I just finished reading the Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, a fascinating and informative book about the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition, or Chicago World’s Fair.  What really struck me is how much of a worldwide sensation it was.  Today, it is a forgotten piece of history.

Cover of Rand McNally & Co's "A Week at the Fair"

Cover of Rand McNally & Co’s “A Week at the Fair”

Ten suggestions for visitors, from "Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition"

Ten suggestions for visitors, from “Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition”

 

Map of World's Columbian Fair

Map of World’s Columbian Fair

 

In 1889, Paris had put on a huge World Exposition, and the United States was ready to compete.  A huge complex of buildings and exhibits was created on the shores of Lake Michigan in Jackson Park, and was open to the public from May to October, 1893.  The cost for admission was fifty cents.  Buildings were erected by nations from around the world, including Japan, Germany, Jamaica, Spain, and the list goes on.  Each state had its own structure.  Huge buildings were devoted to branches of the arts and sciences, including the Electrical Building, Anthropological Building, and Fisheries Building, to name just a few.

Dedication Ceremonies in the Manufactures Building, October 21, 1892, from "Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition"

Dedication Ceremonies in the Manufactures Building, October 21, 1892, from “Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition”

Dome of the Administration Building, from "Pennsylvania and the World's Columbian Exposition"

Dome of the Administration Building, from “Pennsylvania and the World’s Columbian Exposition”

Along the Midway, whole foreign villages were transplanted to the fairgrounds, the newly-invented Ferris wheel turned 250 feet in the air, and other attractions were waiting for visitors.  Tens of thousands of people visited each day, with the highest one-day total over 750,000!

Elictricity Building, from "Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition"

Electricity Building, from “Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition”

Mimeograph of The Great Ferris Wheel, found inside copy of "The Best Things to be Seen"

Mimeograph of The Great Ferris Wheel, found inside copy of “The Best Things to be Seen”

Streets of Cairo in the Midway, from "Snap Shots"

Streets of Cairo in the Midway, from “Snap Shots”

Entrances to Main Buildings, from "The Best Things to be Seen"

Entrances to Main Buildings, from “The Best Things to be Seen”

After reading the book, I decided to explore the vaults of HSMC to see if we had any material relating to the Exposition.  Turns out, we have LOTS!  We have souvenirs, like postcards and flags.  We have a variety of guides, including Rand McNally & Co’s A Week at the Fair and Pennsylvania and the World’s Columbian Exposition.  Also in the collection are “Snap Shots.” World’s Fair through a Camera and the Official Catalogue of Exhibits—Department K, Fine Arts. 

Souvenir card picturing a rendition of Columbus.  Made in Philadelphia

Souvenir card picturing a rendition of Columbus. Made in Philadelphia

Change purse showing the Electricity Building

Change purse showing the Electricity Building

 

Souvenir flag.  Fairgrounds are pictured diagonally across the flag.

Souvenir flag. Fairgrounds are pictured diagonally across the flag.

We also have a few pieces in the collection which were exhibited at the fair, later purchased, and then donated to the Historical Society.  You may remember one such thing in a previous post (see the porcelain teeth in “Oral History”).  Montgomery County artist Thomas Hovenden exhibited his painting Breaking Home Ties and it was voted the most popular painting at the fair!  Come see another of his paintings Looking West at the Historical Society Headquarters.

Punch bowl exhibited at the fair and later donated to the Historical Society

Punch bowl exhibited at the fair and later donated to the Historical Society

By looking at these various artifacts and their donors, one can see that Montgomery County went to Chicago for the fair!  Ambrose Dettre went on October 28th, 1893, right before the fair closed at the end of the month.  The Misses Preston arrived earlier, in August, to see the sights.  On the map in their guide, they penciled an “X” at every building they visited, and had a running list of the places still left to see, including the Texas, Delaware, and Louisiana buildings.  The Fornance family also visited; someone in the family wrote down train ticket prices in their guide (8 cents for a single ticket or 60 cents for a ten-pack).  Other prominent members of the Historical Society also attended, including Mrs. Anna Delacroix and Senator A. D. Markley.

