We’re actually in Chicago for a wedding, soaking in the sights. Chicago is, of course, a great town in general and a great comics town as well, home to some of the greatest ‘tooners working and great shops like Chicago Comics. After staying in Rosemont for years, it’s a thrill to actually visit downtown and some real neighborhoods.
While soaking in the great architecture we’re reminded of Chicago
native resident Chris Ware, who has mentioned he was influenced by images of the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893, a vastly influential cultural event of the day, and other great Chicago exhibitions of the turn of the century.
The Exposition covered more than 600 acres, featuring nearly 200 new buildings of European architecture, canals and lagoons, and people and cultures from around the world. Over 27 million people (about half the U.S. population) attended the Exposition over the six months it was open. Its scale and grandeur far exceeded the other world fairs of the time, and became a symbol of then-emerging American Exceptionalism, much in the same way that the The Great Exhibition became a symbol of the Victorian era United Kingdom.
Of the hundreds of buildings erected for the Exhibit, only one remains standing — they were all only temporary buildings, and despite their splendor, were never meant to last. In addition, most of the fair burned down in 1894 in a fire possibly set by striking Pullman workers. And in a final lugubrious note, the closing ceremonies were cancelled when the mayor of Chicago was assassinated two days before the close.
You can see how both the Beaux Arts architecture and fleeting nature of the exhibit would have appeal to Ware. There are several online galleries of contemporary photos, however — you can see one here.