Friday, April 28, 2006

The White City -- A New Camera

I just finished reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This book traces the creation, duration, and conclusion of Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It focuses on two main characters, Daniel Burnham (Director of the Fair) and H.H. Holmes (serial killer living in Chicago during the building and duration of the Fair).

Great book, but I am disappointed that there weren’t more disappointments. By this I mean that I learned a lot about the World’s Fair when I should have known about it already. This event was one of the largest milestones of US, and World, history, but previous to reading this book I had only learned about the World’s Fair on two occasions.

1) I remember vaguely hearing something about the Fair in my high schoolAP US history class. I just cracked open the textbook and looked through the index for the following phrases:
*Columbian Exposition
*World’s Fair
*World’s Columbian Exposition
*Chicago (regarding the Fair)
*Daniel Burnham
*Frederic Law Olmsted (The Fair’s Landscape architect that designed New York’s Central Park as well as most of the parks in Chicago)

The only keyword I found was Olmsted and it was a quote from him when he visited a Louisiana plantation, nothing about the Fair. Even though I remember something being mentioned, it obviously wasn’t anything that was focused on.

2) I also vaguely remember something being mentioned in one of my university survey of literature classes, but again I tore through my notes, books, lectures, and found nothing. Maybe the professor mentioned that L. Frank Baum based OZ on the White City, maybe she discussed the impact of Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the fair, maybe something else. Whatever it was we again didn’t focus on it and what I did “learn” wasn’t memorable.

How could this be? How could a large national and international event that drew between 100,000 to 300,000 visitors per day for 6 months, bringing travelers from all over the country (and world) during a major US depression be so ignored? How come we learn everything about every war (not that learning about wars is not important) and not about this historical event? An event that brought thousands of people from all over the world together? Here is a brief list of the lasting effects and history of the Fair:
*Ferris invented the Ferris Wheel for the Fair.
*The very idea of what a fair is has changed. What current fair big or small doesn’t have a Ferris Wheel and a Midway?
*Prendergast assassinated Chicago’s Mayor Harrison the day before the Fair ended
*Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley popularized their Wild Wild West show at the Fair
*The first strippers!
*The White City may have been the model for Disney’s Magic Kingdom
*The Japanese Temple on the Olmsted’s Wooded Island influenced the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright
*Harrison dedicated October 12th as a national holiday: Columbus Day
*The marketing and popularization of shredded wheat and other currently consumed food products
*Pabst won the Blue Ribbon award for Best Beer
*The first widespread use of incandescent light bulbs by alternating current
*Use of Roman architecture: You can see big white buildings with large columns almost anywhere
*The design of the Mall between the US Capital and the Lincoln Memorial came from the Fair
*A new idea of how a city should be planned
*The nation began to see Chicago in a more positive light, not just a crime zone and stockyard
*Many works of art and literature came from and out of the Fair, and still are
*The Columbian Exposition united people from all over the country and all over the globe

I think this is quite an impressive list, so why didn’t I know about the fair and how much of our daily life is due to the it? Why isn’t the Fair used by history teachers everywhere as an example of history as part of our present and future? That time is not linear? Why, WHY?


On a less frustrated note, I got a new camera today. If you haven’t heard over at, there is a little controversy in my household over who broke my camera. All I can say is Tim borrowed it for Stuporbowl and it hasn’t worked since he returned it. Of course he isn’t taking responsibility, and because poor Roscoe can’t verbally defend himself, he gets the blame. Now that the controversy is over with the arrival of the new working camera, Roscoe can rest. But don’t fret! This doesn’t mean the end of the Paint pictures! There are few pictures of me, and I doubt that will change, so what is not captured on film will be captured on Microsoft.


If you were wondering, I never heard back from that job. I called two weeks after my awesome interview and they said they narrowed down the candidates and I was still in the running. I haven’t heard from them since. An inside source says they haven’t announced the hiring of anyone for the position, so who knows. The last eight weeks since my last interview has kind of sucked the fun out of the possibility of a new job. We’ll see what the future brings, and if the Columbian Exposition taught me anything, the future is also in the then and now.


superrookie said...

it was roscoe.

yobdlog said...

You make too much sense - have some Ice Cream instead.