The Book of the Fair, Paul V. Galvin 
Digital History Collection

Chapter The Third: Evolution of the Columbian Exposition
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[37] - To several men belongs, and by several score has been claimed the credit of giving at least inchoative shape to the project for celebrating by an international exposition the fourth centennial anniversary of the landing of the great discoverer on New World shores. Among the former class is Carlos W. Zaremba, whose suggestions were made public about the time of the Centennial Fair. Another was George Mason, who in the autumn of 1885 brought the subject before the Interstate Exposition Company, of Chicago, of which he was then a member; but nothing tangible resulted from their propositions.

A stronger claim than either must be made in favor of Alexander D. Anderson, of Washington, who, in November, 1884 foreshadowed the project in an interview of which the results were published in the New York Herald. Through the local Board of Promotion, which laer became a national organization, and of which he was chosen secretary, he laid his plans before congress, secured a favorable report from the committee on foreign affairs, and aroused the interest of prominent statesmen, officials, and boards of trade throughout the United States, and of foreign ministers resident at Washington. By him were forestalled in miniature the main features of the Columbian Exposition, and partly at his suggestion was afterward inserted in the original bill, intended to give to the Fair the sanction of the national government, the clause providing for the naval review in New York harbor. That he was thoroughly in earnest appears from the fact that he expended on the inception of the enterprise a considerable portion of his private means. He was cordially supported by the citizens of Washington and Baltimore. Here, however, for several years, the matter rested, except that a general plan was formulated for the erection of suitable buildings at the national capital where, as was then supposed, the Exposition would be held.

At length, after a long period of comparative inaction, the people and press of the United States were roused to the importance of the occasion, realizing that if an exposition was to be held at all, it must be on a larger and more comprehensive scale than any that had yet been attempted, one to which we would not be ashamed to invite all nations, nor have cause to fear that our exhibits would suffer by comparison with those of foreign lands. A further stimulus to the national pride was the success of the Paris Exposition of 1889, surpassing in splendor and completeness all other industrial and artistic displays, even throwing into the shade the [38] Centennial Exposition. Moreover, it was well known, the feeble representation made at Paris of our own productions in the mechanic and liberal arts, of our progress in the industries and inventions, wherein we had claimed for ourselves a foremost rank. There should be now no hesitation or delay. We must have such an exhibition as, fostered by the entire people and by the people�s government, and aided without stint by all sections of the republic, would display to the world the most perfect of our mechanical appliances, our most finished works of art, and the choicest productions of our farms and factories and mines. If this could not be done, then we would have none at all.

In the summer of 1889, with a view to give tangible shape to the project, a committee was organized under the direction of DeWitt C. Cregier, mayor of Chicago, by whom several hundred of her prominent citizens were invited to meet in the council chamber. This they did on the 1st of August in that year, on which occasion resolutions were presented and adopted for the holding of a world�s fair in Chicago in 1892, and an hour later were telegraphed all over the United States. Sub-committees were formed for various purposes, one to obtain subscriptions, another to prepare and distribute what may be termed the literature of the attempt, and a third to [39] attend to its interests in Washington. Meanwhile a number of states were canvassed, their citizens invited to public meetings, and with the result that many influential men were enlisted in the cause.

But for the coveted prize of location there were several competitors, New York, St. Louis, and Washington striving for the distinction, and putting forth claims for consideration as the most suitable spot. For a time it was thought that the place would be New York, where the sum of $5,000,000 was raised by subscription as a guarantee fund, and a site selected adjacent to Central park. Meanwhile St. Louis and Chicago, both having secured the necessary funds, had entered yet more strenuously into the controversy, the three cities making free use of their influence in the state and national legislatures. Finally it was determined that representatives from the competing points should meet in Washington, and there discuss and agree on a general plan of procedure, with the result that final action was left in the hands of congress.

A most vigorous campaign was then inaugurated, the three other cities making common cause against Washington, whose claim was based on the fact that the proposed exposition was to be held under the auspices of the national government, and hence that the national capital was the most appropriate place. For several month the competition lasted, relieved by many humorous phases, with much good natured banter, and yet not without a tincture of acrimony. By each to the claimants every advantage was urged, and by each of their rivals every defect was exaggerated: Congressional committees accorded hearing to the several delegations, that of Chicago being represented, among other, by DeWitt C. Cregier, Thomas B. Bryan, and Edward T. Jeffery.

By the Chicago delegates were urged her position as a railroad centre, and the commercial centre of the west, commodious sites convenient to access, and ample hotel and other accommodations, with comfortable quarters for several hundred thousand visitors, without overcrowding. While conceding that such an exhibition might be held at good advantage in other cities, it was claimed that Chicago could command an equal array of talent for architectural and engineering purposes, while here was a better and larger choice for sites that at any of the other points proposed. That the people were in favor of this selection was shown by the fact that their subscriptions already amounted to $5,000,000, contributed by 25,000 subscribers, not only in Chicago, but in every section of the republic, by men and women of every class and condition of life, from the millionaire to the wage-worker on farm or in factory. It was pointed out that Chicago was abreast, or very nearly so, of our centre of population and production, that while of the nine great states grouped around her, and for which she was mainly the receiving and distributing point, the area was only 13 per cent of that of the republic, the population was 35 per cent, the railroad mileage 37 per cent, and the grain crop more than 55 per cent; that with these nine states there was no other group that would compare in all that is essential to material prosperity.

