Source: Field Museum’s Flickr page
Tag Archives: Chicago
What a Glorious Event!
1893 World’s Fair Art
I just finished reading Erik Larson‘s The Devil in the White City, the 2003 book that pairs the building of a dream, The 1893 Colombian Exposition with the nightmare of serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes crimes. Spurred by Larson’s impeccable research and description of the era I decided to dig around myself and found some images of the fair.
People thought it would topple over or wind would cause disaster.
I’ll add more tomorrow. “Make no little plans” indeed.
The Devil in the White City
I know this book came out years ago and it’s been patiently sitting on the shelves back home for me to read it. At last, I have.
Talk about enthralling. Erik Larson‘s chronicles Daniel Burnham‘s prodigious efforts to make the 1893 World’s Fair spectacular while contrasting the creation of a dream city with a serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes‘ building a sinister white castle, a site of nightmares, that would help Holmes lure in his victims, pretty, young women, alone in the city.
The book reads like a novel weaving in facts and research perfectly. In fact, I so enjoyed Larson’s research that it spurred me to look up Holmes on Lexis and the World’s Fair on JSTR. I felt Burnham’s frustrations as the deadline for opening the fair neared and so problems cropped up: impatient businessmen wanted to tighten the workers threatened to strike, East Coast architects resisted contributing, dates and deadlines got confused, the economy tanked, fatal accidents halted work. New Yorker reminded Chicago that the country’s reputation was on the line. This fair had to outdo any and all prior fairs. This story alone would have kept me interested. Larson provides the bonus of a true crime story which dramatically unwinds.
Reading The Devil in The White City made me appreciate what a unique era this was and how our era will never have an event that’s so magical and inspiring. Visitors had seen nothing like it. The event transformed people giving a generation a whole new view of what a city could be, how people needn’t settle for the black, bleak putrid cities they’d known. A city could inspire and enrich. I’d definitely read more of Larson’s work.
A movie is in development, but it could be too gory for my tastes.
A few good quotations:
‘Ellsworth insisted that what Chicago had in mind was something far grander than even the Paris exposition. He described for Olmsted a vision of a dream city designed by America’s greatest architects and covering an expanse at least one-third larger than the Paris fair.'(49)
‘He was the smoothest man I ever saw.”said C.E.Davis, whom Holmes had hired to manage the drugstore’s jewelry counter. Creditors, Davis said, would “come here raging and calling him all the names imaginable, and he would smile and talk to them and set up the cigars and drinks and send them away seemingly his friends for life. I never saw him angry. You couldn’t have trouble with him if you tired.'(72)
‘He argued that Chicago’s fair, unlike any other before it, would be primarily a monument to architecture. It would awaken the nation to the power of architecture to conjure beauty from stone and steel.'(80)
In a great blur of snow and silvery glass the building’s roof—that marvel of late nineteenth-century hubris, enclosing the greatest volume of unobstructed space in history—collapsed to the floor below” [p. 196–97
The young poet Edgar Lee Masters called the Court of Honor “an inexhaustible dream of beauty” [p. 252]; Dora Root wrote “I think I should never willingly cease drifting in that dreamland” [p. 253]; Theodore Dreiser said he had been swept “into a dream from which I did not recover for months” [p. 306]; and columnist Teresa Dean found it “cruel . . . to let us dream and drift through heaven for six months, and then to take it out of our lives” [p. 335]
- Chicago’s Historic Reliance Building: Evokes the Tale of Legendary Architects Burnham and Atwood in the White City (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Citizen Reader on Historical True Crime readers
- LAW ‘N HISTORY: Dr. Slice, Dice and Saute (enterprisenews.com)
- What I’m Reading – In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (nerdyapple.com)
- History of the World’s Fair (jottingswithjasmine.wordpress.com)
- Review on Literary Omnivore
- Book Club Discussion Questions on Devil in the White City
From Today’s Writers’ Almanac
Studs is a favorite of mine. His writing was so vibrant and true. He knew how to get to the heart of things. I used to listen to replays of his interviews on WFMT, but they’ve stopped them. It’s too bad. Now I’ve got to content myself with his books and the few recorded interviews I’ve got.
It is the birthday of writer and broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel (books by this author), born in the Bronx, New York (1912). His family moved to Chicago when Terkel was 10 years old and his parents ran rooming houses. Terkel remembers all different kinds of people moving through the rooming houses — dissidents, labor organizers, religions fanatics — and that that exposure helped build his knowledge of the outside world.
In 1934, he attended the University of Chicago and graduated with a law degree. But he soon fell into radio broadcasting, working first on radio soap operas, then hosting news and sports shows, and ultimately landing his own show, where he played music and interviewed people.
He is best known for his powerful interviews of ordinary people, which became a series of successful books, including Division Street: America (1967), Hard Times (1970), Working (1974), and Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It (1995). His last book, PS: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening, was released just after Terkel’s death in 2008. He was 96.
Terkel said: “Why are we born? We’re born eventually to die, of course. But what happens between the time we’re born and we die? We’re born to live. One is a realist if one hopes.”
And, “With optimism, you look upon the sunny side of things. People say, ‘Studs, you’re an optimist.’ I never said I was an optimist. I have hope because what’s the alternative to hope? Despair? If you have despair, you might as well put your head in the oven.”
And, “I’ve always felt, in all my books, that there’s a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence — providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.