The idea of celebrating Columbus's discovery of the New World long anticipated the anniversary year. New York was appealed to as a suitable seat for the enterprise, and entertained the suggestion by subscribing $5,000,000, whereupon, in 1889, Chicago apprized the country of her wish to house the Fair. St. Louis and Washington appeared as competitors, but the other three cities unanimously set Washington aside. St, Louis showed little enthusiasm. Thirty-five citizens of Chicago, led by a specially active few of their number, organized Chicago's energies with such success that on appearing before Congress she had $5,000,000 in hand and could promise $5,000,000 more.. The commodiousness of the city as well as its position near the center of population and commerce told in its favor. Father Knickerbocker was not a little chagrined when his alert and handsome cousin persuaded Congress to allot her the prize. The act organizing the Exposition was approved April 25, 1890. A National Commission was appointed, under the presidency of Hon. T. W. Palmer, of Michigan. An executive committee was raised, also a board of reference and control, a Chicago local board, a board of lady managers, and a number of standing committees to deal with various branches of the colossal undertaking. . . . The least unavailable sight for the exposition was Jackson Park, in the southeastern part of the city, where one saw at the water's edge dreary ridges of sand, in the background a swamp with flags, marsh-grass and clumps of willow and wild-oak. Paris had taken nearly three years to prepare for the Exposition of 1889; twenty months were allowed Chicago. The site to be gotten in readiness was four times as large as that for the Paris Exposition. A dozen palaces and ten score other edifices were to be located, raised and adorned; the waters to be gathered in canals, basins and lagoons, and spanned by bridges. Underground conduits had to be provided for electric wires. Endless grading, planting, turfing, paving and road-making must be accomplished. Thousands of workmen of all nationalities and trades, also fire, police, ambulance and hospital servicea superb industrial armyhad to be mustered in and controlled. The growth of the colossal structures seemed magical. Sections of an immense arch would silently meet high in air "like shadows flitting across the sky." Some giant pillar would hang as by a thread a hundred feet above ground till a couple of men appeared aloft and set it in place. Workmen in all sorts of impossible postures and positions were swarming, climbing and gesticulating like Palmer Cox's Brownies.
On Wednesday, October 21, 1892, the hive was stilled, in honor of Columbus's immortal deed. Just four hundred years before for the first time so far as we certainly know or ever shall, European eyes saw American land. This climacteric event in human history was by Old Style dated October 12th. The addition of nine days to translate it into New Style made the date October 21st. On that day occurred a reception in the Auditorium, 3,500 persons responding to the invitation.
Mr. Cleveland's first prominent appearance before the public after his inauguration was upon the Opening Day of the Columbian Exposition, May 1, 1893. It was a legal holiday. In spite of the mist, rain and mud of its early hours, patient multitudes waited outside for the gates of Jackson Park to open. The inevitable procession, dramatically welcomed by the uncouth aliens of the Midway Plaisance, stopt at the temporary platform in front of the Administration Building, where, among many others, sat President Cleveland side by side with Columbus's descendant, the Duke of Veragua.2 Inspiriting music and poetry led up to the climax of the occasion. . . .
Many of the festal days which followed were chosen by States and nations for their own in particular. Every State had its day, which it brightened with music and pageantry, not omitting the eloquence and hospitality suited to such occasions. On her day California dispensed freely to all comers of her abundant fruit. New York did not sulk over her loss of the opportunity to entertain the Fair, but vigorously and with splendid success celebrated the day set apart for her. "The great day of the feast" was "Chicago Day," October 9th, the twenty-second anniversary of the awful fire. All the night before houseless thousands had sheltered themselves in doorways and under the elevated railroad, while 15,000 awaited at the gates the opening of the grounds. During the day 716,881 persons paid their way into the grounds, the largest number for any one day, exceeding the maximum at Philadelphia217,526, and that at Paris, in 1889397,150. Original and interesting exercises marked the hours. . . .
In magnitude and splendor the grounds and buildings constituting the White City far surpassed any ever before laid out for exposition purposes. The original sketch of the grounds was drawn with pencil on brown paper by the late Mr. John W. Root. It projected an effective contrast of land and water as well as of art and nature, which subsequent elaboration, mainly under the invaluable advice and guidance of the late Richard M. Hunt,3 nobly filled out. The North Pond communicated with the lake by the North Inlet and with the Grand Basin by the North Canal, opposite which was the South Canal. South of the Basin was South Inlet, leading from Lake Michigan into South Pond. In one corner was the isolated Northwest Pond. Approaching the park by water one landed at a long pier, on which was the moving sidewalkthe Power House, where alone steam-power was allowed, standing to the south. At another pier was moored the facsimile battleship Illinois. Almost at the lips of her cannon the nations of the world had tabernacled, England nearest. Beyond these, at the north was the neighborhood of States, each represented by a house. Some of the houses were castles, some were cottages. Some provided only comforts, others held displays. Not one but offered points of great interest. Iowa, Washington, California and Illinois advertised their prospects; Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Masachusetts their history. Mutual visits among these families and mutual admiration were the order of each day.