[40] - By the street-car and railroad lines of Chicago there were conveyed in 1889 nearly 200,000,000 passengers, or an average of nearly 550,000 a day. With increased equipments on existing tracks, it was estimated that, including facilities for water transportation, there could be accommodated, if need be, 160,000 passengers an hour. From Chicago to the Atlantic seaboard was a distance of some 900 miles; to the gulf of Mexico, and to the base of the Rocky mountains it was about an equal distance. The city was situated midway between these points, and convenient of access to them all. American visitors would probably outnumber foreign visitors by fifty to one, and the journey from New York to Chicago was no further than from Chicago to New York. As to commerce and traffic developed on Lake Michigan, there arrived and cleared at the port of Chicago in 1889 more than 22,000 vessels, with an aggregate registry of 8,900,000 tons, and this apart from several thousand canal boats. As to the means of reaching the place by water, the caravels of Columbus might sail from Spain across the Atlantic, and by river and canal find access to the great lakes.

The struggle was finally decided in favor of Chicago; but after one of the closest contests ever witnessed in the halls of the national legislature, for the pride of the contending parties was fully aroused; but the story of this controversy has been many times related, and need not here be described in further detail. In the house of representatives a number of ballots were taken, and long the issue hung in the balance, the men of the Garden city remaining on the floor as long as the rules permitted, and then dispersing, some to telegraph offices, other to hotels, or wherever they could ascertain most readily the progress of events. Presently came news that Chicago was in the lead; but the issue fluctuated at almost every ballot, until at last only a single vote was wanting to decide the battle. Then the strain became intense, as was also the excitement in Chicago itself, whose citizens awaited the result of each successive ballot, telegraphed within two minutes after it was cast. At length came tidings of victory; the prize had fallen to the western metropolis; and with thankful hearts the delegation, nearly one hundred strong, set their faces toward home, where like a conquering host they were met by a vast procession of citizens, among them the society of the Sons of New York, with banners and placards representing every county of the empire state.

Thus after a severe contest, or rather series of contests, each of the rival cities bringing to bear all the influence at its command, Chicago secured the coveted distinction, and to her thorough organization, her earnest intent, and her superior generalship was this triumph due. Nor was there the loss of a single day in giving definite form [41] and shape to the project. At once the promoters incorporated under the laws of the state, and at the first meeting of the local board, Lyman J. Gage was chosen president, with Thomas B. Bryan as vice-president, the former succeeded at the following election by Wm. T. Baker, and with many changes in the directorate. In accordance with the act of incorporation stock was issued to the amount of $5,000,000, later considerably increased, and soon everything was in working order.

In May, 1890, the City council was urged in a message from its mayor to issue $5,000,000 in bonds as the citizens� contribution to the enterprise. This was cheerfully granted, and since under the existing law the council had exceeded the limit of its financial powers, a statute was passed by the legislature conferring the needed authority, the question being first submitted to the people as involving a change of constitution. A vigorous effort was then made to secure from the legislature a liberal appropriation, and this was also successful, though not without strenuous opposition, Illinois contributing the sum of $800,000, the largest of all the state donations.

Meanwhile, on the 25th of April, 1890, an act received the president�s signature securing to Chicago the World�s Columbian Exposition of �arts, industries, manufactures, and the products of the soil, mine, and sea.� Though somewhat stringent in its conditions, the terms of the act were [42] accepted, not, however, without forebodings of evil from undue interference on the part of the National Commission.

By the provisions of the act this Commission was to consist of eight commissioners at large and two members from every state and territory in the republic, and was empowered to accept at its discretion such site as might be offered, together with plans and specifications of buildings, if deemed adequate for the purposes required, and provided satisfactory proof were furnished that subscriptions to the amount of $10,000,000 would be forthcoming in time for the prosecution and completion of the work. By the Commission, space was to be allotted to exhibitors, a classification of exhibits prepared, the plan and scope of the Exposition determined, judges and examiners appointed, premiums awarded, and all intercourse conducted with the exhibitors and representatives of foreign nations. Even the regulations of the local board of directors as to the rates for entrance and admission fees, and the rights and privileges of exhibitors and of the public, were subject to modification by a majority of the commissioners.

A Board of Lady Managers was appointed, to perform such duties as might be prescribed by the Commission, and with power to appoint one or more members of all such committees as were authorized to award prizes for exhibits produced entirely or in part by female labor.

