A young reporter, Theodore Dreiser, accompanies a group of young St Louis schoolteachers to the World’s Fair. Dreiser is young and attractive, and feels drawn to a schoolteacher in the group named Sara Osborne White, who doesn’t return his feelings. Dreiser rides the Ferris Wheel and attends Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. He tries to kiss Sara, but she tells him not to be sentimental.
The WF, for all of the accidents and disasters that occur there, is an inviting, even romantic place. The fact that Dreiser — a great American author who write Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy — is confortable enough in the Ferris Wheel to attempt to kiss Sara suggests that tourists are becoming more comfortable with the wheel in general, and aren’t afraid that it will collapse.
After the World’s Fair, Dreiser continues to be attracted to Sara White. He writes her flirtatious letters, and eventually proposes to her — she accepts. A friend warns Dreiser not to marry an old, conventional woman, but Dreiser ignores the advice.
Dreiser’s reckless behavior puts him in good company with the people who design and build the WF — his strategy is to act quickly and work out the details later.
The Ferris Wheel becomes a popular destination for couples to propose to each other. Luther Rice allows weddings in his office on two occasions.
The Ferris Wheel continues to become more popular and more generally accepted as a safe yet exciting destination. As couples propose there, the WF begins to become a part of people’s lives, not just their days.
Holmes, who now has money and land (inherited from Minnie), courts a young, intelligent woman named Georgiana Yoke. She thinks that Holmes is a sad, handsome man, with no family except for an aunt in Africa. Holmes has told her that he has inherited property from his uncle in Texas, on the condition that he change his name to Henry Mansfield Howard. Holmes proposes marriage to Georgiana, and she accepts.
From Georgiana’s perspective, Holmes is a sympathetic figure. Holmes, it’s clear to us, has cultivated this image knowingly by pretending to have no living relatives. At the same time, we see how disturbingly good Holmes is at absorbing other people’s lives and possessions — he claims that the land in Texas is his own, not Minnie’s.
Mayor Harrison falls in love with a woman from New Orleans named Annie Howard. Though he is forty years older than Annie, he plans to reveal his “news” to Chicago on October 28, when the World’s Fair hosts American Cities Day. Harrison looks forward to this event, only two days before the closing ceremony of the exposition.
Even Harrison himself bases his life around the Fair, waiting until the end of the Fair to announce his engagement. He’s a savvy politician and always a public figure, even when he’s dealing with details of his personal life. Meanwhile, he too is enthralled by young women.