The buildings of the White City were constructed over steel frames with plasterwork on the outside, providing a striking contrast between their exteriors and interiors. This portion of the fair was underwritten by leading Chicago industrialists, such as Cyrus McCormick of reaper fame, and admission was free. How does such architecture represent “progress?” To what might we compare it?
From Josiah Flynt, Tramping With Tramps (New York: Century Co, 1899)
from the portfolio Education Art Series, N. D. Thompson Publishing Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1893
Never, since the first gray dawn of time, has there been such a collection of genius, such an assembly of the Master Spirits of the world, as that brought together by the grandest civic event in history, know as THE WORLD'S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION. Here was a "Spectacle of the Centuries," the wondrous beauties of which have been heralded to the ends of the earth, whose like men now living may never hope to see again. All the highest and best achievements of modern civilization; all that was strange, beautiful, artistic, and inspiring; a vast and wonderful university of the arts and sciences, teaching a noble lesson in history, art, science, discovery, and invention, designed to stimulate the youth of this and future generations to greater and more heroic endeavor.
... The question is, how best to secure and preserve for the people the fullest and most permanent results from the lessons it teaches. We know how quickly vanish scenes caught by the eye and preserved only by the memory. Some safer receptacle must be found, or, great as the beneficial influences of this grandest of civic displays, the larger part of its benefits will be lost.
It is the purpose of this "Portfolio of Photographic Views" to furnish such a receptacle, in a form at once portable, beautiful, and permanent, for present use and future preservation. In its pages will be presented all the FEATURES OF THE FAIR--artistic and industrial, paintings and statuary, with interesting descriptions of the marvelous exhibits of the United States and Foreign Nations.
... For the entertainment and instruction of the young this book is especially set forth; such a book in the family is an object lesson, a work of perpetual interest, in its influence more wide-reaching and lasting than the Fair itself. It is at once a Souvenir for the millions who attended the exhibition as a record of what they saw, and the exhibition itself for the millions who did not see it. The photographs used in this book were taken by the Government Photographer and used here by special arrangement.
DETAILS OF THE HORTICULTURAL DOME
The engraving (above) offers to the reader and student a searching view of the central one of three pavilions in Horticultural Hall. The curtains at right and left lead to large but less impressive features of the structure. The rich sculptural garniture of this building was the work of Professor Lorado Taft, the accomplished art lecturer and sculptor. Some figures are also to be seen in groups and over the Ionic columns. The sculpture of Taft is like the genius of the man-- smooth rather than notable-- rich, pleasing, but conventional, although on the best models. The padding to protect the gondolas may be seen at the landing, and the spacious ascent to the quay. The great dome springs up from four small but ornate hemispheres, with by far the broadest expanse of any of the similar constructions in this rich field of domes. The fidelity of the sculptural decorations is certified on every frieze, stanchion, balustrade, and on the corona that recalls the summit of the Administration dome. This was doubtless the largest hot-house ever erected. It was to fulfill its office as a conservatory and yet stand creditably among the colossal halls which were required for the display of the world's industries. Its diameter was one hundred and eighty feet and its height one hundred and fourteen feet. Its crystal construction, and its happy angular posture in the great aquatic vista, were noted with relief by the most critical, and praised by all. Rarely has there been a more successful adjustment to necessities than was shown in this proud home of flowers.
IN THE AGRICULTURAL BUILDING
As may be seen at a glance in the engraving, the new territory of Oklahoma erected one of the most peculiar and characteristic pavilions to be found among the oddities and fancies of the cereal architects in Chief Buchanan's large domain. This section was situated prominently in the first aisle away from the west wall, at the southwest corner of the main building. Sorghum and corn served as the principal materials of the builder, and canopied many other displays. From the ceiling depended great bunches of grasses, and a pyramid of jars formed the central feature of the exhibit. Cane, cereals and vegetables were displayed with a profusion that led the visitor to marvel upon the swift march of agriculture across the " Great American Desert," which was a central tract in all school geographies of Lincoln's time. The Territory of Oklahoma was settled while the last World’s Fair was in the midst of its splendor at Paris, in 1889, and sat here among sister States in 1893 as visible as were they, occupying as much space, courting as much attention, receiving as many visitors, hoping to gain as many new residents. The National Commissioners of Oklahoma were Pthniel Beeson, of El Reno, and Frank R. Gammon, of Guthrie; the Alternate Commissioners were John Wallace, of Oklahoma City, and Joseph W. McNeal, of Guthrie. Mrs. Guthrie was one of the Lady Managers, and Mrs. Beeson was her colleague.