Pennsylvania State building - a replica of Independence Hall, from "Snap Shots"

Pennsylvania State building – a replica of Independence Hall, from “Snap Shots”

The Liberty Bell (yes, the original!), from "Snap Shots"

The Liberty Bell (yes, the original!), from “Snap Shots”

 

 

 

 

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Creepy or Cool?  Victorian Hair Work

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The above illustration comes from a book titled Self-instructor in the Art of Hair, written by Mark Campbell in 1862.

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Hair work was a popular activity for middle class Victorian women.  Although the history of hair work dates much further back, Queen Victoria popularized the art form in the mid-19th century.  Hair as a medium was ideal because of its strength and longevity (Egyptian mummies have even been found with hair intact!).  It is also an inexpensive and renewable resource.  Both jewelry and wreaths were popular forms of hair work; some examples from HSMC’s collection are below.

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This brooch is an example of palette work, which is created by laying hair on a flat surface and gluing it into designs or scenes.  The swoop you see in the brooch is an example of “Prince of Wales feathers.”

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This watch fob and earrings were made on a table, as exhibited in the first illustration.  Table work is braided or woven into strands, which could be solid or hollow.

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These hair wreaths would usually be made from the hair of the artist’s family or friends.  The differing colors show how many people gave their hair to the project.  In displays like this, hair does not need to be very long, only a few inches, allowing almost anyone to donate their hair to the cause.  The wreaths are made with an underlying system of wires supporting the hair wrapped around it.

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In the hair work discussed above, the hair for the designs would probably come from living persons.  Mourning jewelry was also made from the locks of a deceased loved one.  This again can be traced back to Queen Victoria.  After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, she wore a lock of his hair in a brooch over her heart for the rest of her life.

Eventually professionals began cropping up, offering their services to a customer, who would then only need to choose a design and supply the hair to be used.  In the long term, commercialism was the downfall of hair art; because of its personal nature, it could not be mass-produced.

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Read more about HAIR WORK in HSMC’s next newsletter!

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Ukrainian wax-resist Easter eggs, or pysanky, come from a long-standing tradition. They began as pagan symbols before Christianity was prevalent in Ukraine. Once Christianity spread (988), egg designs were adapted to suit the new religions themes. Triangular designs represent the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. Fish designs are also popular. Other designs may be dependent on the recipient. Historically, completed eggs were traded between relatives and friends, like a valentine. Eventually these eggs were kept as decorations in Ukrainian homes and barns.

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The eggs were traditionally dyed with products found in nature. Organic material like onions, horns, and seeds were used to make yellow, dark red, green, and black. The process starts with a raw egg, which will last forever if the shell remains intact. Then a kistka, or a stylus, is used to apply melted beeswax on the surface of the egg. The kistka is filled with wax and then held above a flame to melt. Lines are drawn around the circumference of the egg as a template on which to create a pattern. The egg is first dipped in the lightest dye, and then more wax designs are added over it. The process is repeated with each color, from lightest to darkest. Once the darkest color is applied (usually black), the egg is held in the flame of a candle. This heats the wax, which can then be wiped away. Finally the eggs are baked in the oven to set the color, and then covered in varnish or lacquer to make them shine.

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These are certainly more work than dipping eggs into PAAS!

 

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There are many legends concerning the origins and importance of the pysanky.  They are believed to protect a home from fires, to help find demons, and to improve fertility.  The are many legends concerning the Virgin Mary carrying eggs at the crucifixion.  One legend says that the fate of the world depends on the continued practice of pysanky.  If people should ever abandon the tradition and evil creature will encircle the world. (Eggs Beautiful: How to Make Ukrainian Easter Eggs by Johazna Luciow, Ann Kmit, and Loretta Luciow)

These eggs were created by Mary Ann Freeman and donated to the HSMC by Barbara Makar.