Photography Book Examines 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition

1893 Chicago's Columbian Exposition: Arts and Culture on the Doorstep of the 20th Century

Photography Book Examines 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition

Melina Druga
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View of the 1983 Chicago Columbian Exposition from the air
View of the 1983 Chicago Columbian Exposition from the air

Michael Finney makes his book debut with 1893 Chicago’s Columbian Exposition: Arts and Culture on the Doorstep of the 20th Century, a collection of photographs taken during the fair.  It also includes Finney’s commentary and modern photography.

The inspiration for the collection was a book of official photographs published in 1893 that an antique book dealer gave Finney as a gift.  He created a thread of images and commentary on Twitter.  This gave him the idea to collect the entries and attempt to craft a narrative from the individual entries.

“Creating this book has been a really organic process that I just sort of fell backwards into without the foresight to create an object with physical permanence,” Finney said.  “It’s really amazing to hold the finished product after spending a year generating this book.”

Finney’s self published via Amazon.

“I reached out to a few publishers that seemed to be a good fit for this release but was unable to get a commitment from an established indie entity,” he said. “It’s wonderful to release this and into the hands of folks that are interested in reading the words or looking at the images.

About the Columbian Exposition

Chicago 1893 World's Fair view from stereopticon card photo. United States Government Building
Chicago 1893 World’s Fair view of United States Government Building from a stereopticon card photo.

The 1893 Chicago’s Columbian Exposition also is known as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  It was the subject of Erik Larson’s creative nonfiction book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that chronicles architect Daniel Burnham and serial killer H. H. Holmes.

The fair was notable for anther reason as well – electricity.  In the 1890s, there was a war in the industry as to whether AC or DC electrical current was best.  Westinghouse Electric’s AC bid out General Electric for the contract.  The entire fairgrounds was wired with AC lighting, marking the first time many fairgoers experienced a “modern” city.

Some the attractions and innovations included:

  • Life-size reproductions of Christopher Columbus’ ships the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria and a life-size replica of a Viking ship.
  • The invention of the term “midway” to describe the place in a fair where the rides and carnival games are found. Chicago’s midway included the first Ferris Wheel.
  • Many inventions were demonstrated such as a stream-powered popcorn popper, the moving sidewalk, the zipper, the dishwasher.
  • New food products also were introduced to the public. You’ll recognize many of them.  They are Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Cracker Jack, Cream of Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Shredded Wheat, and Wrigley’s gum.
  • Harry Houdini was among the performers. Other entertainment include a night football game.

What attraction would you have liked to have visited at the exposition?  Leave a comment below.

Book information courtesy of PRLog.

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Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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