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Opening Day At The 1893 Columbian Exposition



1893 Columbian Exposition


May 1, 1893 through October 30, 1893

The Story, The Souvenirs

Prior to the exposition's opening, more than 72,000 tons of exhibit materials were shipped to the grounds, 630 acres in Jackson Park in Chicago.  It took three hectic years of preparation and work to produce the World's Columbian Exposition, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's landing in America and promoting the progress of man in science, industry, and culture since that historic event.  

The Columbian Exposition was actually held in 1893, a year later than had been planned.  More than 200 buildings occupied the exposition's grounds.  Over 250,000 displays ranging from milk sterilization machines to works of art were presented by nearly 70,000 individual exhibitors from forty-six nations.  There were 25,836,073 admissions to the fair. The admission price was fifty cents; children under twelve paid twenty-five cents and those under six were admitted free. 

The Exposition provided the United States with a new holiday, Columbus Day, and a new method of inculcating patriotism in schoolchildren, the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet nothing says more about the power of the White City than that it inspired the Emerald City, children's writer L. Frank Baum never forgot the fair and used it as the model for Oz.

The Columbian Exposition was a spectacle for the emerging technology that would power and transform the coming new century, mainly electricity.  Scott Joplin introduced ragtime music at the fair, Charles A. Dana, editor of the New York Sun, dubbed Chicago "that windy city."  The world's first Ferris Wheel, invented by George W. Ferris, was on the Midway. The 250-foot high steel structure had 36 cars carrying 60 persons each.  Fully loaded, it could carry 2,160 people.

Planners selected a classical architectural theme for the fair.  The buildings housed sixty-five exhibits that followed the theme of the building. 


Some of the more popular exhibits were curiosities rather than serious displays of technology and progress. They included an eleven-ton cheese and a 1,500 pound chocolate Venus de Milo in the Hall of Agriculture and a seventy-foot-high tower of light bulbs in the Electricity Building.

11 Ton Cheese From Canada

The Midway's features ranged from a replica "Street in Cairo" to carnival rides. The "Street in Cairo," one of the first amusements to introduce exotic dancing to America which included the popular exotic dancer known as Little Egypt, was the most successful Midway attraction.  Pabst beer, Aunt Jemima syrup, Cracker Jacks, Shredded Wheat and Juicy Fruit gum, the first picture postcards to the American public, as well as two staples of the late-twentieth century diet, carbonated soda and hamburgers (invented in New Haven CT. at Louis' Lunch), were all "firsts" making their introduction at the fair.

The Souvenirs

Spectacular Kilburn stereoview of Opening Day at the 1893 Columbian Exposition titled "Sea Of Humanity"




Rare Programme Of Ceremonies, World's Fair, October 20-21-22-1892, 38 pages with gorgeous color lithographs, building descriptions, fair stats, cover damaged, insides perfect!


Christopher Columbus fob, reverse depicts a Fair panorama, brass, obverse says "Columbus Exposition Chicago 1893, a little over 1"diameter.





Brass Copper Spittoon Cuspidor, measures 11 inches high, 9 inches diameter, weighs 4 pounds

The top 2 portions of this are very nice.  There is an eagle, above it reads "World's Columbian," under the eagle it reads "Exposition Chicago 1893," this is on 2 sides of the spittoon.

There are 3 dings and there are different colors in streaks, as if someone tried to remove the tobacco residue years ago.  
The bottom is in rough shape in 1 place.



An extremely rare original antique 1893 Worlds Fair Columbian Exposition wood spigot for use with a wooden barrel / whiskey keg.  It still retains some of its original paper label Awarded to Redlich Mfg. Co. of Chicago Illinois.

This spigot measures only 6 5/8” long and 3 ¼” high from the top of the handle to the bottom of the faucet opening. It is in excellent original condition with very nice patina and most of the paper label is still intact!


The paper label has two sets of medallions in fair condition. The top set of medallions is for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.  The medallion to the left has a rendering of “ Columbia With an outstretched hand reaching to all of the other countries who participated.


In the middle between the two sets of medallions is the date 1893.  The bottom set of medallions is for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition:

The circle to the left is a rendering of Christopher Columbus arriving on shore. The circle to the right has the following words:



At the bottom between the two circles is the word in script: Chicago



The first United States commemorative coin was the Columbian half dollar designed by Olin Lewis Warner. C. E. Barber engraved the obverse showing the bust of Columbus, and G. T. Morgan engraved the reverse having a representation of Columbus' flagship the Santa Maria above two hemispheres.



The four original Columbian Exposition Souvenir Portrait tickets were printed by the famous American Bank Note Company in New York, each representing a significant point in American history . The company used high quality stock and detailed engraving in order to deter a counterfeiter.

The Indian represented the time on the North American continent before the white man.


Columbus represented the discovery of America by the Europeans.



Washington represented the Independence of the U.S. government from England.



Lincoln represented the freeing of the slaves and the preservation of the Federal Union.



3" clear glass paperweight sold as a souvenir from Opening Day, May 1st, 1893.  129,000 people attended Opening Day, one of them bought this paperweight!