THE GOVERNMENT BUILDING
There was erected on a broad plaza, which reached to the lake shore, a large and ornate building, surmounted by a high dome, the structure bearing many resemblances to the headquarters of Illinois near by. Both edifices were disliked by many critics, who admired the Art Palace further north. It was held that these two domes, with their various colors, none of them clear, were prejudicial to the appearance of the great Greek Temple which held the pictures of the world; but the Government Building was probably the largest and most expensive undertaking of its kind connected with any of the universal expositions, and it was dedicated to the display of such a number of invaluable relics as will perhaps never again be seen together. The building was the work of Windrim & Edbrooke, architects, of Washington, D. C., and had it not stood in close comparison with more simple Greek example, would have created a strong sense of satisfaction in every beholder, for it had many elegant pavilions with pylon entrances at east and west on which were placed groups of sculpture representing Liberty, by Waagen, and bronze eagles at each of the four pediments. It was crowded all summer, the people fully appreciating the efforts of the War, State, Navy, Treasury, Interior, Postoffice, Justice and Agricultural Departments, and the Fish Commission to impart instruction and afford a high order of entertainment. Dimensions, four hundred and twenty by three hundred and fifty feet. Dome two hundred and seventy-five feet high. Cost, $325,000.
THE COLOMBIAN ILLUMINATIONS
The photograph recalls to the minds of all who witnessed the illuminations of 1893, the splendors of the Administration Building and its environs in the Court of Honor. In the eye of the camera there is detailed, with thrilling fidelity, the balustrade of the first stage, the Ionic colonnade of the second stage, and the festoons and panels of the dome; but for the fires that burned their tiny points, or the flambeaux that flaunted their broader flames, or the arc-lights that made a thousand suns, we here must introduce a poor white background; and for the misty voyaging clouds that sailed upon the sapphire vault of Heaven, we here must hang a heavy sable pall. The octagonal dome, thus lit, was the particular beauty of the Fair; its corona realized some religious dream of diadems in paradise. On the strands of a gleaming lake, over the groves and the meadows, cheating the nightingale and the whippoorwills, undulating in the fragrant air of harvest eves, hastening the midnight time with speed too swift, this vision dwelt like butterfly upon a summer hour, and fled from out our world into the welcome recollections of grateful poets and faithful bards. And, while it burned at night, then Edison, the wizard who had summoned this same scene from out the hidden realms of nature-- he came and looked across the waters and across the groves, and heard his own heart beating loud, and, mayhap, felt the love of men for him, and sorrow, too, that such a thing should pass away.
THE GRAND BASIN FROM THE PERISTYLE
This view is from the Columbus Quadriga, on the Colonnade at the harbor, and gives a nearly complete photograph of the Basin. We obtain here a right sense of the width of the lower plazas, between the balustrades of the Basin and the balustrades nearer the buildings. The admirable drapery of the sixty-five foot statue of the Republic is displayed, showing that French was a master of the arithmetic of his art, for nobody could judge of the total effect of this work until it was put together on a thirty-five foot pedestal. The entrance to the statue is seen at the foot of the pedestal, and, doubtless, men are standing in the door. Thus we may be guided to measure the height of the wonderful effigy-- perhaps the most successful of its kind that has ever been moulded. On the right is the Manufactures, next the Electricity and next the Mines. In front is the Administration, which but partly hides the Terminal Station. On the left is the Agricultural and, further off, Machinery Hall, whose central northern spires are seen to break the facade line of the Court of Honor, as this square was called. The sea-horses and Barge of State of the MacMonnies' Fountain are but dimly discerned behind the sprays of water. E. C. Potter's bulls and horses are seen at the boat landings on either side of the Basin. The angels on the Administration Building, with all their heroic size, have dwindled to the appearance of tropic plants, and smaller statues barely show at all. Greatest length of Basin, thirteen hundred feet; width, three hundred feet.