The dedication services were to be held, with appropriate ceremonies, on the 12th, after postponed to the 21st of October, 1892; the Fair to be opened on the 1st of May, 1893, and closed not later than the 30th of October following.

As soon as the sum of $10,000,000 should be raised or subscribed by responsible parties, and provisions made for suitable grounds and buildings, the president was authorized to make proclamation of the same, to forward copies of his proclamation to the diplomatic representatives of foreign powers, and to invite foreign nations to participate in the Exposition.

A government exhibit was to be furnished, such as would illustrate its functions in time of peace and its resources in time of war, one tending to explain the nature of American institutions and their adaptation to the wants of the people. For this purpose a building was to be erected at a cost not exceeding $400,000, and a board appointed to arrange and take charge of the exhibit. For the erection and maintenance of such building, the cost of transportation, the care, custody, and safe return of articles belonging to its [43] exhibits, and other incidental expenses, the United States should become liable for a sum not exceeding in the aggregate $1,500,000.

On the 24th of December, 1890, all the conditions of the act having thus far been complied with, the president issued his proclamation, giving to the enterprise official recognition, and in the name of the government and the people of the United States, invited all the nations of the earth to take part in the commemoration of an even that would be prominent in human history and of lasting interest to mankind, by appointing representatives thereto, and sending such exhibits to the World�s Columbian Exposition as should most fitly and fully illustrate their resources, their industries, and their progress in civilization. Thus was removed all possibility of doubt or failure; and in the nature of a Christmas gift came the president�s missive to Chicago.

The world was not slow to avail itself of the invitation, and within little more than a twelvemonth no less than forty-four nations, with twenty-eight colonies and provinces, had signified their acceptance, their appropriations aggregating at the close of 1892 over $6,000,000. The amounts set apart for exhibits were by no means in proportion to their resources, Japan for instance contributing $630,000 and Brazil $600,000, while Great Britain was represented by a smaller contribution, exceeding only be a few thousand dollars that of her single colony of New South Wales. Meanwhile the states had been somewhat backward, the names of several being omitted from the list as late as September, 1892, though appearing later, either with public or private contributions, some being prohibited by constitutional restrictions from making actual appropriations. By Illinois $800,000 was subscribed; by California, $300,000; by New York and Pennsylvania, each $300,000; by Massachusetts, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Washington, amounts varying from $100,000 to $175,000; all the rest falling below $100,000, and several donating such insignificant sums as $25,000, $15,000 and even $10,000. The last of these donations were somewhat in contrast with those of the minor foreign powers, and even of the British colonies, one of which contributed individually nearly as much as the total accredited to all the New England states. By the principal foreign nations, and by nearly all the states, special buildings were erected as headquarters and for the accommodation of certain exhibits, the original appropriations of many of the participants being afterward largely increased.

To the department of Publicity and Promotion, the first one organized, and whose task, begun in 1890, assumed gigantic proportions, is largely due the popularity of the Chicago Fair, and the appropriation, by home and foreign participants, of a larger amount than was ever contributed for any previous exposition. Through the efforts of its able manager, Moses P. Handy, and of his corps of trained and energetic assistants, a favorable impression was created throughout the civilized world as to the utility and attractions of the coming display. Calling to his aid that most powerful of human agencies, the public press, not only in the United States but in foreign lands, he explained the character, scope, and plan of the Exposition, and why the time and place were especially appropriate for a great [44] international display. These articles were translated into all the principal European languages, and in response more than 2,000 newspapers and magazines not only forwarded copies regularly to the department, but devoted a liberal space in their columns to items and illustrations of the undertaking. Every week some 23,000 letters, circular, and pamphlets, were mailed to the various states and territories, with 14,000 to at least eighty foreign nations and colonies. Newspaper clippings were also made and distributed at the rate of many millions of words a day. By March, 1893, the volume of correspondence and communication had assumed enormous proportions, the mail matter of from 50,000 to 60,000 pieces including more than 20,000 journals. In addition to the articles prepared for countless publications, electrotype impressions of the buildings and officials were scattered broadcast by the ton, together with information to intending visitors, such as would enable them to make their trip one of pleasure, comfort, and instruction. On this department also devolved the duty of preparing the official guides and catalogues, together with the collection of material for a government history of the Exposition, the latter a task of encyclopedic proportions.

It was not without many difficulties that matters were pushed forward to the point where ground could be broken, and the actual work begun of preparing for the great event. Foremost of all came the question of site, for which there were several competing locations, the supporters of each urging their claims with such persistence that for months the local board was overwhelmed with propositions. The first considered was the portion of the lake front between Madison street and Park row; but to prepare it for the required purposes would involve serious expense and delay. Moreover, should the Fair be held at that point, much inconvenience would be caused by the overcrowding of streets. Next was proposed Jackson Park; but this also would entail a heavy outlay for filling, and for the formation of lagoons. The northern part was already occupied as a public pleasure ground, and the remaining part was considered somewhat too remote from the business portion of the city. The third of the proffered sites was a section of Garfield park, with lands adjacent, much nearer to the business quarter; a fourth was a choice location of six hundred acres fronting on the lake, in the northern part of Lake View; a fifth was Washington park, a cultivated tract not far distant from the water front. All these were rejected, and for reasons that will elsewhere be state, the choice fell on Jackson park, for the use of the unimproved portion of which an ordinance was passed by the park commissioners, with the sanction of the state legislature.

