Historical Insights in Devil in the White City Essays

Historical Insights in Devil in the White City Essays

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Historical Insights in Devil in the White City

Write an essay discussing the historical insights presented in Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, being sure to answer the following questions: In what ways does the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 represent the contrasts and conflicts of the Gilded Age? What is the Fair’s lasting imprint on American society & culture, & what new trends does it signal for the twentieth century?

     Although the Chicago World’s fair of 1893 only lasted 6 months, it had an enormous impact on the city of Chicago, its people, and indeed the entire country. Up until that point in its history, the US had done nothing on the scale of the world’s fair, and was regarded as a country of barbarians and cowboys by much of the world, especially Old Europe. The fair was a perfect way for the US to disprove this. In building the fair, they would be placed in direct competition with France, who had built a magnificent fair only a few years before. If Chicago could at least build a fair on par with the Paris fair, it would prove to the world that the US was a cultural, military and political force to be reckoned with. Because of the fair’s gigantic scale, it became a microcosm of the conflicts and the tenor of the times. In effect, the fair was the turning point between the old Victorian days and the modern era, technologically, culturally, politically, and in the hearts of the people of the US and the world.
     The United States of the Gilded Age was not the superpower is it today. At best, it was considered a powerful manufacturing and industrial country, but little more. Culturally and politically, it was an upstart to the relatively old and established European powers of the day. At this point in history, much of the American West was still frontier country, relatively undeveloped. The North east, especially New York, was the only part of the US considered by the world to be somewhat civilized and cultured. Even what we think of as east today, most notably Chicago, was thought of as uncivilized. Getting the World’s Fair in Chicago was their chance to prove otherwise. It was also a chance for the whole country to prove its cultural power. With the Fair’s success came new respect from the world, particularly Europe. The US was no longer viewed as much as a second rate power with no culture of its own and no global influence. The fa...

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...the people of the US a glimpse of alien cultures that many of them had never heard of, much less seen and learned about. In a way, the fair was a cultural awakening for most of the people of the United States. Suddenly, people from Missouri could tell their friends and families that they had seen Camels, or men from Japan. 27 million people went to see the fair, the vast majority of them Americans. That was a little less than half of the population of the country at this time. That many people seeing cultures and people that many had never heard of would have caused a dramatic effect, transforming the people of this country into a more cultured, worldly people.
     The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was the turning point between old Victorian, provential, and backwater ways in the US, and the modern outlook and culture we enjoy today. It was built on a scale that had never been seen before. It provided technological wonders, new cultures, and a look into a brighter future. It helped to take the US from being a backwater, second rate power to a world super power. It was progressive in the labor and safety movements. In short, it was a major turning point in American history.

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