In the “Black City” of Chicago, there is smoke and garbage. In the “White City” at Jackson Park, everything is clean and safe, even though it’s only half finished. Visitors can leave their children at a daycare center. Some fear that the poor will abandon their offspring there, but only one child suffers this fate.
Despite some petty crime, the WF isn’t the chaotic affair some people thought it would be – by and large, Burnham’s plans for organizing Jackson Park keep crime low.
The World’s Fair contains an incredible number of new, exciting products and exhibits: Pabst Blue Ribbon, Shredded Wheat, motion pictures, Tesla’s electricity shows, the zipper, the vertical filing cabinet, Aunt Jemima pancake batter, Juicy Fruit, etc. One female visitor notes the somber manner with which the visitors walk through the Fair. At Midway, however, she notes that visitors are excited by the sight of a belly dancer, which she finds uncomfortable. Visitors ask where the Pope and the “artificial humans” are.
The sights at the WF are so novel for the people who visit that they seem almost magical. No spectacle is too fantastic to be on display – even the Pope. The overall effect is a strange combination of intimidation and entertainment — Burnham’s neoclassical architecture and Sol Bloom’s fun escapism.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show draws tens of thousands of visitors, upstaging the World’s Fair. Bill organizes a race from Chadron to Jackson Park, on the condition that it finish at his Wild West show. He also draws visitors away from the World’s Fair by declaring “Waif’s Day” and allowing children to his show for free. Chicago quickly falls in love with Buffalo Bill.
Burnham and the WF organizers aren’t the only master showmen in Chicago in 1893 — the spirit of entrepreneurship attracts lots of other people, including Buffalo Bill. Bill’s Wild West show is popular because it appeals to American patriotism — next to Columbus discovering America, the story of “how the West was won” is the most important “creation myths” in American culture.
As time goes on, the roads and train lines are cleaned, and buildings are completed. The overall effect of the World’s Fair is highly impressive, and visitors often weep when they walk through. The buildings are huge, neoclassical, and painted the same white color.
The WF is entertaining, but it’s also overwhelmingly somber and awe-inspiring. Visitors treat the neoclassical buildings like cathedrals.
Burnham leads tours of the World’s Fair for guests, including John Root’s widow, Dora. He is careful to lead the tours in a specific direction, so that the buildings look as impressive as possible. Dora writes Burnham a letter, in which she thanks him for the tour and explains that she feels conflicting emotions about the Fair. She’s enormously proud of what Burnham and John Root have achieved, but also saddened by the thought of his death.
The tourists aren’t the only people for whom the WF is an overwhelming emotional experience. The WF is impressive not only because of the scale of the buildings themselves but because of the work — literally, the lives — that went into building them. Root is far from the only person who passed away while building the WF; dozens of workers died in accidents.
At night, the Fair is lit by electric lights. Many of the visitors to the Fair are seeing electricity for the first time. Word spreads across the country that the World’s Fair is an awesome sight and well worth the money. Even so, the absence of the Ferris Wheel continues to limit the success and popularity of the World’s Fair.
The WF is gaining popularity slowly, often by word of mouth. It’s ironic that Americans continue to view the Fair as a failure because of the absence of the Ferris Wheel when the presence of electricity is inarguably a much more impressive monument to American technological ingenuity.