1876 Centennial vs 1893 Columbian

Brandon McKinney

Brandon McKinney

Now - here's a possibly unrelated to everything in particular other than the perhaps unrealistically-named "Gilded Age"

And also - a question that's possibly out-of-the-period for this site. BUT since almost the whole of first class passengers on the Titanic were over 50, I think I can get away with turning the period of discussion back a few decades.

SO with all this in mind, I ask you people this:

Can one say that, in America, the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia had more of a cultural impact than, say, the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago?

I ask this, because in my head, I can think of a dozen more examples of products/fashions that exploited THE CENTENNIAL than products that trumpeted THE COLUMBIAN (In caps, of course.)

But, rather than drawing a conclusion and perhaps - accidentally following an "obeast" route of thinking (wink-wink-nudge-nudge). I'd just thought I'd throw the question out to discussion. For the kicks.

Thanks y'all for your thoughts.

Jim Kalafus

Hmmm... Chicago single handedly destroyed progressive architecture in the US for over a generation. Yes, I know... Sullivan forded on, and Wright, and Purcell. But, the overwhelming majority of what was built after that fair was monumental City Beautiful garbage like Penn Station; New York Public Library and, as late as the 1930s, the US Supreme Court building. So, Chicago left us with a legacy of bland neo-Classic and over the top beaux-arts structures which still make me grit my teeth when I see them. The much maligned demolition/refacing phase of 1950-1980 brought their ranks down to near-acceptible, but still...

Give me the vigorous 1876 exposition any time.

NYC 1964/65
Chicago 1933/34
Philadelphia 1876

Were the three greatest US fairs. Paris 1925 and 1937 were pretty neat, too.

>For the kicks.

Wild Rebels?
Brandon McKinney

Brandon McKinney

Paris 1925 WAS indeed neat. But I have a hard time shaking certain aspects of it - such as the very beautiful Port Concorde (by Patout, same architect of the interiors of the L'Atlantique and the Normandie.)being surrounded by a line of 1925 port-a-toilets. Although I DO wish they'd bring back the Eiffel Tower's lighting scheme that they had for that expo. That was cool.

>Philadelphia 1876

Best architecture of all of them, if you asked me. But then again, I'm a sucker for Eastlake - and that particular style of Eastlake. There's a rail-depot not far from your neck of the woods (Tenafly New Jersey) that is a GORGEOUS 1870s Eastlake, expo-style depot, with eastlake weathervane and all. I meant to have look at it last time I was up north, but I didn't get to it. The horticultural building and the Michigan state house. But basically almost the whole fair was Eastlake/Saracenic/Gothic Revival, so I like the whole thing. It's simply too bad that the horticultural hall was taken down in 1957.

I'm not sure I'm familiar with the Paris '37 fair.

>So, Chicago left us with a legacy of bland neo-Classic and over the top beaux-arts structures which still make me grit my teeth when I see them.

But... what about 1876? I know it didn't seem to leave much of an architectural legacy, but it DID seem to have a major impact on the psyche of the period. Harper's Bazaar for the whole year of '76 seemed to be buzzing constantly about the Centennial, with two special Centennial dresses by Worth - and numerous plates exploiting the Centennial as backdrops. Dozens of products seemed to trumpet the Centennial on their advertisements. Asher and Adams, a publisher, went across the States surveying American Industry and printed a special pictorial album in commemoration of America's first hundred years of industrial development.

I know that I do have a book of American history published in the American History craze that followed the 1893 fair. I know that represents a group of fair memorabilia that followed in the fair's wake - but I'm curious as to if that volume was greater or of the same quantity (considering there was a gap of nearly twenty years between both fairs, I would assume that it would make current assessment of that difference difficult.)

Or maybe I'm just weird.

>>For the kicks.
>Wild Rebels?

Uh-huh. I'm in it for the kicks, man. (I won't call you 'baby' like she did.) ;-)

Jim Kalafus

>It's simply too bad that the horticultural hall was taken down in 1957.

Be you familiar with the flamboyant Moorish/Saracenic/ Romanesque/ Gothic Ursuline convent in Galveston? Same deal... demolished after minor storm damage gave those who found Eastlake distasteful a reason to get rid of it.

I think that Chicago had a greater impact on the national psyche. Both good and bad. City beautification became stylish in its wake, which was a good thing, but the urban improvements tended to ape its unoriginality. So, the country was soon strewn with "pretty" but unsophisticated buildings as the move towards modernism (as typified by Eastlake!)was derailed, and pretty but unsophisticated parks, cluttered with promenades with neo-classic balustrades (just like at the fair) tacky heroic statuary (just like at the fair) and nature reduced to a bare minimum and formalised (just like at the fair).

One of the joys of pre 1893-post 1865 America was the riot of (sometimes dischordant) architecture that broke out following the identical brownstone and identical iron front building era. Any surviving neighborhood from this period is guaranteed to be a fun place to photograph. Neighborhoods built after the fair tend to have a sameness to them, since every structure erectyed tended to look like either a bank or a railroad station. There are some exceptions- a few great Sullivanesque structures were built around Union Square, NYC, for example- but, by and large, the White City mentality produced a very dull citiscape. And, IMHO, it pioneered the disposable architecture mentality.... if everything looks identical, why bother to preserve any one particular structure, since there is bound to be a clone or two somewhere in the same city?

>Uh-huh. I'm in it for the kicks, man. (I won't call you 'baby' like she did.) ;-)

And I, in turn, will refrain from making gleeful reference to "The Turd Museum. World's Largest!Ride 'em!" A friend of mine actually owns that cannon now!

Jason Schleisman

The White Star Line had its own separate pavilion at the 1892-3 Chicago Fair. I have an image of the pavilion somewhere 'round here, but I've unfortunately misplaced it.

There. No worries, Brandon. Now this thread is unquestionably relevant to the board.

Mark Baber

Staff member
White Star also published a promotional booklet for the 1893 Fair; it included, as I recall, a history of the line and descriptions of its then-current ships and services. I have one filed away somewhere, so can't immediately say whether the pavilion is pictured or not. If/when I locate it, I'll advise.