No sooner was the site determined than the National Commission made its appearance, demanding certain changes and modifications to which the local directory was compelled to agree. Then came a dispute as to [45] jurisdiction, the directors insisting on the control, so far at least as home exhibits were concerned, since through their effort nearly all the funds had been secured, while the Commission claimed supremacy in accordance with the provisions of the congressional act, and also on the ground that recognition would not otherwise be accorded by foreign powers.

Had not the question threatened serious consequences, it would merely have been regarded as a ludicrous episode in the history of the Fair. The controversy originated in a disputed interpretation of the section in the act which provides that �the Commission shall generally have charge of all intercourse with the exhibitors and the representatives of foreign nations.� By those who wished to curtail the powers of the Commission it was claimed that this clause restricted their authority to foreign exhibitors, leaving the local board in charge of all matters pertaining to domestic exhibits. If, it was urged, congress had intended to confer on the national body complete jurisdiction, then a comma would have been placed after the word �exhibitors,� the remainder of the sentence being in the nature of an addendum, extending its control to foreign representatives. With such persistence was the contest waged as to threaten the vital interests of the Fair, and thus for a time did the fate of the World�s Columbian Exposition depend upon a punctuation mark..

Finally matters were adjusted by joint committees selected from the two parties, at whose suggestion was created a Board of Reference and Control, consisting of the president, vice-chairman, and six other members of the National Commission, to form with a similar committee, chosen from the local directory, a committee of conference, to whom all matters in dispute, together with such as might afterward arise, should be referred, and from whose decision there should be no appeal. Thus harmony was for a time restored, soon, however, to be disturbed by a special congressional committee, appointed to investigate the management of the Exposition, and to submit a plan for future administration. Its report presented to the house in January, 1891, was adverse to the National Commission, declaring that many of the functions and powers assumed were outside the purposes of the act, recommending its virtual abolition, and stating that the control of affairs should rest with the local directory, by whose members the funds had been raised. But apart from the friction and antagonism which it aroused, together with the strictures of press and public, no harm was wrought by this report, and on its recommendations no further action was taken by congress.

When the National Commission was organized, the executive committee, consisting of thirty members, was found to be too unwieldy an organization for prompt and decisive action. Here was an additional reason for transferring its power to the Board of Reference and Control. Even the latter was found too cumbersome for practical purposes, with sessions held at long intervals, and other embarrassing difficulties arising from the want of a vigorous exectutive force, such as would solve without delay the ever-recurring problems calling for instant action. Hence it was determined to organize the management anew, in the shape of a smaller body that should hold continuous sessions, and whose jurisdiction should be absolute in all matters pertaining to the general administration of the Fair. Such action was indeed rendered necessary through the conflicting interests and prerogatives of the several parties in control, and through the near approach of the opening day, with a vast accumulation of business still remaining on hand.

[46] - The new organization, styled the Council of Administration, consisted of four members, selected from both branches of the management, H. N. Higinbotham and Charles H. Schwab representing the directory, and George V. Massey and J. W. St Clair the National Commission. On Mr. Higinbotham, president of the local board, was also conferred the presidency of the council. While created nominally with absolute control, its proceedings were in a measure subject to the approval of the Board of Control. It was also assisted by the committees of finance and of ways and means, the former attending to such matters as its name implied, and the latter to affairs relating to privileges and concessions (1) from which revenues could be derived. One effect of this measure was to abolish most of the committees of the directory; another was a saving of expense; and the third that the affairs of the Exposition were for the first time conducted with harmony, simplicity, and dispatch.

While the director-general was empowered to treat with all exhibitors, there was also created for this purpose a Department of Foreign Affairs, with authority to open direct communication between the Exposition authorities and the representatives of foreign nations. The chiefs of other departments, by whom were granted allotment of space to American exhibitors, were likewise empowered to correspond directly with foreign commissioners, should their applications be referred to them by the director-general of the department of foreign affairs. Individual exhibitors would after the opening of the Fair receive their instructions from the chief in whose department their exhibits were made, and through him from the director-general.

