The optimistic opening ceremony could not conceal the fact, though, that the Fair grounds were not complete. 32 fatal accidents in the course of construction work, strikes by workers and bad weather in the winter of 1892/93 had delayed construction so that it was necessary to continue working on this for the first six weeks of the Fair. Lasting bad weather also dampened the mood on the Fair grounds. But what was even more serious was the consequences of the great stock market crash a few days after the opening which triggered one of the biggest depressions in the American economy during the 19th century. The extensive music program, which was intended to acquaint Americans with the best musical creations from all nations and times with the aid of an orchestra that had been engaged specifically for the Fair, suffered under these poor conditions in particular. Numerous hotels waited in vain for announced guests initially.
On Germany Day (15 June), one of many special days that were organised in honour of countries, the work had been completed though. Special rates by the railroads and warmer weather now attracted more visitors to the Fair so that the elaborate mock-ups of historical events – such as the crossing of the Atlantic with Viking boats and Christopher Columbus' ships – attracted large audiences at the beginning of July. Shortly afterwards, however, this upswing suffered a setback again when the Fair's cold-storage depot – the "world's largest fridge" – burnt down, killing 17 fire-fighters. But this disaster did not prevent the organisers of Chicago Day on 9 October from staging an artificial fire disaster in the shape of an evening firework display. Accompanied by a procession, festive speeches and concerts, this spectacle was intended to commemorate the fire which devastated Chicago in 1871. 750,000 excited visitors turned up at the Fair grounds on this day. Alongside numerous congresses which intensified international exchange there were many special events – such as races with Venetian gondolas on the Grand Basin or swimming races – which helped to pull in even bigger crowds.
For a long time, the issues of the jury and awards remained controversial because the organisers of the Fair disagreed initially whether individual judges or juries should be used. This caused exhibitors to organise many banquets for the adjudicators, and later numerous attempts at bribery and blackmail were revealed. Only the large number certificates and awards prevented greater dissatisfaction.
The closing ceremony, which was due to be held on 30 October, had to be omitted because Carter Harrison, the mayor of Chicago, was murdered two days beforehand. In June of the next year there was another fire disaster which destroyed almost the entire White City around the Court of Honour. Almost all other buildings were torn down. Only the Palace of Fine Arts, which was the only building with a solid structure at the Fair, was to continue in use – as the Field Museum. Named after the owner of a large department store in Chicago it accommodated an ethnological collection and numerous objects and works of art from the Fair, where they can still be seen today.
|Year: 1893||City: Chicago||Country: USA|
|Duration: 1st May - 30th October 1893|