When Chicago Went Classical

Andrew Saint

  • Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
    Bantam, 496 pp, £7.99, April 2004, ISBN 0 553 81353 6

Just two of the fabled world exhibitions of the 19th century are still remembered. They are the two with the best claim to have reshaped the culture of their times. London 1851 was a paean to industry and progress sheltered within a structure to match; its theme has been invoked in world’s fairs ever since. The other contender is Chicago 1893. After more than a century, the gleaming White City on the fairway at Jackson Park lingers in the American mind. Its image launched the international ‘city beautiful’ movement and transformed Washington. It has bequeathed its bright nickname to a Tube station and its shabby surroundings in West London. The most strapping of its sideshows, the Ferris wheel, has recently enjoyed a renaissance.

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