Upon the Wooded Island, under the protectorate of Horticultural Hall, consummate art had made a refuge for wild nature. Stunted trees were masked by shrubbery and the water planted with aquatic vegetation. Nearly every variety of American tree and shrub was represented upon these acres. Here as well as elsewhere landscape gardeners had created effective backgrounds of willows and of flowers, and stretches of lawn set off by statuary and fountains. Distances were too great to be traversed always on foot, but other modes of locomotion were ample. A good if somewhat noisy servant was the Intramural Railway, which conducted one by the rear of the grounds, the back way, as it were from one end of the enclosure to the other. But the beauty of the place more imprest you if you boarded a gondola or an electric launch, sweeping under arches, around islands, and past balustrades, terraces and flowered lawns. Easy transit through the larger buildings, or from one to another, was furnished by wheeled chairs. . . .
Great as was the expenditure, it would have been inadequate to the results had it not been possible to employ a material at once cheap, sufficiently durable, and very ductile in architects' hands. This was a mixture of plaster of Paris with certain fibers, commonly known as "staff." "It permitted the architects to indulge in an architectural spree." It made possible "a group of buildings which might have been a vision of an ancient monarch, but which no autocrat and no government could have carried out in permanent form." It allowed modern masters to reproduce "the best details of ancient architectureto erect temples, colonnades, towers and domes of surpassing beauty and noble proportionsmaking an object-lesson of practical educational value equal to its impressive character." . . .
The name of the "Court of Honor" awoke in one a throb of anticipation before seeing its chaste beauty, which must to his dying day haunt the memory of every visitor who beheld it. Its majestic unity was mainly due to the genius of R. M. Hunt, already mentioned for his masterly agency in rendering the Fair so picturesque and so perfect as an architectural ensemble. Down the Grand Basin you looked upon the golden statue of the Republic, with its noble proportions, beyond it the peristyle, a forest of columns surmounted by the Columbian quadriga. On the right hand stood the Agricultural Buildings, upon whose summit the "Diana" of Augustus St. Gaudens had alighted. To the left stood the enormous Hall of Manufactures just mentioned.
Looking from the peristyle the eye met the Administration Building, admired by critics and laymen alike. Its architect was Mr. Hunt. He was a devotee of the French school, and here presented to the American people its best exemplification. The dome resembled that of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. In this Court originality was happily sacrificed to harmony. it was well that specimens of the best architecture should be set before the public, rather than novel departures from standard types; for the Fair not only showed the vast growth of art in America since 1876, but served as an educator in the canons of taste. The American art displayed at the Fair disappointed Europe by imitating hers so well. Yet it was clear that we were not mere imitators. . . .
The number of paid admissions to the Columbian Fair was 21,477,218, a daily average of 119,984½. The gross attendance was 27,529,400, exceeding by nearly a million the number at the Paris Exposition for the six months ending with October, tho rather over half a million less than the total attendance at Paris, where the gates were open a considerably longer time than at Chicago. The monthly average of visitors increased steadily from about 1,000,000 in May to nearly 7,000,000 in October. It was estimated that in all 12,000,000 different individuals saw the Fair.
1 From Andrews's "History of the Last Quarter-Century in the United States." By permission of the publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons.Copyright, 1895, 1896.
2 Diego, the great grandson of Columbus, died childless in 1578, when the male line came to an end. A lawsuit for succession to the titles then followed, and lasted thirty years, being finally settled in favor of descendants of Isabel, a sister of Louis Columbus. In 1733 this line ended, and after litigation again, the title was settled on descendants of Francesca, sister of Diego Columbus, the great grandson of the discoverer, from whom was descended the Duke of Veragua, who came to this country for the Columbian celebration, and received distinguished honors here. He was born in 1837.
3 Richard Morris Hunt was born in 1828 and died in July, 1895. One of his noted buildings is the Lenox Library on upper Fifth Avenue, New York, facing Central Park, now threatened with demolition, the Lenox Library having been consolidated with the New York Public Library and the books removed to the new building on Fifth Avenue, at Forty-second Street.