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World`sColumbian Exposition

Theworld’s Columbian exposition was organized to celebrate 400 yearsafter Christopher Columbus, the 15thcentury explorer, landed on the shores of America. The event wasplanned for 1892 but was held a year later. Three American othercities were interesting in hosting the exposition, which includes NewYork City, Washington DC and St, Louis, but Chicago was selected tohost the historical event. The event which changed the face ofChicago and its role in American heritage took the city three yearsto prepare (Chicago historical society, 1999). The exposition was thefirst major event to be held in the city and in the United Statesafter the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition which was held in themid 1870s. The exposition was organized in a mile long amusementpark. The well organized part sparked the beginning of the goldenera, which was characterized by social and economic development inthe United States (PBS, 1999).

TheWorld’s Columbian Exposition had a lot of historical significanceon the city of Chicago. Although there were other major fairs thatwere organized in the 19thcentury, majority of them were organized by European cities such asLondon and Paris. The exposition in Chicago and its successes markedthe beginning of American success. The exposition was particularlyimportant to the city of Chicago because it marked the rebirth of thecity following the disastrous city fire, 22 years before theexposition (Paul V. Galvin Library, 1999). It is estimated that overtwenty million people visited the exposition while majority of theexhibits have been preserved in different museums. However, the endof the exploitation was bad news to the city as a result of a smalloutbreak the emerged from the fair, assassination of the city mayorand a city fire that destroyed the exposition buildings (Rydell2005).

Theexposition which demonstrated the progress of the United Statessociety and its steps towards prosperity had both positive andnegative aspects of the American society. A negative aspect of theAmerican society demonstrated in the exposition was the exclusion ofAfrican Americans. Despite their huge contribution in the history ofAmerica, their contribution was ignored, underscoring their exclusionin the future prosperity of the country. The events and exhibits inthe exposition were managed by an all white committees. Thesecommittees adopted policies that can be considered as racist todeliberately exclude African Americans from the exhibitions. This wasused to underline the racial stereotypes and bias that resulted intodiscrimination and segregation of African Americans (Rydell et al,1999)

However,there were some positive aspects of the American society that weredemonstrated in the exposition. The exposition demonstrated thedevelopment of commerce that had emerged in the second half of the19thcentury. This was demonstrated by enhanced corporate power andincreased consumption in the American society. The exposition was thefirst fair that demonstrated the emerging consumer based Americansociety. This sparked development in commerce that shaped the 20thcentury American economy. Another positive aspect of the society thatwas evident in the exposition was the role technology in social andeconomic development of the American society. Additionally, the fairshowcased technologies that influenced the American society in thegolden age. For example, in the late 19thcentury, electricity was the most important technology thattransformed the American economy from an agrarian economy to anindustrial economy. The Chicago exposition played an important rolein transforming the relationship between technology and the Americansociety (Rose, 1996).


ChicagoHistorical Society (1999). TheWorld`s Columbian Exposition,available at http://www.chicagohs.org/history/expo.html

Rose,J. (1996). Thelegacy of the fair,available at:https://web.archive.org/web/20140318051012/http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/legacy.html

PaulV. Galvin Library (1999). TheWorld`s Columbian Exposition of 1893,available at http://columbus.iit.edu/about.html

PBS(1999). TheWorld`s Columbian Exposition (1893),available athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/houdini/peopleevents/pande08.html

Rydell,R et al. (1999). Thereason why the colored American is not in the World`s ColumbianExposition: the Afro-American`s contribution to Columbian literature.Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

Rydell,R. (2005). World`sColumbian Exposition,available at: http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1386.html