Chicago 1893, the World's Columbian Exposition

by Joe Thompson

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09-October-1893 was Chicago Day at the World's Columbian Exposition.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World. That part of the world was not now new to the people who already lived there. Columbus and his crew were not the first Europeans to visit the Americas. People didn't worry about these things in the early 1890s. Instead, the United States planned to honor Columbus by holding a World's Fair. Chicago won the competition to be the host. They weren't read in time for the anniversary in October, 1892, but on 01-May-1893, the World's Columbian Exposition opened for business in Jackson Park and along the Midway Plaisance.

Architect Daniel H Burnham, the director of works for the fair, specified a unified neoclassical style and white color for the exposition's buildings. The fair became known as "The White City."

A view of the fair An aerial view of the fair grounds. (Source: "The Fair Opened", Roanoke Times, 02-May-1893.

The fair opened on 01-May-1893 and was a great financial success. Read a newspaper article on my blog about the opening: The Fair Opened.

How did people get to the fair? Many people rode the Wabash/Cottage Grove Avenue cable cars of the Chicago City Railway.

from The World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 By Trumbull White

To reach the Art Galleries, the State Buildings and the Foreign Buildings, it is best to patronize the World's Fair express trains of the Illinois Central Railroad, or the Wabash and Cottage Grove Avenue Cable Cars. The cable cars land one at the Fifty-seventh Street entrance, most convenient to everything in this list. The first station of the trains is at Fifty-ninth street, almost as convenient to most of these, and with the additional advantage of being within reach of the Woman's Building, the Fisheries Building, the United States Government Building, the Horticultural Building and the Wooded Island.

If the visitor is going to spend the day among the structures farther south, let us say the Manufactures Building, the Electricity Building, the Mines Building and the Transportation Building, he should continue on the Illinois Central trains to the Sixty-third Street Station, or take advantage of the service of the elevated railroad, the latter of which runs directly into the grounds of the Fair. If Machinery Hall, the Agricultural Building, or the great collection of exhibits south of them are the attraction of the day, the terminal station of the Illinois Central express train, just in the rear of the Administration Building, and within the grounds, is the one to take. For Midway Plaisance the Fifty-ninth Street Station of the Illinois Central is the landing place, if one intends to enter it at the east end. If the attractions for the day are at the other end of the Plaisance, the visitor should take the Wabash and Cottage Grove Avenue Cable Car from the business district, and by observing that the car has on it a sign which reads "Oakwoods" he may be assured of being carried exactly to the entrance of the Plaisance at the end which adjoins Washington Park

Probably the most delightful way of all to reach the Fair is by steamers which run from the foot of Van Buren Street through the waters of Lake Michigan, and land at the immense pier which reaches out into the lake from a point just east of the Basin. This trip is made in something more than half an hour. By it one gets the finest view there is of the White Palaces of the World's Fair, sailing slowly past them from north to south, and viewing in turn the State Buildings, the Foreign Buildings, the Naval Exhibit, the Government Building, the Manufactures Building, with its stupendous roof, and finally the Peristyle and its kindred architectural features, where the journey ends.

From here, one who lands at the Fair by steamer may employ one of the most interesting and curious methods of transportation at the Exposition, the Movable Sidewalk, which carries those who patronize it from one end to the other of the long pier. It is a complicated arrangement which runs by electricity. A continuous track carries a system of trucks, which have built over them a continuous platform. This is divided, and different parts of it move at a different rate of speed. It never stops, and the intending passenger must mount it while it is in motion. This is not difficult, as the first section of the platform is moving at a low rate of speed, while the next section is moving more rapidly, and is to be mounted from the first. As a novelty it is one of the most noted features of the Fair.