But as to the management of the Fair, a more detailed description will be given in another section of this work. Let us return for a moment to the proceedings of congress as to Exposition affairs, for in the welfare of that enterprise the national legislature manifested a fatherly interest, though as to the matter of appropriations appearing somewhat in the role of step-father. In February, 1892, a resolution was adopted by the house that, whereas further appropriations were asked, in addition to those already made, the �committee on appropriations is hereby ordered to inquire and report to the house whether those obligated and undertaking and now engaged to do so, have justly and properly complied with the requirements of the act of congress approved April 25, 1890, and whether all expenditures of whatever character for said Exposition have been judiciously made.�

Whatever may have been their errors of administration, certain it is that �those obligated� did not fail to render a complete and itemized statement of all expenditures, from the outlay of millions on grounds and buildings to the wages of a temporary janitor, the cost of a door mat, and the price of a dozen cuspidores. By William T. Baker, president of the Board of Directors, it was stated that the total receipts from all sources, to the 1st of March, 1892, were $5,106,181, with resources available from the balance of stock subscriptions and of the appropriations of the city of Chicago amounting to $5,713,051. The entire expenditure to that date was $3,860,935, and the indebtedness or liabilities under the various contract, $4,692,724. Nothing had been received in the way of loans or donations from private individuals; nor was there any incumbrance, direct or implied, on the property or receipts of the Exposition, which was free from debt, except for the amounts due to contractors as the work progressed. By the chief of construction it was estimated that, apart from outstanding contract, $7,726,760 would be required for [47] the completion of the work on buildings and grounds, and for the maintenance of departments and operating expenses until the opening of the Fair about $700,000, making a total outlay, including the expenses and liabilities already incurred, of nearly $17,000,000. As will presently appear, these estimates fell somewhat short of the actual expenditure; but with the single exception of the Paris Exposition of 1889, this was the case with all the great world�s fairs.

In its report, dated the 20th of may, 1892, the committee made only a few suggestions as to superior management and economy. The chosen site it stated, was ample in extent, embracing more than double the area occupied by the Centennial Exposition. The landscape effects would be singularly beautiful; the blending of art with nature in excellent taste and perfect harmony, the interlacing of land and water forming a novel and attractive feature. The architectural display would present a striking and imposing aspect, the spacious verdure-clad grounds, dotted with shrubbery and with forest growth, would complete the elements of matchless panorama. The facilities for travel and transportation, both by land and water, would be equal to any demand that could be made upon them, and in a word, both as to design and execution, the Fair would be a worthy tribute to the ingenuity and enterprise of the wonderful city of the west. �In its scope and magnificence,� the report concluded, �this Exposition stands alone. There is nothing like it in all history. It easily surpasses all kindred enterprises, and will amply illustrate the marvelous genius of the American people in the great domains of agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and invention, which constitute the foundation upon which rests the structure of our national glory and prosperity.�

As the result of the investigation, instead of a loan of $5,000,000 applied for by the management, congress voted half that sum as a gift, in the form of 5,000,000 souvenir coins with commemorative inscriptions, the remaining half to be realized, as was anticipated, from premiums on their sale. Even that amount was contributed with reluctance, after much discussion, and only it would seem, as an inducement to close the Fair on Sunday. To this condition, obnoxious as it was to a large portion of the community, injurious to the financial interests of the Exposition, and especially distasteful to the millions residing in Chicago and its neighborhood, who could attend the Fair on no other day, a strong opposition was made, but it was not until long after the opening that it was determined to close. The parsimony of the national legislature in its contributions to the Chicago Fair, and also to the Centennial Fair, for which a loan of $1,500,000 was the only appropriation, is somewhat in contrast with the policy of foreign governments, by nearly all of which their exhibitions of industry, science, and art have been liberally supported, and many of them entirely supported with the people�s funds.

Six or seven miles from the business quarter of Chicago, on the southern verge of its park system, there lay a sandy waste of unredeemed and desert land, in its centre a marshy hollow, and without trace of vegetation, save for a stunted growth of oak, and here and there a tangled mass of willow, flag, and marsh grass, which served but to render its desolation still more desolate. On one side was the road-bed of a suburban railway, on another [48] a wall of solid masonry withstood the encroachments of an inland sea, and over the tract lay the bareness of a city�s outskirts.

On the sand-hillocks of this plain, a few mule-teams and shovelmen were set at work grading in the spring of 1891; and thus was inaugurated the stupendous task of the World�s Columbian Exposition. Here was the chosen site for the grandest achievement of artistic skill and mechanical ingenuity, the site of a group of buildings gigantic in plan and structure, a city of palaces arising from a network of gardens and pleasure gournds, all on a scale such as had never before been devised for such a purpose, such as few believed it possible to complete within so brief a period.

As to the speed with which the work was accomplished, a comparison may here be made with the Paris Exposition of 1889, up to that date the largest, most successful, and most rapidly constructed of any of the great world�s fairs. From the time of President Grevy�s proclamation about four and a half years, and from the day when ground was broken, nearly three years elapsed before that display was ready for the public. The time of President Harrison�s proclamation was less than two and a half years, and the commencement of actual work less than two years before the formal opening of the Columbian Fair. In Paris, fourteen months were required for the erection of the Machinery hall, and nineteen for the Palace of Liberal Arts. In Chicago both these buildings could have been duplicated in less than half the time. In Paris the principal buildings covered a floor area of 75 acres, in Chicago more than 200 acres, while those of the latter far surpassed the Parisian structures in dimensions. Further comment is unnecessary; there are few who will care to dispute that the Garden city surpassed all other in rapidity of execution, as in immensity of design.

