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Undoubtedly the great number of World's Fairs towards the end of the 19th century was also a reason why not many outstanding technological innovations were presented in Chicago. Some exhibits, however, are still well worth mentioning. The inventor Thomas Edison presented his latest phonograph which could play whole operas. In the cinematoscope, he also showed a device which with considerable technical modifications defined the visual culture of the coming century. In Chicago, the Bell Company first offered long-distance phone calls to Boston and New York. The Fair was characterised by great use of electrical power in particular. It was no longer steam engines but dynamos which drove things such as the elevated railroad and the many machines in the exhibition halls. The Fair was illuminated by electric lamps.

As in all World's Fairs, businesses were able to make a particular impression by presenting larger and better equipment or simply through sheer mass. Krupp, for example, presented its latest and longest cannon in its own pavilion, California showed an elephant made entirely out of walnuts and an equestrian statue made of plums, and Brazil came up with an obelisk made of pure gold. The art exhibition, which gave a true picture of average taste at the end of the century, suffocated under the sheer number of pictures and sculptures.

To commemorate the discoverer of America the Fair not only showed models of his caravels Santa Maria, Niña and Pinta but also set up a replica of the Santa Maria de las Cuevas monastery (La Rabida) in which Christopher Columbus had found refuge in 1486 and had prepared his expedition across the Atlantic. Homage was paid to this bold seafarer's spirit of discovery with documents and memorabilia of dubious authenticity. Incidentally, the Columbus monastery also played an important part at the World's Fair at Seville in 1992.

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The Chicago World Exposition 1893
Cinematoscope and cannons
Year: 1893City: ChicagoCountry: USA
Duration: 1st May - 30th October 1893



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