Intramural Railway

Within the grounds there are many methods of transportation which may be utilized. Steam, electricity, and man-power are all at the command of the visitor who desires to employ them. First of all is the Intramural Railway. This is an elevated structure, the motive power of which is electricity. Its length, from end to end, is three and one-eighth miles, and its track is double all the way. There are ten stations at convenient points. The road begins with a loop which encircles the Indian School. It runs southeast, encircling the Anthropological Building, and then turns northwest. Passing between the colonnade and the Stock Pavilion, the road skirts the south side of the Machinery Building and Annex, and then turns northward past its west end. It next crosses over the roof of the Perron of the Terminal Station, where connection is made with all out-of-town railways. The next station is on the roof of the Annex to the Transportation Building, which is called Chicago Junction. Here connection is made on a level with the trains of the Elevated Railway which run to the city. From here, turning to the western edge of the grounds, the road extends directly north to the northwest corner, passing Midway Plaisance, the California Building, and through the Esquimaux Village. Here a turn is made east along the north fence, and upon reaching the Iowa Building a curving course among some of the other State structures carries the tracks between the French Building and the east Annex to the Art Gallery, through the Foreign Buildings, and past the Fisheries Building. Its terminus here is at the United States Government Building, where it makes a loop over the waters of the lagoon and turns back on its course to retrace its way on the other track to the starting-point. The road is unique and substantial in construction, and in all its details is a triumph of electrical engineering. Its use is indispensable to the visitor who desires to see the great Exposition quickly and with comfort. Each train makes the round trip in thirty-five minutes, attaining a speed of from twenty to thirty miles per hour between stations. From ten to fifteen trains are in operation every hour. Injury to passengers by accident has never occurred. The trains cannot be derailed, and the block signal system makes collisions impossible. One fare of ten cents entitles the passenger to transportation to either terminus of the road, from the station where the train is taken. The Intramural Railway is in itself one of the greatest exhibits of the Exposition. The enormous dynamo, or electrical generator, which furnishes the power for operating the road, is the largest machine of its kind in the world, and the largest piece of machinery on exhibition at the Fair. It supplies three thousand horse-power; it cost $100,000, and weighs 192 tons. It is on exhibition in the power house of the road near the Forestry Building.

Transportation Building Transportation Building (Source: The World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 By Trumbull White).

The Pioneer Cable Train Clay Street Hill Railroad grip car 8 and trailer 1 (numbered 8 in this photo) on display at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (Source: The Book of the Fair). January, 2005 Picture of the Month.

Grip car 8 and trailer 1 of San Francisco's pioneering Clay Street Hill Railroad travelled to Chicago for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Car 8 still survives at the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco.

The Book of the Fair by Hubert Howe Bancroft describes the street railway display at the Chicago Fair:
"Although the exhibits of railroads proper completely dwarf those of the street car and minor lines, much is to be seen and learned by an examination of the latter groups; for here are displayed the latest patents in seats, stoves, wheels, switches, and all other appliances. Electric motors and the furnishings of electric cars are largely represented, together with all kinds of cable systems. In the latter direction San Francisco is prominent, A. S. Haliddie of that city, the inventor and builder of the first cable road, producing the original dummy used on a steep hill grade in August, 1873. In a section of the roadway are also revealed the workings of the grip and pulleys, and adjoining is a collection of grips used by various cable lines throughout the country, showing difference in style and mechanism. A California company, which manufactures wire cables, has a patent rope-way in operation, one devised for the transportation of ore over the mountains, and a Chicago establishments exhibits a motor operated by liquid ammonia supplied by stationary plants."

Walter Rice provided further information about the cars and their adventures after the fair: "Clay Street Hill Railroad's open-grip car (dummy) No. 8 was operated from the start of service (revenue service began September 1, 1873) of the world's first cable car line, the Clay Street Hill Railroad, until the 1891 rebuilding of the line by the Ferries & Cliff House Railway. According to the San Francisco Bulletin of July 24, 1873, No. 8 was one of four dummies. The Bulletin wrote, 'It is believed that four dummies will be sufficient for the immediate wants of the road.' The Bulletin of July 31, 1873 reported, 'The cars (trailers) are similar to the one-horse cars used on the Woodward line (City Railroad). They are from the Kimball Manufacturing Company. In addition to the ordinary brake, there is on each side of the car between the wheels, a wooden frame which can be let down on the track, and held so firmly as to make the weight of the car rest on them, thus holding the car stationary, no matter how steep the grade.'

