World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 Collection
When the Museum opened in 1894, visitors could once again experience many of the exhibits they had seen at the fair. Thousands of objects exhibited at the Fair were donated or sold to the new museum, and they have been cared for by the Anthropology Department since then. Many of those objects have not been viewed by the public since 1893!Learn more
When the Museum opened in 1894, visitors could once again experience many of the exhibits they had seen at the fair. Thousands of objects exhibited at the Fair were donated or sold to the new museum, and they have been cared for by the Anthropology Department since then. Many of those objects have not been viewed by the public since 1893!
Anthropology in 1893 was a very new branch of social science, and leading anthropologists came together to build the anthropology exhibits at the 1893 World's Fair. Some went on trips dedicated to collecting objects to display at the World's Fair; others worked to construct exhibits inside and outside the Anthropology Building.
Image above: Cast of "Stela A" from Copan, Honduras. It is pictured here on display in the hall of Aboriginal Sculpture in the South Court at the Field Columbian Museum, c.1905. Collected by Edward H. Thompson, this stela cast was originally on exhibit in the Anthropological Building of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. © The Field Museum, CSA17054, Photographer Charles Carpenter.View less
About 70% of Cook County residents (Chicago and surrounding area) who classified themselves as "white" in the 1890 census indicated they were "foreign-born" (i.e., mostly from Europe). Many were poor and had little education. They worked hard in factories, mills, and workshops to make ends meet. Some might have managed to buy a bit of land in the surrounding Midwest farm belt. Chicago was also a destination for a growing number of African-Americans, former slaves and their descendents, hoping to flee the white supremacy, racial discrimination, and post-slavery poverty in the South. In the meantime, former European immigrants continued their westward migration in a quest for new land, new opportunities, new horizons. In 1893, newspapers and magazines were the main source of information about the outside world for these people. Imagine a world with no radio, no television, no internet. For this reason, the size and scope of Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition (WCE) provided an unprecedented window to the world.
Just how big was the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition?
- 630 Acres (Lake Michigan to Cottage Grove Avenue/Washington Park; 56th Street to 67th Street)
- Over 200 buildings, pavilions, and outdoor exhibit areas (only two exhibit buildings remain today: the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park, and the Art Institute in downtown Chicago)
- Over 27 million visitors in a six month period (equal to one-half of the entire U.S. population at the time)
The Chicago World's Columbian Exposition (WCE) was one of the largest and most successful World's Fairs in Europe and North America during the 19th and early 20th centuries. With its glistening White City along Lake Michigan in Jackson Park, and its highly successful Midway Plaisance featuring rides, amusements and foreign (often colonial) concessions and villages, the 1893 WCE set benchmarks for fairs, theme parks, monumental architecture and sculpture for years to come.1 Its material contents, tens of thousands of objects, formed the basis for the first collections of the Chicago's Field Museum (initially named The Field Columbian Museum). Commercially, the WCE organizers helped to establish new standards for advertising and marketing as well.2
The World's Columbian Exposition Collection Project would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of a number of individuals. The list of contributors provided here is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather an indication of the enormous number of talented people required to make an undertaking of this sort possible.
Gordon Ambrosino, Morgan Baillargeon, Bennet Bronson, Katherine Craig, Winifred Creamer, Nina M. Cummings, Antonio Curet, Kate Dean, Scott Demel, Armand Esai, Gary Feinman, Taso Frangou, Peter Gaylord, Christine Giannoni, Michael Godow, Michael Gordon, Carol Gudanowski, Jonathan Haas, Alina Haidri, Dennis Harman, Martina Hough, Nicole Ihnatiuk, Carolyn Johnson, Jamie Kelly, John Kelly, Hank Krishman, Chapurukha Kusimba, Robert Martin, Greg Mercer, Donna Nash, Stephen Nash, Will Pestle, Christopher Philipp, Juliana Philipp, Dorren Ross, Birgitta Rota, Andrew Ruginis, Frank Sanchez, Daniel Schnepf, Ashton Spatz, Angela Steinmetz, Steven Strohmeier, John Terrell, Hans Bjarne Thomsen, Anne Underhill, Alaka Wali, Jen-Yu Wang, Nicholas Weismann, Patrick Ryan Williams.
The Field Museum extends special thanks to The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation for its generous support of the World Columbian Exposition Collection Project.
We have been compiling data for thousands of objects from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
In the future, additional photographs and information will be provided in this database.
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