You are here

World’s Fairs and Urban Idealism

The 1909 Plan of Chicago predicted that “Chicago… will become a greater city than any existing at the present time.” This zealous optimism reflected the boundless boosterism of 19th century Midwestern and Western cities generally, and received encouragement from the experience of planning and executing the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park. As the 20th century progressed, other cities sought out a world’s fair for both booster and pragmatic reasons, like encouraging economic development or funding urban renewal efforts. Most importantly, world’s fairs offered host cities the opportunity to define and market themselves to a global audience, in the process offering ideas on what cities at their best should and might be.

Chicago hosted not only the 1893 exposition but another in 1933-34. Each fair advanced a distinct vision of Chicago’s prominence within American and global culture. At the 1893 Columbian Exposition, Burnham fashioned visions of “The White City” that espoused early ideals of the City Beautiful movement. The 1933-34 Century of Progress International Exhibition celebrated both the centennial of Chicago’s incorporation as well as contemporary advancements in science and technology. Cities like San Diego, New York, and Seattle also organized world’s fairs that celebrated their particular place within American and global culture. World’s fairs thus provided a stage for urban place-making, idealism, and planning that generated and drew upon a rich archive of urban imagery.

 

PRINT

Bokovoy, Matthew F. “San Diego 1915-1916.” In John E. Findling and Kimberly D. Pelle, eds. Encyclopedia of World’s Fairs and Expositions. London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008.

Bokovoy, Matthew F. The San Diego World’s Fairs and Southwestern Memory, 1880 – 1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press with the San Diego Historical Society, 2005.

Centuries of Progress: American World’s Fairs, 1853-1982: An Exhibit at Hagley Museum and Library. Wilmington, DE: Hagley Museum and Library, 2005.

Dillon, Diane. “Consuming Maps.” In Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, ed. James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Ellis, Cliff. “Lewis Mumford and Norman Bel Geddes: The Highway, the City, and the Future.” Planning Perspectives 20, 1 (2005): 51-68.

Findling, John, ed. Historical Dictionary of World’s Fairs and Expositions, 1851-1988. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Gelernter, David. 1939: The Lost World of the Fair. New York: Avon Books, 1995.

Gold, John Robert. Cities of Culture: Staging International Festivals and the Urban Agenda, 1851-2000. Aldershot, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

Hannas, Linda. The English Jigsaw Puzzle: 1760-1890. London: Wayland Publishers, 1972.

Harrison, Helen, ed. Dawn of a New Day: The New York World's Fair 1939/40. New York: New York University Press, 1980.

Lohr, Lenox Riley. Fair Management, the Story of A Century of Progress: a Guide for Future Fairs, Chicago: The Cuneo Press, 1952.

Mauro, James. Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War. New York: Ballantine, 2010.

Rydell, Robert W. All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876 – 1916.Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Rydell, Robert W. World of Fairs: The Century-of-Progress Expositions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Starr, Raymond. “San Diego 1915 – 1916: The Panama California Exposition.” In John E. Findling, ed. Historical Dictionary of World’s Fairs and Expositions, 1851 – 1988. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Tyng, Francis Edmonds. Making a World's Fair: Organization, Promotion, Financing, and Problems, with Particular Reference to the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940. New York: Vantage Press, 1958.

Wille, Lois. Forever Open, Clear, and Free: The Struggle for Chicago’s Lakefront. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

 

WEB

British Library. “Jigsaw puzzle, 1766.” http://www.bl.uk/learning/artimages/maphist/minds/jigsawpuzzle/jigsawpuzzle1766.html

Taylor, Alan. The Atlantic. “The 1939 New York World's Fair.” http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/11/the-1939-new-york-worlds-fair...

The Committee of One Hundred. The Official Guide Book of the Panama California Exposition. San Diego, 1915. https://archive.org/details/TheOfficialGuideBookOfThePanama-californiaEx...

The New York Public Library. “New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated records.” http://archives.nypl.org/mss/2233

The University of Virginia. “Welcome to Tomorrow.” http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/DISPLAY/39wf/front.htm