"On April 14, 1893, the Ferries & Cliff House Railway sent Clay Street Hill Railroad grip car No. 8 and trailer No. 1 to Chicago for display at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The grip and trailer were refurbished, dissembled, crated and shipped to Chicago to be reassembled and exhibited in the Exposition's Transportation Building. After the Exposition ended not all exhibits were returned to their lenders; some were abandoned, including No. 8 and No. 1. By default, both were transferred to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's (B&O) collection. No. 8 and presumably No.1 were sent to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis. It is not known if they were shown at St. Louis. After this fair closed, the entire B&O collection of equipment was sent to Martinsburg West Virginia, to the B&O repair shops, for storage. In 1927, the B&O celebrated its centennial with the 'Iron Horse Fair,' held at Halesthrop, Maryland that August, with 1.25 million visitors. An authoritative source notes 'a cable car' was shown. This would most probably have been No. 8. Whether No. 1 was also displayed is unknown.

"Somewhere during this time, No.1 was apparently lost. It may have fallen apart from old age or it may have been part of the B&O collection lost during the hurricane of 1935 that destroyed Halesthrop storage sheds. It possible No.1 was misplaced and exists today (B&O archival records are scanty). Gilbert Kneiss, of the Pacific Coast Chapter of The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS), while searching for railroad exhibits for both 1933 Chicago World Fair and 1939 New York World Fair, at some point in 1936 Kneiss became aware that No. 8 existed as part of the B&O collection. Kneiss was able to persuade the B&O to return No. 8, in 1938, to San Francisco. No. 8 was displayed at the Golden Gate International Exposition (on Treasure Island) in 1939 and 1940. After the Exposition closed No. 8 was temporary displayed at the Ferry Building, before exhibited for many years at the Sutro's Museum (near the Cliff House). In 1966, when Sutro's Museum was about to be demolished, the R&LHS had No. 8 stored temporarily by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Later that year, No. 8 was transferred to the Muni's Washington-Mason cable car barn's car storage area. In 1974, No. 8 was placed on display in the Cable Car Museum, where it resides today.

"Thank you to Randy Hees, Suzanne Fisher and Bob Callwell for their research."

Stephenson car The John Stephenson Company won an award for this cable car built for Manhattan's Metropolitan Street Railway, which was displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (Source: "Street Railway Exhibits at the World's Fair.", The Street Railway Journal, July, 1893).

Peckham truck The Peckham Motor Truck and Wheel Company displayed this cable car truck at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. "Fig. 4 is ... (was) built by the Peckham Company for the Broadway cable railway. It is similar to the standard 6A truck, but equipped with grip attachments." (Source: "The Exhibit of the Peckham Motor Truck and Wheel Company.", The Street Railway Journal, November, 1893).

09-October-1893 was Chicago Day. 751,026 people visited the fair that day.

Chicago Cable Cars on Chicago Day.

From The Scientific American, January 27, 1894.

Chicago Day

A correspondent doing business on Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago, has favored us with some interesting photographs taken on Chicago day, October 9. One of these views we reproduce for the benefit of our readers. The people who were fortunate enough to get in or on the Wabash and Cottage Grove Avenues cable cars made a slow and painful trip to the Fair grounds. Business was never more thoroughly suspended throughout the city than on that day. The weather was perfect, and when the gates of the Exposition grounds were opened at six in the morning the people stood in lines waiting to enter, and the procession of visitors never ceased until late at night. Every kind of conveyance was put into requisition and the combined effort was inadequate to cope with the enormous crowds. There were 716,000 paid admissions and 37,880 persons entered on passes, so that Chicago holds the record for the largest number of visitors on one day.

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Closing ceremonies on 30-October-1893 were cancelled because Carter Harrison Sr, the mayor of Chicago had been assassinated the day before. There was a public memorial service instead.

Most of the fair's buildings were intended to be temporary. Most of them were destroyed in a fire in July, 1894.

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Last updated 01-October-2018