Century of Progress Exposition

Century of Progress

A Century of Progress International Exposition was the name of a World's Fair held in Chicago, Illinois from 1933 to 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. Its motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms" and its architectural symbol was the Sky Ride, a transporter bridge perpendicular to the shore on which one could ride from one end of the fair to the other.

History

A Century of Progress was organized as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation in January, 1928 for the purpose of planning and hosting a World's Fair in Chicago in 1934. The site selected was the land and water areas under the jurisdiction of South Park commissioners lying along and adjacent to the shore of Lake Michigan, between 12th and 39th streets. Held on a 427 acre (1.7 km²) plot of land in Burnham Park, much of which was landfill, and bordering Lake Michigan, the Century of Progress opened on May 27, 1933. The fair was opened when the lights were automatically activated when light from the rays of the star Arcturus was detected. The star was chosen as its light had started its journey at about the time of the previous Chicago world's fair—the World's Columbian Exposition—in 1893. The rays were focused on photo-electric cells in a series of astronomical observatories and then transformed into electrical energy which was transmitted to Chicago.

Exhibits

The fair buildings were multi-colored, to create a "Rainbow City" as opposed to the "White City" of the World's Columbian Exposition. The buildings generally had a linear Art Deco design to them in contrast to the Grecian aspect of the earlier fair. One of the more famous aspects of the fair were the performances of fan dancer Sally Rand. Other popular exhibits were the various auto manufacturers, the Midway (filled with nightclubs such as the Old Morocco, where future stars Judy Garland, The Cook Family Singers and The Andrews Sisters performed), and a recreation of important scenes from Chicago's history. The fair also contained exhibits that would seem shocking to contemporary audiences, including offensive portrayals of African-Americans, a "Midget City" complete with "sixty Lilliputians", and an exhibition of incubators containing real babies.

One of the highlights of the 1933 World's Fair was the arrival of the German airship Graf Zeppelin on October 26, 1933. After circling Lake Michigan near the exposition for two hours, Commander Hugo Eckener landed the 776-foot airship at the nearby Curtis-Wright Airport in Glenview. It remained on the ground for twenty-five minutes (from 1 to 1:25 p.m.) then took off ahead of an approaching weather front bound for Akron, Ohio. For some Chicagoans, however, the appearance of the Graf Zeppelin over their fair city was not a welcome sight, as the airship had become a prominent reminder of the ascendancy of Adolf Hitler to power earlier that same year. This triggered dissension in the days following its visit, particularly within the city's large German-American population.

The "dream cars" which American automobile manufacturers exhibited at the fair included Cadillac's introduction of its V-16 limousine; Nash's exhibit had a variation on the vertical (i.e., paternoster) parking garage—all the cars were new Nashes; Lincoln presented its rear-engined "concept car" precursor to the Lincoln-Zephyr, which went on the market in 1936 with a front engine; Pierce-Arrow presented its modernistic Silver Arrow for which it used the byline "Suddenly it's 1940!" But it was Packard which won the best of show.

One interesting and enduring exhibit was the 1933 Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition that demonstrated modern home convenience and creative practical new building materials and techniques with twelve model homes sponsored by several corporations affiliated with home decor and construction.

The first Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held at Comiskey Park (home of the Chicago White Sox) in conjunction with the fair.

In May 1934 the Union Pacific Railroad exhibited its first streamlined train, the M-10000, and the Burlington Route its famous Zephyr, which made a record-breaking dawn-to-dusk run from Denver, Colorado, to Chicago in 13 hours and 5 minutes. To cap its record-breaking speed run, the Zephyr arrived dramatically on-stage at the fair's "Wings of a Century" transportation pageant. The two trains launched an era of industrial streamlining.

Both trains later went into successful revenue service, the Union Pacific's as the City of Salina, and the Burlington Zephyr as the first Pioneer Zephyr. The Zephyr is now on exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

The site of the fair is now home to Northerly Island Park (since the closing of Meigs Field) and McCormick Place. A column from the ruins of a Roman temple in Ostia given to Chicago by the Italian government to honor General Italo Balbo's 1933 trans-Atlantic flight still stands, although now by itself, not too far from Soldier Field. The city added a third red star to its flag in 1933 to commemorate the Exposition. (The fourth star of Chicago's flag was added five years later in 1939.)

Success

Originally, the fair was scheduled only to run until November 12, 1933, but it was so successful that it was opened again to run from May 26 to October 31, 1934. The fair was financed through the sale of memberships, which allowed purchases of a certain number of admissions once the park was open. This was done so the fair would not have to be subsidized by the government. More than $800,000 was raised in this manner as the country came out of the Great Depression. A $10 million bond was issued on October 28, 1929, the day before the stock market crashed. By the time the fair closed in 1933, half of these notes had been retired, with the entire debt paid by the time the fair closed in 1934. For the first time in American history, an international fair had paid for itself. In its two years, it had attracted 48,769,227 visitors. According to James Truslow Adams's Dictionary of American History, during the 170 days beginning May 27, 1933, there were 22,565,859 paid admissions; during the 163 days beginning May 26, 1934, there were 16,486,377; a total of 39,052,236.

See also

Burnham Park

External links

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