The World's Columbian Exposition, Paul V. Galvin 
Digital History Collection


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"The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893" website was created to provide world-wide access to thousands of illustrations and full-text images of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 for purposes of teaching and research. The site highlights four works focusing on various aspects of the fair including two multi-volume sets that were digitized by Luna Imaging Co. as the result of an Illinois State Library FY98 Educate and Automate grant. These four works are listed below.

Historical significance of the World's Columbian Exposition

The second half of the 19th century was an age of fairs and expositions held in London, Paris, and other great cities throughout the world. The World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, was the first critically and economically successful U.S. world's fair. Conceived as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the new world, the Exposition held a near-mythological appeal for people of the time.

The Columbian Exposition showcased a city just 60 years old, a city magnificently reborn just 22 years after the Chicago Fire. It also placed before the world the genius of Chicago architects Daniel Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Louis Sullivan. In effect, the Columbian Exposition was Chicago's debut on a world stage as a locus of great architecture and burgeoning economic power. Illinois Institute of Technology, the professional home of Mies van der Rohe, is a perfect host to showcase the Exposition.

The purpose of this project is also to electronically preserve rare and fragile materials for the benefit of Illinoisans and to make their contents easily and immediately available. The website is intended to be readable in the same linear way that the books. Images are also available in several sizes to accommodate a variety of users. Text has been converted in most cases exactly as it appeared in the original works.

This site is also under development. Although materials are primarily available in HTML or image format, this site will also incorporate a search engine to allow users to search the text as well as an image database.

Titles Available

  • The Dream City: a portfolio of photographic views of the World's Columbian Exposition/with an introduction by Halsey C. Ives. St. Louis, Mo.: Published weekly by N. D. Thompson Publishing Co., 1893-1894. 300 p. of photos; 29 x 35cm.
  • The Vanishing Fair/ by H. H. Van Meter; illustrated and embellished by William and Charles Ottman. Chicago: The Literary Arts Co.,1894. 40 p. including double front.; 27 cm. A poem about the destruction by fire of most of the Exposition's buildings during the Pullman Strike of July 1894.
  • The Book of the Fair: an historical and descriptive presentation of the world's science, art, and industry, as viewed through the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, designed to set forth the display made bythe Congress of Nations, of human achievement in material form, so as to more effectually to illustrate the profess of mankind in all the departments of civilized life / by Hubert Howe Bancroft ... Chicago, San Francisco : The Bancroft Company, 1893. 10 v. [approx., 1000p.] :illus. (incl. ports.), 41 cm.
  • Art and Architecture/ by William Walton. [Columbus Edition]. Philadelphia : G. Barrie, 1893. 10 v. : ill., map, fronts. ; 49 cm. At head of title: World's Columbian Exposition MDCCCXCIII. Official illustrated publication. "Printed only for subscribers."

To find other works on the World's Fair available at the Paul V. Galvin Library, search I-Share, IIT's integrated library system.

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Digital History Collection
Last Updated: March 15, 1999