The Palace of Mechanic Arts of 1893 is here portrayed as it looked on its two exhibitory facades, and it is doubtful if a more original or beautiful building was ever erected. Its remarkable features were undoubtedly the figures of flying angels just alighting on its many spires with laurel wreaths of victory, and the eye will detect these visitors all over the structure, and in postures most airy and inspiring. The company of heroic figures that seemed to assemble at each portal, too, gave force and interest to those needfully accentuated points, and the great loggias were the largest and most ornate of all those which fronted on the Court of Honor. This building had one, perhaps, necessary fault. It was under three roofs. These roofs drained together, and when avalanches of snow slid down the arches, there was no place for the accumulations to escape except upon the floor below. A picture of the eastern portal occupies a page of this volume, and the statuary may there be fully inspected. Machinery Hall was the creation of Peabody & Stearns, of Boston. The long facade which we see, measured eight hundred and forty-two feet; the shorter one four hundred and ninety-two feet. There was an annex, four hundred and ninety by five hundred and fifty feet. The floor area was thus spread to twenty-three acres without gallery, and the amount of money expended was $1,200,000. The style of architecture was called Spanish Renaissance, but it should be named more justly after its ingenious and adventurous authors.
THE COURT OF HONOR
This splendid scene, the triumph of the Columbian year, has evoked unfeigned praise from the very heart of civilization. Whether we look upon this spectacle by day, under a blue sky that is clarified by the reflection of the limpid waters of Lake Michigan; or by night, when fretted with fires that out-spangle the vault of heaven, with flying fountains bathed in floods of rainbow lights, and overlooking domes bejeweled with glittering crowns, and waters resounding with choral song or echoing the soft splash of Venetian oars-- we feel that the dream of hope has come true The victory of Art and Soul over the moods of tempestuous Nature is bulletined on every architrave and joyously proclaimed from the mouths and the trumps of a thousand heroes and angels. Nowhere else in the modern world have the skill and genius of sculptor and architect been so prodigally bestowed. The Court of Honor is itself a fabulous fountain, curbed with high palaces and colonnades, on whose fronts are marshaled the army of Art's kingdom. Along these friezes, pediments, faades, springing with every arch, sitting high on every column, holding office at each portal, may be seen some memorable groups that came from the sculptor's brain in obedience to the confident call of a glorious nation that was to invite the Elder Hemisphere to its august festival. Brooched on the bosom of the scene is the MacMonnies' Fountain, which cost $50,000, and was made in Paris. On the right is the Agricultural Building, remarkable for the wealth and beauty of the sculptor Martiny's statuary-- his Zodiacs and bovine groups, his Four Races, bearing their armillary spheres. In the Basin towers the golden statue of the Republic, sixty feet high, by Daniel C. French. In the distance is the Peristyle, so-called, and on the left the mountainous Manufactures Building, the largest structure so far erected within historical times.
ON THE SOUTH LAGOON
The engraving, beside giving a study of the four-oared swan-beaked gondola (there were usually but two oarsmen to each boat) depicts the eastern termination of the South Screen or Colonnade, and the western facade of the Agricultural Building. We barely see the circular base of the obelisk and lion-fountain which accentuated this region, and besides looking through the columns on the Live Stock Amphitheatre, may note garlanded Corinthian pillars at the end of the Colonnade and their rich effect, as if decked for a triumph. It was from the Colonnade that colored lights were thrown on the MacMonnies' Fountain. The Agricultural Building may be profitably observed. Here was a Corinthian porch, "Pilio", Pediment and "Ceres" bas-relief, with mural painting. Between the arches may be seen two of the sixty Zodiacs, holding their signs. Under the upper cornice are two of the sixty copies of Abundance, as caryatides. On the corner is one of four copies of the Four Races. Lower, at the left, is one of four copies of the Four Seasons; and further at the left are copies of the four groups each of a man with oxen, and a man with horses. All these were made under direction of Philip Martiny. At the water-side are two of E. C. Potter's bulls. The admirable manner in which exotic plants were grouped in corners, and otherwise placed, should be remarked.