Before even the foundations could be laid of any of the Exposition buildings proper, a vast amount of expensive preliminary work was necessary, on account of the nature of the site and its distance from sources of supply. The marsh lands must be drained by the construction of artificial water-ways connecting with the lake, and utilized in adding to the landscape effect of the grounds adjacent. On this and on landscape gardening, with fountains and statuary, at least $750,000 were expended. For grading and filling purposes, 1,200,000 cubic yards of earth must be handled at a cost of nearly $500,000. For railroad track and rolling stock for the transportation of materials, another $500,000 was required; for viaducts, bridges, and piers, $200,000; for improvements on the lake front, $200,000; for water supply, and water, sewerage, and gas pipes, $600,000. Then there were buildings for construction purposes, with stores and boarding-houses for the accommodation of thousands of workmen; there were fire and police stations; there were quarters and offices for a corps of officials, with hundreds of minor details, all to be provided for before the real work on construction was begun.

It was not until the summer of 1891 that these preliminaries were accomplished, and the foundation laid of the Woman�s building, the first to be taken in hand. Then was collected on the grounds an army of laborers, mechanics, architects, designers, artists, surveyors, and engineers, while elsewhere at widely distant points artificers by scores of thousands, representing every trade and [49] andicraft, were toiling together for a common end. During this summer, from 5,000 to 6,000 men were at work on the buildings and site; in the following summer from 7,000 to 8,000, and in September, 1892, when the principal structures were almost completed, there were nearly 3,000 employees in the service of the Exposition company, and 8,000 in the employ of contractors, the total of the payrolls exceeding $600,000 a month.

There is perhaps no more impressive feature in the Columbian Exposition than the task of its accomplishment; and in the concentration of enterprise, skill, and intelligence whereby such an achievement was rendered possible, we have in itself and exhibition such as has never before been witnessed. The chief of construction was a man of rare executive ability, of strong personal magnetism, and one capable of inspiring in others a portion of his own enthusiasm. Through his efforts was gathered together a corps of able artificers and architects who, while acting in concert and coordination under his direction, were permitted to realize their own individual plans in all the fullness of their ambition. Some interrupted a lucrative practice to devote themselves to the work, living at their quarters within the walls of a great inclosure without relaxation or amusement, toiling from dawn till dusk, and often far into the night, heedless of self, and intent only on doing to the best of their ability whatsoever it was given them to do.

While the buildings were in process of construction one could almost realize the colossal proportions of this enterprise. Entering the grounds in the spring of 1892, the visitor beheld such a scene of bustling activity as that which at the founding of Carthage greeted the father of the Roman race when first he set foot on Punic shores. And yet it was a silent activity that pervaded this groups of mammoth structures, while pillars and walls and domes were rising around him. Here was an army of mechanics, with hammer and saw and mallet, all plying their tools with the vigor of a true American workman; but amid the wide spaces that separated these huge architectural efforts the noise was barely perceptible. Then there was an air of unreality about this congregation of edifices, so strange in dimensions and design, rising as from the touch of a fairy�s wand at the bidding of some potent agency. On one hand might be seen the two sections of an immense iron arch meeting as silently as shadows flitting athwart the sky; on another a pillar of stucco, the height of a two-story house, being hoisted into air by a wire rope, and placed in position by a couple of men two hundred feet above ground.

In estimating the scope of the design, the observer would find himself at a loss for standards of measurement; for here the scale was so vast that there was nothing on which to base a comparison. In the Manufactures and Liberal Arts building, for instance, he would see the largest arched roof in the world, supported without columns, and covering an area of 540,000 square feet. Beneath this monster arch a quarter of million people might be seated, and yet probably not one among them could think of anything that suggested to his mind an adequate idea of its dimensions. He might be told that in the roof over his head were 1,000 tons of iron and several hundred tons of glass; that the truss alone, with its purlines, weighed 200 tons; but this would neither add to his comfort, nor aid him in the mental process of admeasurement. To compare it with other buildings, either in Europe or America was impossible, for there were none in existence; and to compare it with those on the grounds would be equally impossible, for adjacent structures, covering several acres of floor space, were dwarfed and dominated by this mammoth edifice.

Yet there are those who will say, that if for the housing of the world�s exhibits such feats have been accomplished as were never before attempted or deemed worthy of attempting, it does not necessarily follow that a corresponding work has therefore been achieved in architectural design or artistic embellishment. Not least among the lessons of this magnificent display are the lessons it teaches in revealing to us our shortcomings. The work our people have done will be criticized by some of the most experienced savants and connoisseurs from every quarter, by those who will be sparing neither in praise nor censure. I shall not attempt to forecast their judgement, for all in good time we shall hear the verdict of mankind as to the manner in which the second of our great metropolitan cities has performed the stupendous task imposed on the nation�s fealty to art and catholicity of tastes.

