The History of World Expositions

The Chicago World Exposition 1893
An electric opening


Year: 1893
City: Chicago
Country: USA
Duration: 1st May - 30th October 1893
Opening ceremony

On 1 May 1893 the guests of honour and directors of the Fair went on a festive procession with 22 vehicles over the Midway Pleasance to the Court of Honour to open the largest World's Fair so far. When all parties involved had gathered on the terraces in front of the Administration Building at 11:05 a.m. the director general gave the signal for the beginning of the festive program: To begin with an orchestra played Peine's Columbus March and the American national anthem. This was followed by an unusually long prayer and then the actress Jessie Couthoui, dressed in a traditional Spanish costume, recited the poem Prophecy by W.D. Croffut who had put the discovery of America from Columbus' viewpoint into rhyme.

Contemporaries only got an optical impression of this though: "She spoke with lively movements of the head and obviously with much pathos but she could only be understood a few steps away." Further musical interludes were followed by a speech by George R. Davis, director general, who used the classic pattern of all opening speeches, stating "It is our hope that this great exhibition will be the beginning of a new era of stable, material progress and that the gathering of nations here will establish warmer, stronger friendship and will help to ensure lasting word peace." In his opening speech Grover Cleveland, the President of the United States, emphasised the efforts of the American people in particular: "I am here to join in congratulations which are appropriate to this day. Surrounded by the remarkable results of American entrepreneurship and American energy and in view of the outstanding examples of American skills and intelligence we do not need to fear that our congratulations will be exaggerated. In the presence of the oldest nations on Earth we point to our achievements that are shown here and do not need to ask for forbearance on account of our youth. The enthusiasm for our own work forms the welcome that we extend to those who have come to us from far away to demonstrate, together with us, growth and efforts in the area of civilization."

After his speech the President surrounded by thousands of visitors and guests of honour extended his right hand and pressed a button on a table decorated with the American flag, turning on electric power and machinery for the Fair. Fountains shot into the air, waterfalls cascaded down, flags were hoisted and bells rang. Finally, the cover over the gilded statue of the Republic fell. The ceremony came to an end with a gun salute and minutes of cheering by the crowd.



EXPOSEEUM - The Museum of World Exhibitions, Hanover, Expo Plaza 11
Open every Sunday from 11 to 16