THE HEROIC STATUE OF THE REPUBLIC
The ancients delighted in heroic statues, such as the Colossus of Rhodes, the Egyptian Sphinx and Memnon, and the statues of Jupiter at Athens and Olympia, which made the fame of Phidias. But the moderns, until the day of Bartholdi, did not undertake great effigies, and the success of Daniel C. French in creating the figure of a woman for the central statuary of the Fair, was owing to the general resemblance of his figure to humanity, and not because it offered a model of form or fashion. Indeed, it is impossible to determine whether the figure is too short or is too tall, as the judgment will surely be formed according to the distance of the eye from the pedestal. This statue is sixty-five feet high. Portions of the skirt, while they stood in the Forestry Building, looked like a front of the New York Building; nor could any uniformed person opine what might be the use to which the pieces could be put, The work was done in the early spring and summer of 1892, in a room cut off at the north end of the Forestry Building. The working model was itself sixteen feet high, or larger than Carl Rohl-Smith's Franklin, in the south hemicycle of the Electricity Building. The sculptor received $8,000 for his services, and when it came to the gilding of the statue-- for it appears as a golden image, after the methods of Phidias-- it was found that no less than $1,400 worth of gold-leaf was required for the labor. The total cost was about $25,000. The face is fifteen feet long, the little fingers a yard. The total height from the water is one hundred feet.
THE ADMINISTRATION BUILDING
This structure nobly sustained the expectations of the public, and held a sovereign position among all the wonders of the Fair. It was designed by Richard M. Hunt, of New York, and, besides serving as headquarters for the chief officers of the Exposition, its spacious rotunda offered a favorite meeting place for friends, and was thronged early and late by admirers of the beautiful and impressive in architecture. Four square edifices (called pavilions) of the general height of the principal facades of the Exposition, were placed at the corners of a quadrangular square of two hundred and fifty feet, and from the inner corners of the roofs of these edifices rose the beautiful French octagonal dome, which, in addition to its gilding, bore a conspicuous outer ornamentation in relief. Between each pavilion was a space about ninety feet square, making the entrances to the rotunda-- that is, the main entrances-- about that far from the outer lines of the building. The whole design was in three stages: the first was the four pavilions, and carried the height sixty-five feet, to a level with the facades of the Court of Honor; the next stage was a central one, forty feet high; the third stage was the dome itself. The first stage was Doric, the second Ionic, with a colonnade of great dignity, as viewed from its loggia; the third was the ribbed dome, with its sculptural panels, and reached a height of two hundred and sixty feet from the floor below. The rotunda was ornamented with panels that bore the names of nations and celebrated men, with didactic inscriptions; and in the upper part of the vault were Dodge's allegorical paintings. At night the dome was lighted with incandescent bulbs so as to define its panels, and a corona shone on its crest, making a memorable illumination-- the chief beauty of the Fair. The total cost was $650,000.
This magnificent colonnade takes its name from a projected peristyle of columns that was to have encircled the harbor of the Fair, but was happily abandoned for this simpler and more beautiful form. Through this portal came all visitors by lake, and it was by this entrance alone that the architecture of the Exposition could be effectively judged. The colonnade in which this portal was centrally placed contained forty-eight great Corinthian columns, and connected the Casino on -the south with the Music Hall on the north. The States and Territories of the Union were symbolized in the columns. Placed upon the arch of triumph, in the most distinguished position, stood the Columbus quadriga, or four-horse chariot, designed by the sculptors French and Potter, completed at a cost of $15,000. On pedestals at the right and left of the portal are groups representing the "Genius of Navigation," the creations of Bella G. Pratt, of New York. Heroic figures stand in double row on the balustrade, representing Eloquence, Music, Navigation, Fisherman and Indian, and fill the spaces between the two terminal structures. The promenade beneath its colonnade at night, under the incandescent lights that ornamented as well as illuminated its high spaces, was much frequented, especially by visitors who were watching the display of fireworks. The inscriptions on the Peristyle were suggested by President Eliot of Harvard University. It will be noted that other explorers beside Columbus are honored in this classic structure. The cost of the Peristyle, Music Hall and Casino was $200,000, and the architect was C. B. Atwood, of Chicago.