When Chicago was finally selected as the location of the Fair, there was general and by no means groundless apprehension that her conceptions would tend to hugeness rather than to harmony. For the most[50] part the plans were drawn and the buildings constructed by local architects, and accustomed as they were to buildings ten or twenty stories in height, and in some instances to avenues from 200 to 300 feet wide, it is no wonder that their projects partook somewhat of the Brobdingnagian type. Said a prominent Chicago journal on the eve of dedication day, �The office architecture of Chicago is the key to the wonders of the Fair.� Her office architecture is indeed remarkable, as are also her cloud-capped temples of commerce industry and art. Her citizens are proud of them, and with a not unworthy pride, for such things are well enough in their way. But, as the greatness of a city cannot be judged by height of buildings and breadth of boulevards, so in relation to the Fair, we should not attempt to measure architectural accomplishment by the rood or artistic exhibits by the yard.

I would not say that such has been the case in the great work accomplished by the artificers of the Fair, by whom so many difficulties have been overcome in structural methods and contrivances. Allowing for certain drawbacks the general results are excellent, so much so as to dispel even the prejudice of eastern connoisseurs, who have long since ceased to ask whether, in the line of art or architecture, any good thing could come from Chicago. If any of our foreign friends should wish for something different from this group of huge white buildings, with their endless array of stucco pillars, stucco ornaments, and stucco statuary, they must remember the conditions under which the task was undertaken; and considering those conditions there are few who will care to criticize too sharply the architectural features of this display. First of all it was necessary that the buildings should be of vast dimensions, for even with 200 acres or more of floor room, every foot of exhibiting space was bespoken before the opening of the Exposition, and with applications for thrice the available room. Then they must be erected in a limited time, a time almost too limited for the thorough elaboration of artistic design. They were also temporary structures, and must be so erected that if not converted to other purposes their materials could be easily removed.

All these conditions were accepted by the architects of the Fair, and except for the coordination of their plans with the general design which had been formulated by the chief of construction and approved by the local directory, they were permitted to go about their work without interference or restriction. Thus each one attempted to give to his edifice all the exterior decoration, the symmetry and harmony of detail that pertained to the exercise of art, leaving to exhibitors and to committees appointed for that purpose the task of interior decoration.

Of all the principal buildings erected for this Exposition, and also of those erected by individual states and by foreign participants, descriptions will be given in other sections of this work. In conclusion it may be said that whatever may be the popular verdict as to the artistic merits of the Columbian Exposition, there can be no difference in opinion as to the energy which Chicago has brought to bear on this the greatest of all her great achievements, and the earnestness, intelligence, and thoroughness with which it has been accomplished. Only through the exercise of these qualities, so common to American communities, and to none more so than to the denizens of our mid-continent metropolis, has been transformed a wilderness into a garden of palaces, filled with choicest productions of industry and art of which mankind is capable.


1. The term privileges relates to the sale of goods manufactured for the purpose of illustrating the process exhibited. Concessions refer to the disposal of goods and to special attractions from which the sole object is to secure a profit.

World�s Fair Miscellany - Some items of interest relative to, yet not strictly a part of the history or description of the Exposition, I shall give at the conclusion of the various sections of this work under the heading of World�s Fair Miscellany.

Not least among the Columbian exhibits is the exhibition of human nature, and had room or hearing been granted to all the crotchets, whims, and hallucinations that here found opportunity for display, we should in truth had such a variety fair as has never yet appeared. By one of the applicants for space it was proposed to erect a tower 3,000 feet in height; by another a building with 400 stories; by a third to excavate a suite of apartments beneath the waters of Lake Michigan; by a fourth to hold bull-fights; by a fifth to establish a cock-pit. From England came one who sought to be placed on exhibition as the Messiah; from New England one to whom it was revealed that the site of the Fair was foreordained from the beginning of time. By a western man space was asked in which to illustrate to mankind the principles of perpetual motion; and by a mathematician to show how to square the circle. From a couple of New York vagrants came an offer to journey on foot to the Exposition grounds, and camping thereon, to exemplify and lecture on their mode of life. By the father of an infant prodigy the services of the latter were tendered to introduce at the dedication ceremonies the leading orator of the occasion. But the most remarkable application of all came from a vendor of cosmetics, who proposed to exhibit a wrinkled hag with one-half of her features made sleek and smooth by his treatment, and at the close of the Fair to varnish the remaining half in the presence of the assembled multitude.

Several of the subscriptions for exposition stock were from $50,000 to $100,000, and several hundreds from $10,000 to $25,000. The people of Chicago subscribed as they had never subscribed before, nearly all good and substantial citizens contributing according to their means, so that never perhaps in the history of the world was so large a subscription made so readily and promptly. The payment was guaranteed by Lyman J. Gage, who thus showed his faith in the responsibility of the subscribers. Under the charge of D. H. Lamberson, as superintendent of this department, were more than 200 committees, the members of which invited representatives of the various lines of trade to meet them in hotel parlors, where the financial problem was presented in a business-like shape, and discussed in all its phases. Then a thorough canvass was made of the city, outside of which very little aid was obtained.

