The World's Columbian Exposition,Digital History Project


- "Woman and Bitumen are declared in the liturgy of the Paris ateliers to be the only entities, - "there are but two things, la femme et le bitume." But the painters, with their usual inexactness, have not hit it right in this condensation. There is a third factor in the present civilization, or - since the mineral pitch of commerce is disappearing from their palettes - there are still two great things, of one of which, at least, Mahomet was not the Prophet, Women and World's Fairs.

Through both of these does the present age progress, and by the latter does it manifest its triumphs. Like another Herakles has man, in these later days, risen from one labor to another; he has girdled the earth and bridged the seas, nearly cleansed the Augean stables, slain the Hydras, captured all the Hesperides, - everything but "bested" Death and brought back Alkestis. And at the end of every great period he pauses a moment to set up a Rostral Column, which he calls a World's Fair. Like his triumphs, each of these is greater than the last, - Paris topped Philadelphia and is outdone by Chicago. "Time's noblest offspring" lives in the West. There do great energies find their opportunity, there are cities built in twenty-five years - and destroyed in two days, there will be Armageddon. And in this great Occident has been building for many moons - nec mora, nec requies, which, being freely translated, means at breackneck spead - the greatest of all possible shows. And on May 1st of this year of grace it was duly opened with fanfaronades and boomings.

Naturally, so great an Exposition requires a record, one that shall be as fine as itself. The task is one to stir ambition, but it cannot be undertaken by the scrivener alone. Fortunately, there come to his aid half-a-dozen modern Arts, half Art and half Science, part Inspiration and part Chemistry. If Architecture, Sculpture and Literature have made but little progress since the days of the Greeks, and Painting none since those of the Venetians, there are still arts of Reproduction and of Printing that are younger even than Chicago. By the aid of these, as improved and perfected, the outward and artistic aspects of a World's Fair can be presented to many thousand readers, as in a magic mirror. Across the pages of this record may be made to drift, it is hoped, all the procession of stately buildings, the terraces, gardens and lagoons of that great phantasm at Jackson Park, infinitely less enduring than these images, and with them the sightseers, the multitudinous parade of visitors, the treasures, the collections, the works of art, the summer sky over all, the wind from Lake Michigan.

The present World's Fair in honor of Columbus being, as we have said, the most comprehensive and grandiloquent of them all, it will be becoming in this record to translate it most faithfully and most handsomely, better than all others. It is desirable to know, if possible, to what particular altitude in the serene empyrean the Arts and Sciences have attained; to spell out correctly the lettering on the triumphal column. Hence great efforts have been put forth in the preparation of this book to have the ancillary Inspiration and Chemistry contribute their finest to the opiparous whole. The most distinguished artists and artisans obtainable, foreign and domestic, have been enlisted in this service, the latest processes and the latest results have been employed, the painters and the printers have furnished of their best. And the Woman will be found here too, feminine hands have contributed very much of the most worthy work, of every possible kind, to the Columbian Fair and to this Book. So that - the opinion of Lord Macaulay concerning epitomes to the contrary notwithstanding - it is hoped that this publication, being thus an epitome of All Things, may be found worthy of this Four-hundredth-and-First Anniversary, worthy of the New World, and of 'the Genoese.'"

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Digital History Collection
Page Created: December 10, 1998