THE GOLDEN DOORWAY OF THE TRANSPORTATION BUILDING
The position of this remarkable portal may be ascertained by reference to the picture of the Transportation Building itself, on another page of this volume, and in a study of these shining arches it is necessary to know that the structure which they adorn has been purposely made severe in aspect, in order that by contrast this central feature might gain the greater distinction. The architects of the building have called its vari-colored effects "Wagnerian," and we may accept their ideas so far as to name this entrance the wedding-march of a "Lohengrin"-- in other words, an unquestionably beautiful feature in an ensemble that is purposely devoid of entertainment and delight. It may be inferred that the architects, in producing these rich geometrical effects, were inspired by Wagner's music. But whether there be or be not any practical relation between music and decoration, the people gave the seal of approval to the " Golden Doorway "-- which was rather silvern than golden-- and Wagnerians who spoke in riddles, and the masses, who used shorter words, alike admired and praised the work. In its essence it is Asian, relieved by the beautiful tablets, or teas reliefs of John J. Boyle, the sculptor, which give, on either side, a touch of free art to the circles and foliations of the Orient. Quotations from Bacon and Macauly are inscribed over the doorway. The gilding was done experimentally, and occupied many months, with prodigious expense.
THE COLOMBIAN FOUNTAIN
Frederick MacMonnies was entrusted with the design and construction of the central fountain at the Pair, and $50,000 were placed at his disposal for the purpose. Of this amount, it is said that the ardent lover of sculpture actually expended fully $48,000 in bringing his great conception to successful completion, The fountain shows Columbia sitting aloft on the Barge of State, heralded by Fame at the prow, oared by the Arts and Industries, guided by Time at the helm, and drawn by the sea-horses of Commerce. The prow of the barge is ornamented with an eagle's beak; its sides are bordered with dolphins in relief; and horns of plenty pour their abundance over the gunwales. The pedestal on which Columbia sits, bears a national shield in front, and the throne is supported by four kneeling children, who also bear heavy garlands. A torch at rest is in Columbia's hand. The rowers on the right are Music, Architecture, Sculpture and Painting; on the left, Agriculture, Science, Industry and Commerce. Time has improvised a helm by using his scythe. This barge stands in the center of a circular basin, one hundred and fifty feet in diameter, which at its eastern periphery flows in circular cascade in many falls to the surface of the Grand Basin of the Exposition, twelve feet below. In the basin of the fountain, four pair of sea-horses, mounted by riders who represent modern intelligence, draw the barge. Near the semi-circular balustrade which guards the rear of the fountain, dolphins send streams upward, and mermaids and tritons at various places add to the fleecy display of high-thrown water. The general effect of the MacMonnies fountain was marvelously beautiful, and thousands of visitors gained their chief enjoyment in sitting near by and enjoying this principal scene. It was said to be the largest fountain in the world.
It is to be remembered that, when the architects of the Agricultural Building placed the charge of their sculpture in the hands of Philip Martiny, the pupil of St. Gaudens, it was left to him to operate as best he could. In less than a year's time he was to cover the long-stretching cornices and facades of the Agricultural Building with the richest ornamentation ever seen in America. To accomplish so much, and to secure a harmony of design, he must himself make the plan, and invent the groups-- or, at least, decide upon their character, while a whole school of sculptors under his direction must labor incessantly, and with a certain kind of originality, to vanquish the stubborn element of time, and enliven the wide spaces of the south side of the Court of Honor with the company of statues on which the search-lights afterward shone at night. Mr. Martiny proved that wealth and grandeur of sculpture can be attained by the duplication of ideas in similar architectural positions, for although all his important groups appear several times on the fronts of Agricultural Hall, yet the very unity of appearance assures the observer that sculpture was here used in its true, subordinated relation-- that is, it was the Agricultural temple as a whole which was to be admired. The figures that support this shield of Ceres in our engraving are remarkable for uncommon beauty of feminine contour, and betray the refined eye of the great designer.