That Chicago secured the location of the Fair was largely due to the fact that her citizens were thoroughly in earnest, that while the people of other cities were merely talking and too often bickering about it, those of the Lake city were acting. Long before New York had procured among her people one-third of the necessary amount, they had their money in hand, or guaranteed, as I have said; and, declared their senators in the senate chamber, �If necessary we will double it, and thus insure and Exposition of which the nation need not be ashamed.�

In congress Chicago was supported by most of the western and northwestern states, and with many friends in the southern states. Excellent service was rendered by George R. Davis, the director-general, none knowing better how to gain the support of members and to inspire confidence and enthusiasm among his colleagues. �The fight is won,� he said to the Chicago delegation, when first he met them in Washington; �all that is necessary is to let them see that we are thoroughly in earnest, and show them the courtesy of being on hand while they go through with the formality of handing over the prize to us.�

[51]As to the selection of the site, it may here be further stated that it was first intended to erect the Exposition buildings around the lake front between Madison street and Park row. A portion of it was covered with water to an average depth of fourteen feet, and instead of filling it in, it was proposed to erect over it a flooring covered with a canopy form the edge of the lake to the government pier. Among the advocates of the Jackson park site was the Illinois Central railroad company, which contributed largely of its means. To Garfield park the main objection was its lack of transportation facilities, for it could only be reached by street cars. By Mr. Pullman, as president of the Palace Car company, a large sum was offered for the location of the Fair in the neighborhood of the town which owes to him its existence; but this was more than twelve miles from the business quarter of Chicago.

The practical work of the Fair began early in 1891, when architects were appointed, and submitted their plans; contracts were let, and work was commenced on the grounds. It was not until June that the buildings were begun and at the close of the year they were in various stages of advancement, from the flooring to the cornice line, the city of the Fair looking more like a thicket of scantling than the group of palaces which later it became. The Woman�s building was the only one under roof; the brick walls of the Art palace were still unfinished, and the Manufactures building had not risen above its thirty and a half acres of floor. But day by day architects and workmen went on building, sculptors modeling, and decorators coloring, until at length these temples of industry began to assume their present shape.

By one who visited the grounds in the autumn of 1892 the aspect of affairs is thus described: �About ten thousand employees and workmen were scattered over Jackson park; yet at every unfinished building the work seemed to be in semi-suspense, or to have the air of an industrial festival. Deliberation was the order of the day, flavored, however, with eager interest and willingness. Also deliberation was a necessity in three-fourths of the work, which required caution as well as judgment; for many were the aerial gymnasts perched from 60 to 260 feet in the air. Sky generalship of a high order was to be seem under the arching roof of Manufactures and Liberal Arts. Here, after months of patient lifting and fitting of unprecedented weights at great heights, each man had grown to know his duty intimately. From some lofty perch the foreman of a gang would conduct his men somewhat after the manner of the leader of an orchestra. Whenever he fell short of the mark, he would shout his general order to an assistant half way down, on the opposite side of the span, and the latter would give fuller instructions to another assistant on the floor. After each move all eyes would turn to the directing mind aloft. Under that roof feats were accomplished worthy to have called forth a wild surmise from the Egyptians who piled the pyramids.�

In March, 1891, only a few of the states had made appropriations for the Fair, and France was the only foreign power that had decided to participate. That later all the states contributed, together with nearly a hundred foreign nations and colonies, was largely due, as I have said, to the excellent work accomplished by the Department of Publicity and Promotion, which resulted in the Exposition being known and discussed from one end of the earth to the other. In Europe an interest bordering on enthusiasm was aroused by the special commissions which made the tour of that continent, these envoys rendering most effective service in a field already prepared by judicious advertising.

The official catalogue of the Exposition is a volume of from 200 to 400 pages, published in English, French, German, and Spanish, being given to each of the main divisions, and with others for special departments, making about fifteen in all. For this concession was paid $100,000 in cash, with ten per cent of the gross receipts up to $500,000, and twenty-five per cent on all above that amount. For the preparation of the work nearly 1,000 employees were required, with 150 carloads of paper, 40 cylinder presses, and two perfecting presses, the latter capable of printing 20,000 sheets an hour.

For the first souvenir coin struck from the die, a check for $10,000 was paid to the treasurer of the Fair by a typewriter firm. The coins were offered for sale at $1 each in almost every city, town, and village in the republic, bankers and merchants sending orders in advance for from 50 to 25,000 of the first installment minted at Philadelphia. Four were reserved as prize coins, the one above mentioned, the four hundredth in order of mintage, as indicating the anniversary to be celebrated, number 1492, the date of Columbus� discovery, and number 1892, the date of the first issue of the souvenirs.

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