Chicago World’s Fair Thesis Research Paper

Positivity, Persistence, and Progression at the Fair that Changed America

At the turn of the twentieth century, many American cities were struggling to find their place in the world. One such city was Chicago, Illinois, the focal point of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, a nonfiction ode to history about the events that took place during the World’s Columbian Exposition. In 1893, Chicago was home to more than the World’s Fair; it was also the home of America’s very own Jack the Ripper, Dr. Henry H. Holmes. While a team of the most brilliant architects of the age led by Daniel Burnham raced against time to produce a World’s Fair that could outshine Paris’ Exposition Universelle, H. H. Holmes took his time in methodically building…

Inventors and entrepreneurs from around the country and around the world came to the Columbian Exposition to show off their goods. Visitors could feast their eyes on “the first zipper, the first-ever all electric kitchen, which included an automatic dishwasher… a new, oddly flavored gum called Juicy Fruit, and caramel-coated popcorn called Cracker Jack” (Larson 247). Many- if not all- of these products are still commonly seen today, which is proof of the success of the innovators at the fair. Forward-thinking innovators provided 19th century Americans with commodities made available today to 21st century Americans, despite the initial disbelief of the visitors to the fair that any of the products would be successful. Consequently, this shows that the public became open to the developments and new opportunities found in their rapidly changing world, and even embraced them. One other amazing opportunity made available to the public was that visitors were able to experience “the most elaborate demonstration of electric illumination ever attempted and the first large scale of alternating current,” the same type of electric current that soon would be integrated the homes of the spectators (Larson 254). The world was transforming from one of oil lamps and candlelight to one of lightbulbs and convenience. Citizens could be safer at night and…

During the summer of 1895, America was held captive by the search for a family of children believed to be kidnapped at best and murdered at worst by H. H. Holmes. At the time of the search, Holmes was sitting in jail in Philadelphia waiting for his trial for the murder of the children’s father, Benjamin Pitezel. Hardworking and driven detective Fred Geyer was assigned to the case, and over the course of the season he followed nine hundred leads all across the Midwest. Finally, in September, “a Philadelphia grand jury voted to indict Holmes for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel… Indiana [for] Howard Pitezel…. Toronto [for] Alice and Nellie” (Larson 369). The locations of the murders of Benjamin, Howard, and Alice and Nellie (Philadelphia, Indiana, and Toronto, respectively) are all hundreds of miles apart, and following the trail of a genius criminal between them was no easy feat. Detective Geyer was able to pursue crimes across the continent, exhibiting widespread determination; not only did Geyer never give up, but the Philadelphia Police Department never withdrew him from the field. Everyone involved in Holmes’ case believed that he had to be incarcerated, and as a result no one let the case drop. The nineteenth century was a time when disappearances were of the least concern and cases often went cold if pursued if all. However, the entire nation was entranced by…