LOOKING EAST FROM THE FERRIS WHEEL
Seated in a car of the Ferris Wheel, the scene of the circuit par excellence, was offered as the spectator rose gently above the Midway Plaisance, looking eastward. Here the panorama was essentially as is represented in the engraving, except that in the latter days the famous street was never to be espied so nearly bare of people, and there were times, as on October ninth, or Chicago day, when the picture was pitch black with people. From the eyrie of the Ferris Wheel the mountainous significance of the Manufactures Building became apparent, and it was found that nothing whatever could belittle the chief structure of the Exposition. The stupendous disappointments covered in the abandonment of the Steele Mackaye Spectatorium were to be noted on the left (just out of range of the picture) in a half-built pile of timber and staff that frowned over the Fair. The domes of the Government and Illinois buildings competed for the attention of the eye. On the left, the secrets of the German Village were broken open, and the straw roofs of the Java Village beyond warned Chicagoans of the danger of fire, and hinted of a calamity that never happened. The circular building on the right, below, held the panorama of the Bermese Alps, and the circular roof and chimney on the left, beyond the first viaduct across the Plaisance, was over the Libby Glass Works. Two viaducts are seen, both of which seriously marred the vista, The Midway at night was bewilderingly bright and exciting.
ON THE YACHT NAMOUNA
A painting by Jules Stewart, exhibited in the United States section, and loaned by Mrs. Henry P. Borie, of Philadelphia. The extraordinary increase of wealth in English--peaking countries with its accompanying activity in ocean commerce, has given rise, during the present century, and particularly toward its close, to the sport, science and pastime of yachting, perhaps the most costly diversion which peoples or nations ever indulged. It is said that $50,000 a year, as the expense of keeping a fine yacht, is now a common item in the personal accounts of the millionaires; and in the race for social eminence and the formation of exclusive coteries, certainly the yacht is an effective measurement of both financial ability and docility and loyalty to the conventions of fashion. One of two things is probable, if we consider the party of men and women who while away the summer hours on this yacht Namouna. Either they did not earn the money which is here being spent at the rate of a thousand dollars a week, or, if they did earn it, there is a certain martyrdom in the ennui of fashionably spending it. We cannot imagine Peter Girard, John Jacob Astor, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Commodore, thus using the time which made their lives so valuable to them. But the second or third generation finds the method satisfactory. The elite of Great Britain possess 3,000 of these yachts, and America over 1,200; there are a half dozen annual publications which record their history.
UNITED STATES SUBMARINE DIVING EXHIBIT
This little building, which surrounded a huge tank of water, stood opposite the Libby Glass Works, on the south side of Midway Plaisance, at the intersection of Washington avenue, had that street crossed Midway. A man turned the force-pump on the balcony, attracting much attention. The visitor paid ten cents and entered at the right portal. Ascending a rude stair-case he reached the surface of the water. There a lecturer was seated, who explained the entrance and exit of air into and from the diver's armor, and asked for small coins, which were tossed into the water by their owners. Through a telephone the diver, "Charley," who was unseen in the bubbling water, reported the dates on these coins, and often returned them to their former possessors. The diver then came to the surface with the effigy of a drowned man, and allowed the people to see the armor in which he was encased. He did not look essentially different from the painting which is seen at the left front of the gaudily bedecked shanty. Next the visitors filed down another rough pine stair-case on the left and took positions at the many peep-holes which looked in upon the pale blue water in the tank. To these holes the diver came in turn, holding up a card on which, in large letters, was printed some civil farewell compliment. His appearance was that of a very wet man. His hands were shriveled and soaked, and the visitor received the impression that life in the deep is not easy even for a scientific diver.
© 2010 Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press
Part I: Excerpts from the Education Art Series, N. D. Thompson Publishing Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1893, in a weekly series of 20 portfolios
Part II: Poems and Architecture in the State Buildings, by David Greenstein Vassar '05
Dream City Resources