Wild at the Fair | Bleader

Wild at the Fair


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


My grandfather worked security at the 1933-34 Chicago world's fair, "A Century of Progress." But until I saw Lisa Schrenk's new book Building a Century of Progress, I had no idea what a non-sinecure that was:

"The start of the extravagant closing ceremony also served as a spontaneous signal for a growing crescendo of carnivalesque hysteria to spin out of control. Hordes of fairgoers began appropriating unique mementos of the magnificent event. In the Halloween-night frenzy, people broke into many of the exhibition pavilions and walked away with furniture, light fixtures, signs, and decorative building details. Not a shred of the sixty-five pennants that lined the Avenue of Flags that day survived. Even shrubs and trees were yanked out of the ground. Guards, many of whom ended the night requiring first aid, did their best to combat the full-scale pillaging. ...Fortunately, most of the damage was to objects that were already scheduled for disposal as part of the planned demolition of the exposition." (page 254)

Schrenk teaches at Norwich University and used to be education director at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation. In fairness, her generously illustrated book is more concerned about the Apollonian architecture than the Dionysian society surrounding it. The designers, she writes, sought to create "a distinctively American modern architecture that was clearly relevant to the times." (page 4) Most regular people, however, opted for colonial. Evidently they didn't take to heart the fair's amazing motto: "SCIENCE FINDS -- INDUSTRY APPLIES -- MAN CONFORMS."

Hear from the author yourself Thursday evening 6:30 pm at Roosevelt University ($).

Add a comment