Friday, July 22, 2011

20 Interesting Things About The World's Columbian Exposition

The Chicago World's Fair, otherwise known as the World's Columbian Exposition, was held in 1893. The area for the fair covered more than 600 acres and gave us such attractions as the Ferris Wheel, but that's not all. There are some really interesting things associated with the Fair that you might not know, especially if you are not a history geek like me, so I thought I would share a few things that might spark your interest.

1. One of the principal designers and builders of the Chicago World's Fair was Daniel Burnham, who also designed the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington, D.C. Frederick Law Olmsted was another principal designer (but he worked with the landscaping, while Mr. Burnham worked with architectural structures). Mr. Olmsted is most famous, however, for co-designing Central Park in New York City.

2. The design of the "White City", the nickname of the part of the Fair officially known as the Court of Honor because all of the buildings were white (and because of the extensive use of streetlights actually made it possible to use the area at night), was actually the inspiration for L. Frank Baum's Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. It also was the inspiration for the "alabaster cities" referenced in the poem "America the Beautiful" by Katharine Lee Bates.

3. The world's first Ferris Wheel, so called because it was designed by George Ferris, debuted at the Chicago World's Fair. It was 264 feet high and had 36 cars, each car could carry 60 people. In fact, in some parts of the world today the Ferris Wheel is actually known as The Chicago Wheel.

4. Walt Disney's father was one of the laborers who helped build and paint the buildings used for the World's Fair.

5. It was the Columbian Exposition because it was meant to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World.

6. When it was originally suggested to have such a celebration, it drew little interest. However, in 1889 Paris hosted a World's Fair during which the Eiffel Tower was unveiled. At that time, the Eiffel Tower was taller than any American Building, and during the fair France made sure that their exhibits seemed more elegant than those of any other nation, including America. Wounded pride is a driving force, and soon the idea of having a World's Fair, with the excuse of it being the Columbian Exposition, that would top anything France could offer seemed only right. It took a vote of Congress to decide where the Fair would be held and Chicago won over Washington, D. C., New York City, and St. Louis. Chicago lobbied for votes by saying that this was their chance to show the world they had rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871.

7. The Decorations Director for the Chicago World's Fair, Frank Millet, died in the sinking of the Titanic, while Daniel Burnham, by now his close friend, rode a sister ship, the Olympic, going the opposite direction across the Atlantic. The Olympic made an attempt to answer the distress call, but it was too late. Mr. Millet invented spray painting as a way to speed the process of painting all the building facades white for the Fair.

8. Chicago's Mayor, Carter Harrison, Sr., was assassinated two days before the Fair's Closing Ceremonies. The Ceremonies were cancelled in favor of a memorial service for the late mayor.

9. Both General Electric (backed by Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan) and Westinghouse (backed by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla) made bids to provide the electricity for the event, but Westinghouse won, and the Tesla alternating current system was used, instead of General Electric's direct current proposal.

10. All of the 200 buildings that were built for the fair were intended to be temporary. Two of them, however, still stand in place today. One now houses the Museum of Science and Industry and the other is home to the Art Institute of Chicago.

11. At least three more buildings survived after the Fair, but they have been moved to other locations, such as museums or privately owned land.

12. It is a little ironic that the Fair was supposed to show how Chicago had rebuilt itself after the Great Fire of 1871, since the year after the Fair much of the fairgrounds were destroyed during a fire. This second fire occurred during the Pullman Strike.

13. One of the attractions was called the "Street in Cairo" and was designed to look like an Egyptian marketplace. It featured a belly dancer who was nicknamed "Little Egypt." She performed what was, at the time, considered a "provocative" and "suggestive" belly dance (I do not know this dance and therefore cannot comment on whether or not it is actually suggestive or provocative) that was called the (I kid you not) "hootchy-kootchy." It was performed to a tune that is now commonly associated with snake charmers.

14. The Chicago World's Fair had the first moving sidewalk that was opened to the public. It was the Great Wharf Moving Sidewalk and carried people to the nearby casino.

15. "Buffalo Bill" was denied a spot at the Fair, so he set up next to it so that attendees of the Fair would also stop by his show. He earned a great amount of money and didn't have to pay any of it to the Fair developers.

16. The Fair almost went bankrupt due to the cost of building and maintaining the exhibits (and paying the laborers). However, the Ferris Wheel saved the Fair by being an extremely popular attraction that drew many new attendees. The Chicago laborers employed by the Fair (those who survived it, anyway) were certainly glad for the work, since the Fair took place amid the Panic of 1893, a time of great economic depression.

17. It is estimated that more than 27 million people attended the Fair during the six months that it was open.

18. People who visited the Louisiana pavilion were gifted with the seedlings of Cypress trees. According to some rumors, this actually helped spread the growth of Cypress trees to areas to which it was not native and it now thrives in places such as West Virginia.

