Columbian Exposition of 1893

The World’s Columbian Exposition or Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893 was held from May 1 to October 30, 1893. Approximately 27 million visitors attended this fair which was organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America in 1492. The task of designing and supervising the Exposition was entrusted to Daniel H. Burnham, an American architect and his partner, John W. Root. Burnham was appointed as the Director of Works for the fair. George R. Davis, a U.S. representative from Illinois, served as the Director-General. Frederick L. Olmsted - a well-known American landscape architect responsible for local developments like Roland Park - and Harry Codman selected Jackson Park as the site for the Exposition.

More than 200 buildings were constructed in the neoclassical architectural style and all were painted white, leading to the unofficial name White City.  Nearly 70,000 exhibitors showcased their products. Built by George Ferris, an American engineer, the Ferris Wheel at the Midway Plaisance amusement park was a not only a symbol of the Exposition, but also a popular visitor's attraction. Exhibits of people from other countries were also on display at the Midway Plaisance.

Our Special Collections has several materials from the Columbian Exposition of 1893, such as guidebooks, pictorial works, and a piano music collection. Like to see more? Check out the items listed on our World’s Fair guide. For a closer look and for descriptions of the fair buildings, click on the interactive map of the Exposition’s fairgrounds. If you would like to experience the real thing, take a look at the Columbian Exposition model created by the Urban Simulation Team from UCLA. Or if you prefer to read, you can also check out few of the digitized books from the University of Illinois' collection.

About Chella Vaidyanathan

Curator of 19th-21st Century Books & Manuscripts and Liaison Librarian for History, Africana Studies & Latin American Studies

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