimes I'll see hints of something—like the sign "Clothing Cut By Electricity" in the photo above—and wonder what the specifics of that display must have been. How did those machines work? How did people react when they saw them for the first time? What did they sound like? This, my friends, is why I need that time machine. It's great to read about the Fair, gaze at photos, and watch documentaries —but there's just no substitute for being there. A photo can't capture the feeling in the air; the smell of chugging machines, the breeze off Lake Michigan, and the stench of 19th century human body odor.
Anyone who tells you that looking at photographs is just like time travel is a liar. Time travel is just like time travel, and should you ever find anything close to Doc Brown's machine, please drop me a line. We can go hang out with Jesus, right after we make a quick stop at the Chicago World's Fair.