19. The Fair introduced attendees to a new breakfast food: shredded wheat. It also saw the debut of Juicy Fruit Gum.

20. Milton Hershey purchased chocolate manufacturing equipment from a European exhibitor at the Fair, so he could add chocolate products to his caramel manufacturing business.

So there you have it. The Chicago World's Fair, or The World's Columbian Exposition, gave us the current home of the Art Institute of Chicago and the The Museum of Science and Industry, it introduced shredded wheat and Juicy Fruit gum (but not together - yuck!), and is partially responsible for Hershey's chocolate. Pretty interesting stuff, really.

Class Dismissed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fun Things I've Discovered This Summer

Summer is almost over....for the school kids in my area anyway. The sun is still hot, the air still sticky with humidity, but in a couple of weeks all the school age kids in my county will find themselves back in the classroom. So with that in mind, I've been thinking about my own little summer vacation and about the fun things I've done, read, seen, etc. I thought I might share a few of them with you.

1. The Janet Evanovich numbers novels - If you think your family is a little crazy, or that you tend to stumble into unbelievable situations that embarrass you to no end then these novels about Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter who is not so great at her job and has a former hooker as a partner, and sometimes even her own crazy grandma, will make you think your life is just peachy. She cracks me up. I mean, her love life is a like a train wreck and she has exploded more cars than any insurance company would ever insure, but it's pretty funny. There are currently seventeen books in the series and 4 between the numbers novels. I have read 3 of the 4 between the numbers and all seventeen of the numbers novels during the last month. The next one comes out in November.

2. The Glee Project - It's a reality show competition, but don't let that fool you. These kids are competing for a 7 episode guest starring role on the TV show GLEE. They have to sing, dance, and act. They also have to get along with the other cast members and learn how to take criticism and direction from casting directors, choreographers, and producers. It's fun and I like it. I already have two competitors that I'm pulling for.

3. Gracie Bleu Yogurt - It's one of those yogurt places where you can get sorbet or yogurt (including fat free options!) and then add any toppings you want and pay by the weight of the cup. It can be as healthy or as unhealthy as you want.

4. 5 Things - It's a board game. The concept is simple and there are parts of the game that could use some improvement, but I still think it's fun. The concept? Name 5 things in the given category. Sounds simple, right? You only have 30 seconds. It's trickier than you think. And it's fun.

There are a few more things, but those are what comes to me off the top of my head. It's been a fun summer so far. And as far as I'm concerned, it's not over yet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Things I'm Thinking About Today

1. Yesterday was Independence Day. And while the fireworks and the patriotic songs are great, there is nothing like actually taking the time to remember why we celebrate the 4th of July. We were a small colony. We were all committing treason. We were going up against one of the world's most powerful nations. The odds were stacked against us. There have been many battles, fought all around the world in the name of gaining freedom and independence, but this holiday marks the celebration of ours. Be proud of where you come from.

2. Casey Anthony - I can't even watch her. She disturbs me. And yes, I know the verdict. She's not off the hook yet, though. The Lord will deal with her.

3. We had a hail storm come through yesterday and now we have a bit of leaky window problem...again. I know fixing it isn't the end of the world. And I am wonderfully blessed to have a roof over my head, a wonderful husband, a terrific family, and so much more, but still, sometimes I want to take a sledge hammer to parts of this house just to vent frustration. The only dilemma is that then I'd have to fix that, too. Hail is of the devil.

4. I like to read before bed, but sometimes a book series can be too good to read before going to sleep. Because you can't stop laughing long enough to get tired and actually want to go to bed. I feel that way about the current book series I'm reading. I sit up late, long after my husband has started to snore, and do my best to stifle laughter (meaning that I might not make noise, but sometimes I can't help but shake while I try not to giggle out loud). But then again, that's when you know the series is really good.

5. I have jury duty in a couple of weeks. Depending on how that goes, I might be a little quiet on the blog front. You never know when something like that comes up if you will be too mentally exhausted to accomplish things like blog writing when you get home.

6. Golden Oreos are dangerous. I don't like chocolate, so regular oreos are no threat, but the golden ones....a diet killer waiting to happen. Don't judge me.

7. To the Construction Crew Working on the House Behind Us: You might want to reconsider using that metal ladder to put yourself up on the roof when there is lightning steadily moving this way. I'm just sayin'.

8. My brother-in-law got married over the weekend. This makes me feel a little old since, when my husband and I first started dating, his little brother was only fourteen. Now he's married. Where does the time go?

I had more to say, but now I am contemplating why it is that when you are a child, time drags on forever, but as an adult you blink and six years have gone by. And I'm also keeping an eye on the construction crew. If one of them gets struck by lightning, somebody should really be there to call 911. I'm such a mother hen.