The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is the Opening Day parade. President Grover Cleveland leads a massive procession of 200,000 Chicagoans from the Lexington Hotel to the Administration Building. Mayor Harrison rides by himself in a carriage, and draws more applause than any of the other guests, who include dukes and duchesses from Europe, and Burnham and Davis, forced to share a carriage despite their rivalry.
Part 3 begins with an image: proud, united Chicagoans marching together in celebration of the WF. This image is, of course, largely artificial – Harrison continues to act like a “man of the people,” even though he’s from Kentucky, and David and Burnham pretend to be friends, even though they’re rivals. At this point, the priority of the WF is to attract visitors, from around the country and around the world, so crafting an appealing image is extremely important.
Themes
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
As the parade moves toward the site of the Fair at Jackson Park, everyone sees the progress that has been made in setting up the expositions. The Ferris Wheel is only half finished, but most of the other attractions are ready for tourists: cannibals, zoos, hot air balloon rides, markets, etc. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show lies adjacent to the Fair. Sol Bloom tells the Algerian women to drop their veils, which he claims, dubiously, is a sign of respect for the parade.
Even for the WF to be half finished is an incredible achievement; Burnham and his colleagues have erected an entire city in less than two years. Now that the Fair is open to the public, they have a different challenge: keep the WF interesting by providing continuous new entertainment. People like Sol Bloom, who are willing to twist the truth to sell tickets, become especially important at this point.
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
Perhaps the greatest miracle at the World’s Fair is the transformation of the Jackson Park grounds in the night before Opening Day. Ten thousand workers remove debris, polish the floors of all the buildings, repaint the exteriors, and clean the lawns. According to one observer, Olmsted’s landscaping designs are the first wondrous sight the tourists see when they arrive the next day.
Olmsted’s landscaping projects have not gone to waste – they impress visitors and prepare them for their time at the WF, just as Olmsted wanted. Of course, this achievement would be impossible without the workers who remain uncelebrated and almost completely anonymous, even to Larson.
Themes
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon
The Opening Day ceremonies are intentionally brief, since the organizers don’t want to replicate the long, dull Dedication Day ceremony, which fell behind schedule. Events on Opening Day include a poem and a speech by Davis, in which he praises the cooperation between the various designers and organizers of the World’s Fair. The expression on Burnham’s face is unreadable during this speech. President Cleveland’s speech is the shortest, and the World’s Fair opens exactly on time: 12:08 PM. Music plays, ships fire their guns, and Jane Addams’s purse is stolen — the Fair is underway.
The WF designers and organizers have learned from their mistakes; efficiency and speed are more important than ceremony for the sake of ceremony. One aspect of the success of the WF, in no small part, is that it make money – to this end, efficiency is the most important thing. One consequence of the WF being open to the public is that, as Burnham and others had feared, crime, such as purse-snatching, increases. Even in the White City, Chicago’s vices are alive and well.
Themes
Civic Pride and American Patriotism Theme Icon
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Burnham knows that there is work ahead, but he is confident that the World’s Fair will be a great success, since hundreds of thousands of people attended the Opening Day ceremony. His confidence quickly fades, however, when a disappointingly small number of people attend the fair the next day, and a recession soon bankrupts families across the country. Companies go out of business, some of which were to run exhibits at the World’s Fair. Families choose not to travel to Chicago to see the Fair, partly because they lack the money, partly because they hear that it’s unfinished. The unfinished Ferris Wheel, which was meant to rival the Eiffel Tower, is especially disappointing to tourists.
Even though the “hard work” of the WF – building the main structures – is largely over, Burnham can’t rest easy. The WF is meant to be an entertaining distraction from the real world – it now becomes clear that “the real world” is preventing people from attending the Fair. America’s patriotism is also evident – the lack of structure to rival the Eiffel Tower in France means that Americans don’t always have a good reason to go to Chicago.
Themes
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon
Many features of the World’s Fair remain unfinished: Olmsted’s grounds, the Chicago State Building, the Westinghouse installations at the Electricity Building, even the roads. Olmsted knows he needs to hurry to finish his designs, but he struggles to muster the energy. Burnham hires Francis Millet to insure that people attend the Fair while the designers finish it. Millet organizes parades and fireworks displays — these measures increase attendance, but not by much. Meanwhile, Burnham’s own architectural firm begins to lose commissions.
Burnham and the other designers begin to transition from creative to organization tasks – Millet, who previously designed the paint for the buildings at the WF, is now charged with attracting tourists. At the same time, Burnham’s connection to the WF is growing – the same economic factors that threaten the success of the Fair now threaten his firm.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
Ego and Cooperation Theme Icon