Humanities Time Capsule: Columbian Exposition of 1893

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Ida B. Wells

July 16, 1862:
Ida Bell Wells born, Holly springs, Mississippi, to Elizabeth and James Wells, slaves.
Supports five brothers and sisters by teaching school after parents die in yellow fever epidemic.
To Memphis to teach. Attends Fisk University and Lemoyne Institute. Publishes article about her suit against railroad for ejecting her from first-class car.
Writes for black newspapers across the country. Buys interest in weekly, Free Speech and Headlight. Loses teaching job for articles criticizing schools.
Tom Moss lynched. Wells's anti-lynching crusade begins. Memphis whites destroy her press. Moves to New York.
Anti-lynching speaking tours, U.S. and England.
"Those visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition who know these facts, especially foreigners will naturally ask: Why are not the colored people, who constitute so large an element of the American population, and who have contributed so large a share to American greatness, more visibly present and better represented in this World's Exposition? Why are they not taking part in this glorious celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of their country? Are they so dull and stupid as to feel no interest in this great even? It is to answer these questions and supply as far as possible our lack of representation at the Exposition that the Afro-American has published this volume."

Sources: Dorothy Sterling, Black Foremothers: Three Lives (The Feminist Press, 1988) 62, 89. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed., "The Reason Why," Selected Works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, (Oxford University Press, 1991) 49-50.

See Daniel Burnham Chrolonogy.

Frederick Douglass

Haiti's Official Representative at the Columbian Exposition

"It seems strange to me that but for an accident Mr. Douglass would have had no part in the World's Fair because of race prejudice in this country; yet whenever he went out into the grounds or visited one of the other buildings or showed himself in the reception room of the Haitian building, he was literally swamped by white persons who wanted to shake his hand, tell of some former time when they had heard him speak, or narrate some instance of the anti-slavery agitation in which they or their parents had taken part with Mr. Douglass. Every time I was fortunate enough to start out in his company for a visit to some special part of the fair, I had no chance whatever to enjoy his company because of such interruption." - Ida B. Wells

Source: Alfreda M. Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, (University of Chicago Press, 1970) 119.
Picture source: John W. Blassingame and John R. McKivigan, eds., The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series I, Vol. 5 (Yale University Press, 1992).

See Board of Architects.

White and Black in America

An Interview with Frances Willard (and a Reply by Ida Wells)

"It is not fair that [alien illiterates] should vote, nor is it fair that a plantation Negro who can neither read nor write, whose ideas are bounded by the fence of his own field and the price of his own mule should be entrusted with the ballot. We ought to have put an educational test upon that ballot from the first. Would-be demagogues are leading the colored peoples to destruction; half-drunken white roughs murder them at the polls or intimidate them so they do not vote. That is what I said." - Frances Willard
"With me, it is not myself nor my reputation, but the life of my people which is at stake, and I affirm that this is the first time to my knowledge that Miss Willard has said one single word in denouncing lynching or demand for law. The year 1890, the one in which her interview in The Voice appears, had a larger lynching record than any previous year, and the number and territory of lynchings have increased, to say nothing of the human beings burned alive." - Ida B. Wells

Source: Alfreda M. Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, (University of Chicago Press, 1970) 207, 209. Picture source: William E. Cameron, The World’s Fair, Being a Pictorial History of The Columbian Exposition, (E. C. Morse & Co., 1893).

See Willard's Speech at the World's Congress of Religions.

Thomas J. Morgan's Prophecy

The Indian Tribes Will Disappear

"There will be here and there wandering bands of blanket beggars. These aboriginal tramps will perpetuate the absurdities and enormities of Indian life either as a profession or as a providential object lesson for students of history. These students will thus be able to form a fair estimate of the great work that the Indian Bureau has wrought in helping to redeem the great mass of the Indians."

Source: Dave Walter, Today Then: America's Best Minds Look 100 Years into the Future on the Occasion of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, (American & World Geographic Publishing, 1992) 44.
Picture source: Halsey C. Ives, The Dream City, A Portfolio of Photographic Views of the World's Columbian Exposition, (N. D. Thompson Publishing Co.).

Depew's Prophecy.

How To Raise a Family on $500 a Year
Some Figures from Katharine Davis's Model Household

Market Prices, Chicago, July 1893
Article How Purchased Price per Pound
Beef (shoulder)
Beef heart
Codfish (salt)
Dried Peas
String beans
By the pound, 6-8 cents
Each, 10-12 cents
By the pound
By the pound
By the pound
By the head, 8-10 cents
By the pound
By the quart, 5 cents
By the dozen, 5 cents
By the quart
By the pound, 10 lbs for 55 cents
By the quart, 16-1/2 cents
By the pound
usual $.080
about .056
about .040
about .051

Annual Budget
Income, $500
Rent, at $10/mo
Family Clothing
Girl of ten years
Boy of eight years
Girl of five years

Source: Joseph W. Barnes, Illustrated by Teresa Fasolino, "How to Raise a Family on $500 a Year," American Heritage, December 1981 (Vol 33, No. 1) 95.

Toast to Daniel Burnham.

Bishop Arnett Speaks to the World Congress of Religions

I believe that it will do good not only to the dominant race; but to the race that I represent it is a Godsend, and from this meeting we believe will go forth a sentiment that will righten a great many of our wrongs and lighten up the dark places, and assist in giving us that which we are no denied--the common privileges of humanity; for we find that in this congress the majority of the people represented are of the darker races, which will teach the American people that color is not the standard of excellence or of degradation. But I trust that much good will come to all, and not only the Fatherhood of God be acknowledged, but the brotherhood of man.

Source: J. W. Hanson, ed., World's Congress of Religions: Addresses and Papers, (Waverly Publishing Co., 1894) 749, 948.

President Cleveland's Address.

Proceed to Group II of Wells Artifacts.
Return to beginning of World's Fair of 1893 time capsule.

A complete bibliography is available from:

John Ramsay
Educational Studies Department
Carleton College
Northfield, MN 55057