Everyday items taken for granted; the zipper, fluorescent lights, dishwashers, and spray paint. All of these were unveiled to the world at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The Columbian Exposition, also called the Chicago World’s Fair, was a place of many firsts. Some were good, and some were necessary evils. Planned advancements were that of technology and inventions. Contrasting areas of development such as architecture were surprising, as no one knew how magnificent and cutting-edge the city would become.
On the other hand of things, America’s first serial killer came to fruition during the height of the fair, gaining us an insight to the psyche of a whole other mental state of killers. During the few months of this extravagant fair, which drew a crowd of 27 million over its duration, many things made impacts that would last up into modern times. What was originally a celebration of the past, an exhibition for the 400 year anniversary of Columbus arriving in America, became a birth for the future as well.
The Chicago’s World Fair was a pivotal point in history because it’s architectural advancements, the Fairs’ innovation in electricity, and the incidents that lead to modern ideas in psychology. This built up America to lead into its roaring twenties industry revolution. At the time prior to the fair, there was much talk of how the fairgrounds would appear. The man running it all, Daniel Burnham, brought in the country’s leading architects and landscapers to ensure the city would live up to and exceed expectations.
At first glance, many fair goers were in awe of the city, as the majority of conurbations in this time period were filled with pollution and smog. Some of these buildings are still in use today, except they have since been painted more neutrally, such as the Palace of Fine Arts. The building was created by Charles Atwood, whose objective was to make the building safe for art collections. The building was successfully made to be fireproof for this, and in turn got art dealers to donate their art to the fair.
Many things have lived on from the architecture shown at the Exposition, such as the midway. Architects laid out plans of where everything would go in the city for the fair. They created an area for small shows, games, and amusement attractions. This was called the Midway Plaisance, and coined the term midway which is used to describe areas of fairs and carnivals. 3 All these plans and documents were so well thought out and arranged, that a rookery was built to hold and display all of these pages. This building still stands today in Chicago. While many things from the fair are still standing and remembered today, there are other architectural pieces that were shown for the first time at the fair and are common fixtures now. One of these many pieces was the Ferris wheel. A ride made specifically to be at this fair, the Ferris wheel was created by George G. W. , and the ride was featured on the fair’s midway. 5 Another attraction aside from the midway was the wooded island. This was a component created by renowned landscaper Fredrick Law Olmstead.
This was a huge deal to have such a well respected landscaper working on the project, as he had previously designed New York’s central park and gained attention from that task.. The impact of the wooded island and other outside features created for the Columbian Exposition generated enough praise and admiration that in recent years, modern day landscapers in Chicago have designed and built Millenial Park to honor the skill used to create the fairgrounds.? 2 all-that-is-interesting. com 3 all-that-is-interesting. com 4 articles. chicagotribune. com 5 explorephistory. com 6 all-that-is-interesting. com 7 articles. hicagotribune. com Looking toward to more advanced components, Daniel Burnham wanted the city to appear neoclassical, and created a look to the buildings to fit this ideal, making them seem to glow because of their all white exteriors in the process. Even in the night hours, lights illuminated the city blocks for crowds to continue activities where before if it was dark out, many went indoors. This spectacle of lights and nightlife was made possible by inventor and engineer, Nikola Tesla. From the start of this project, Tesla was confident in his ability to use his alternating current system to light the entire city.
Nikola was also fully motivated not only for the crediting of being the first to take on such a challenge, but also because his employer for this, George Westinghouse, would set up an exhibit for him to present his work. The biggest obstacle he had to face was completing such a difficult feat in only a few months, as the fair was fast approaching by the time Tesla and Westinghouse were guaranteed the rights to the project. 8 At the time, Thomas Edison’s direct current was the leader of electricity, and because Nikola Tesla’s alternating currents were safer and more practical, Edison felt threatened by the invention.
Therefore, he would not allow the Exposition to use his patented light bulbs. Working around this roadblock, Tesla had 250,000 sawyer-man stopper lamps. These were sufficient but not as suited for the job as Edison’s light bulbs would have been. This makes the success of Tesla’s project all the more impressive. Materialistic obstacles were not the only ones faced by Tesla however, as some critics at the time were wary of Tesla, an immigrant, representing the U. S. to the world by his involvement at the fair. 10 8 Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla pg. 99-100 9 Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla pg. 01-103 10 Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla pg. 102
Despite all of the winding roads leading to the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair, in the end Nikola Tesla created a success story of American ingenuity that was shared with millions from around the world. 11 After all of the effort he put into the fair, Nikola displayed his wireless experiments at the exposition to gain more recognition and to forward the display of new thinking and modern electrical ways of the future. 12 On the contrary of Nikola Tesla and the architect’s successes, a less ideal outcome from the fair was that of H. H. Holmes.
Before he turned to murder, Holmes was a con man. Using money he swindled from people, he built himself what can be described best as a murder castle. He built this in 1892 by buying out others for the land, just in time for the fairs arrival in 1893. 13 Alongside many of the intricate buildings made for the fair, Holmes’ structure was imposing. The first floor became a front to appear as shops and businesses while he ran operations inside.
On the second floor and in the basement, there were rooms that coined the name “horror chambers”, while the third floor had apartments that got rented out to guests during the fair. 4 When the fair came around in 1893, Holmes took up an opportunity that would change the dynamics of criminology forever. H. H. Holmes made his murder castle appear to be a hotel, yet he would torture, mutilate, and eventually kill his guests. 15 While these killings were gruesome, they served a different purpose than any other documented serial killer before him. His notoriety came from his motive; kill for financial and personal gain. 16 Holmes targets many women in these kills for insurance policy settlements and inheritance to fuel his greed.
At the time, all other serial killers on file would have killed for sadistic reasons, not consumeristic ones. 11 Teslasociety. com 12 Wizard:The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla pg 104 13 Harpers. org 14 Harpers. org 15 History. com 16 pyschologytoday. com The actions of Holmes lead the psychological field to categorize serial killers in a different way now. They used to have it very black and white with adist killers and contract killers. H. H. Holmes was the first documented killer to step outside their preliminary lines. 17 When he was convicted of his crimes, Holmes talked of how his kills were business for him, and killing was his job.
No one in the psychological field had ever delved deep enough into this aspect of different criminals, and his confessions gave important insight into this. 18 Once he was finally caught and interrogated for his kills at the fair, he confessed this to investigators in 1896: “I was born with the Devil in me, I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing”. 19 Numerous angles of this can be looked at, and his impact is still be profiled to this day. Many aspects of entertainment and literature have been influenced by him, inspiring different mindsets of characters and depictions.
All things considered, the Chicago World’s Fair had a lot going on. Just as any other shake-up in the history of America, this event had many critical firsts occur, for it changed multiple things of everyday life for many from that point on. Some of those changes and their impacts include inventions and electrical innovativity by Nikola Tesla, architectural and sculptural advancements, and studies of the criminal mind. That is only the surface of it all. The Columbian Exposition was a place where multiple things changed and moved forward, all within a short span of a few months.