Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

In October 1892, the world celebrated the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. Late in the day on 24 February 1890, Congress in Washington voted to grant Chicago as the site of the great Fair for the United States. The opening of the Fair was scheduled for 1 May 1893.

Much work was needed. The site chosen at 63rd street near the lake on the south side of the city was a wetland. It needed drainage. The lack of firm footings for construction was going to be a problem. The strong personalities of the architects chosen were also a formidable force to be tamed. It was a monumental challenge faced by the city. Many believed it to be an impossible task. Chicago had a reputation as a brash place without the polish of the likes of New York or Philadelphia. Chicago needed to prove to the world it could meet the challenge.

This post is meant as a photographic visit to some of the highlights of the Fair. Links are provided if you want to explore the sources in depth on your own. Records and photos from historical sources give a view of the Fair most people have never seen. You might have heard stories from relatives about a visit to the Fair by some earlier generation. I hope this shows what they saw.

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Great Chicago Wheel of 1893 | World’s Greatest Ride

World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was the subject of a book my wife, Melanie, and I discussed. The exposition was in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas by Columbus. A centerpiece of the exposition was the huge Chicago Wheel 264 feet high, meant to rival the Eiffel Tower. I love science and technology. The idea of this giant wheel being the first Ferris wheel fascinated me.


Rotating wheel rides have been around since the 17th century. They were known as ‘pleasure wheels’. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  secured the patents for the larger metal concept which came to be known as Ferris wheels. Ferris was born in Galesburg, IL, in 1859. That is not far from where I grew up. The family moved to Nevada when he was six. He attended college at California Military Academy in Oakland, CA where he graduated in 1876. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY in 1881 with a degree in Civil Engineering. He started work in the railroad and bridge industry. Upon moving to Pittsburgh, he started a company to test metals used in the rail and bridge industries.

More about this engineering marvel and the exposition of 1893.