Humanities Time Capsule: Columbian Exposition of 1893

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The Commemorative Ode [Excerpt]
Columbian Exposition Dedication Ceremonies
October 21, 1892, Harriet Stone Monroe

Columbia! on thy brow are dewy flowers
Plucked from wide prairies and from mighty hills.
Lo! toward this day have led the steadfast hours.
Now to thy hope the world its beaker fills.
The old earth hears a song of blessed themes
And lifts her head from a deep couch of dreams
Her queenly nations, elder-born of Time,
Troop from high thrones to hear,
Clasp thy strong hands, tread with thee paths sublime,
Lovingly bend the ear.
Spain, in the broidered robes of Chivalry,
Comes with slow foot and inward-brooding eyes.
Bow to her banner! 'twas the first to rise
Out of the dark for thee.
And England...

Source: William E. Cameron, The World's Fair, Being a Pictorial History of The Columbian Exposition, (E. C. Morse & Co., 1893) 211.

"I had prepared a pamphlet edition of the poem for sale at a quarter each, and five thousand copies did not seem too many to the oversanguine author and her advisers. The Western News Company undertook to sell it but found the dealers unresponsive. So all that winter I used the ode for fuel in the little stove which heated my bedroom-study..."

Source: Harriet Monroe, A Poet's Life: Seventy Years in a Changing World, (Macmillan Company, 1938) 58a, 131.

Dunbar Reads His Poetry.

Ten Suggestions for Visitors (Excerpts)

2. As there are accommodations for feeding 60,000 persons per hour within the Exposition grounds, and hundreds of thousands outside the grounds, it will be found, as a rule, more convenient and economical not to include board in advance arrangements. ...

5. One-horse Hansom cabs will carry one or two passengers to any point for 50 cents per mile...

6. Hotel rates in Chicago proper range from $2.00 to $4.00 per day and upward, according to class, for room and board...

7. For information of any kind on reaching depot consult the Bureau of Information to be found at all general passenger stations... Information from other than these official sources should, as a rule, be neither invited nor accepted.

9. Jackson Park, the site of the Exposition, is about seven miles from the down-town railway depots and may be reached by street car or elevated railway for 5 cents...

10. Admission to Exposition 50 cents. Children under 12 years, 25 cents. Children under 6 years free. Ticket admits to every attraction on the grounds, excepting Esquimau Village and Cliff Dwellers' exhibit. A Fee is also charged for special concerts in Much and Choral Halls. ... Midway Plaisance attractions are not part of the World's Columbian Exposition. consult Bureau of Public comfort on the grounds in relation to all matters; advice and assistance are given cheerfully and without charge.

Source: John J. Flinn, Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition, (John Anderson Publishing Company, 1893) 18.
Picture Source: Glimpses of the World's Fair: A Selection of Gems of the White City Seen through a Camera, (Laird & Lee, 1893).

Cario Theatre Street Dance.


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-speaking 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 posses 3,000 of these yachts, and America over 1,200; there are a half dozen annual publications which record their history.

Source: The Dream City, A Portfolio of Photographic Views of the World's Columbian Exposition, (N. D. Thompson Publishing Co.).

Woman's Work.

William Dean Howells
Letters of an Altrurian Traveller

"I first saw the Fair City by night, from one of the electric launches which ply upon the lagoon;...Here a group of statuary showed itself prominently on quay or cornice; we caught the flamy curve of a bridge's arch; a pale column lifted its jutting prores into the light; but nothing insisted; all was harmonized to one effect of beauty, as if in symbol of the concentered impulses which had created it. For the moment I could not believe that so foul a thing as money could have been even the means of its creation."

Source: W. D. Howells, The Altrurian Romances, (Indiana University Press, 1968) 201, 202.
Picture source: Halsey C. Ives, The Dream City: A Portfolio of Photographic Views of the World's Columbian Exposition, (N. D. Thompson Publishing Co., 1893).

Roadbuilding on the Fair Grounds.

Isabelle Garland Enters the World Columbian Exposition's Court of Honor
(as told by her son, Hamlin Garland)

"Stunned by the majesty of the vision, my mother sat in her chair, visioning it [the court of honor] all yet compre- hending little of its meaning. Her life had been spent among homely small things, and these gorgeous scenes dazzled her, overwhelmed her, letting in upon her in one mighty flood a thousand stupefying suggestions of the art and history and poetry of the world. She was old and she was ill, and her brain ached with the weight of its new conceptions. Her face grew troubled and wistful, and her eyes as big and dark as those of a child. At last utterly overcome she leaned her head against my arm, closed her eyes and said, 'Take me home. I can't stand any more of it.'"

Source: Hamlin Garland, A Son of the Middle Border, (Penguin Books, 1995) 369.
Picture source: Jean Holloway, Hamlin Garland: A Biography, (University of Texas Press, 1960).

John Philip Sousa Plays Stephen Foster

"[Theodore] Thomas became the Director of Music for the World's Fair, and engaged our band to play at the Exposition during the spring and early summer of 1893. Our concerts were a tremendous attraction and drew thousands at every performance. Mr. Tomlins, the vocal director of the Exposition, came up to the bandstand one night, after I had played a selection of old-time songs, and said, 'Sousa, while you were playing that last piece, thousands of these people were just crazy to join in with the band. Let me announce that you want the audience to sing when you play "Old Folks at Home." So that night, we broke into "Way Down Upon the Suwanee River." Before we finished, we had played half a dozen songs and hymn tunes near to the heart of America. We repeated the experiment several times during the season, with many encores.'"

Source: John Philip Sousa, Marching Along: Recollections of Men, Women, and Music, (Integrity Press, 1994) 133, 256A.

Scott Joplin.

A complete bibliography is available from:

John Ramsay
Educational Studies Department
Carleton College
Northfield, MN 55057

Return to beginning of World's Fair of 1893 time capsule.

With Special Thanks:

Lois Messal, Educational Studies Department Secretary

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Carleton College Students:
Amelia Hopkins '96
Douglas Kennedy '95
Annie McCabe '98
Bridget Stevens '98
Carrie Zwiebel '97

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Clifford Clark, Carleton College MA & AD Hulings Professor of American Studies
Eric Hillemann, Carleton College Archivist
Paula Lackie, Carleton College Academic Computing Coordinator

Bob Gabrick, White Bear Lake School District
Douglas Greenberg, President, Chicago Historical Society
Keith Lauver, MicroAssist, Inc.
Jason Betz, MicroAssist, Inc.