In describing Chicago's first world's fair (also known as the World's Columbian Exposition), I realized that it's easy to hear "fair" and think of the relatively small-scale events put on by your county once a year. But world's fairs used to be huge, and the version that sprang up alongside Lake Michigan in 1893 was in a class of its own, sprawling across 690 acres and attracting over 27 million visitors.
It was also stunning.
The immense buildings in the fair's Court of Honor were constructed in a classical (Greco-Roman) style and painted white (thus the fair’s other nickname, the “White City”). The pathways were carefully groomed and lined with trees and flowers. At night, streetlights and roving colored spotlights provided many visitors their first experiences with electricity.
In contrast, the Midway Plaisance that led to the fair had a more carnival feel and included amusements like magic acts and the first-ever Ferris Wheel, which was 260 feet high with 40 carriages that could accommodate up to 60 people each and serve them concessions within the carriage.
For pictures and paintings of the fair like those above, check out the Chicago Field Museum's collection or just google “Columbian Exposition."
For a layout of the fair, check out this zoomable map.
And to get Witch in the White City, my dark historical fantasy/mystery set in the fair, click here. (Only $0.99 if you pre-order before April 16!)