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Copyright: Unsere Weltausstellung 1893

A genuine and momentous innovation at the World's Columbian Exposition was the Midway Plaisance amusement park which was destined to become the model for all permanent establishments of this kind from Coney Island in New York to Disneyland. Along a street of about 1.5 kilometres in length there were popular attractions, restaurants, beer halls, ethnological live shows, a circus and other forms of amusement.

There was definitely no lack of diversion and amusement there. People could eat and drink in a German village and against the cardboard backdrop of the old town of Vienna. A Turkish bazaar and a model street from Cairo also provided exotic thrills, as did the "native villages" from the South Sea and Africa. Where else could people dare to ride a camel, see belly dancers, drink Irish beer, watch a beauty and costume competition, admire the taming of wild animals and skate on artificial ice within just a few meters of each other? Contemporaries described the electrically lighted Alpine panorama as an artistic highlight which attracted visitors with cowbells, mountain horns and yodellers at the entrance and took them to stormy heights inside with the aid of electrical wind machines. Anything that could be detrimental to the seriousness and radiance of the actual Fair grounds was moved here. Here, the white race demonstrated the richness of their colonial conquests, showed people from Asia and Africa as well as American Indians as curious exhibits and subjugated them yet again on a symbolic level.

At the end of the amusement mile the 80 metre high Ferris Wheel towered over the grounds as a symbol of the Fair. With its 36 carriage-sized gondolas it transported 1,600,000 persons at a price of 50 cents up into the air from where there was a magnificent view all over the Fair grounds and the city of Chicago. The Ferris Wheel was so successful that it was erected again for the World's Fair at St. Louis in 1904.

Charles Mulford Robinson, The Fair as Spectacle. In: Johnson 1897, volume 1. Page 512.

"The Plaisance was a medley, a Vanity Fair; it was an 'Ethnology Exhibit', according to the catalog, run riot; it was geography's nightmare; but over and above everything else one found it a playground, a frolic of nationalities, an enormous whirligig of pleasure. (...) For the street was a cauldron into which a giant hand had tossed ingredients of every conceivable kind, sprinkling it all with 'the salt of the earth' and a lot of peppery savages. And so it was a bubbling, seething, foaming mass, stirring around faster and faster, boiling, spilling over, sizzling on, ever noisier, swifter, hotter, until it exploded on the last night with a terrible bang of steam and floated away as a vapor that we try in vain to seize. You recall only a confused mass of sensations; a passage of amusing and interesting events swifter than you could grasp; a series of scenes that made you laugh because of the comical hopelessness of the effort to comprehend them; a confusion of noise - nay, of hubbub and roar - and a kaleidoscope of color and motion that would have driven one distracted had it not sent his blood leaping in harmony to the uncanny time of its own weird pulse."


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The Chicago World Exposition 1893
Midway Plaisance â the amusement park
Year: 1893City: ChicagoCountry: USA
Duration: 1st May - 30th October 1893

 

 

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