While the notion of collecting spoons has pretty much been relegated to truck stops along the interstate, it use to be a lot more popular. Here are two silver spoons from the 1933 “A Century of Hope” World’s Fair in Chicago. The “I Will” is a motto of the city and the woman’s face was a logo for the fair. (In the bowl part of the spoon are different buildings from the fair.) The fair was so popular that it was extended through 1934 and was even paid off by the end of the exposition. Quite a feat when you think about the fact that the Great Depression was in full swing. (Check back for more from this fair and the 1892 Columbian Exposition.)
This is the program from the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. What strikes me as odd about this guide book (besides the fact that my family kept it) is that the font and style doesn’t match anything else I’ve seen from the fair. Other printed materials use a font that resembles the Bauhaus font and has a very stylish art deco look. This font, while still being a strong and now iconic 1930s style, is much more festive than the other official materials. I guess the corporate idea of branding hadn’t yet been fully realized. And speaking of corporations, it’s very nice to see the absence of advertising on the cover. Today we’d see some major company’s name and logo splashed across the top. How did fair goers know what to buy without advertising on everything they saw?!?
Oh how the times have changed.
This is a pin that was released for the “Polish Week of Hospitality - July 17 - 23, 1933” during the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. The three figures on the front are heroes of the American Revolution: Washington, Kosciuszko, and Pulaski. Kosciuszko, is not as well known here in this country but is a big hero in Poland where he fought for Polish liberation after fighting as a Colonel in our revolution. The reverse of the pin is the art deco official icon of the 1933 World’s Fair.
These types of ethnic weeks seem to be a thing of the past. The only modern incarnation that I can think of is at major league baseball parks that hold a weekend game that recognize various ethnic origins. They usually have a themed giveaway at the gate, plus different representations of food from that culture. Even then, it is one game and not an entire week. Otherwise, it seems to me that this style of ethnic recognition at a large event is a thing of the past. NOTE: St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t count. While I know that there are right and true Irish celebrations on that holiday, most of the populace know nothing of them. I don’t consider wearing green and getting blistering drunk an honest salute to Irish culture. If anything you can call March 17th Amateur Night.
While the Internet has made research an incredible amount easier, I did discover a new problem while looking up this lucky token. When I typed into Google the obvious parameters “1934,” “Union Pacific,” “lucky piece,” what I got back was page upon page of people selling one. I couldn’t find any information as to the background of these coins. So I had to rely upon that old grad school training and employ the concept of using historical context to discover the whys and hows. What I did was I changed my approach and tried to figure out “why 1934,” and it turns out the answer was right here on my own page… A Century of Progress – World’s Fair. Sure enough when I added that name to my search I found an answer; it was a giveaway at the World’s Fair in 1934 (and my guess is that it was given away at the “Travel and Transport Building,” which according to the guide book it housed an extensive train history exhibit). This also helps explain why I was running into such high numbers of these for sale across the web. I can’t even imagine how many “Lucky Pieces” the UP & ALCOA gave away.
If you really like this vintage art deco piece of railroad history, I know where you can find one cheap.
This is a postcard of The Skyride, which was a big feature of the 1933 World’s Fair. It wasn’t a tram like you see at an amusement park but was an actual bridge that these cars traveled across (the technical name is a Transport Bridge and here is a view of the full thing). Two large towers were constructed, one located at the southeast corner of Soldier Field and the other directly east across the lagoon at the narrowest part. As a matter of fact you can partly see in this postcard the bridge that was also constructed there, and was later torn down as well. According to the Century of Progress guide at 628 feet the towers were the tallest structures in Chicago at that time. Each had an observation deck at the top that gave a panoramic view of the city. The double-decker “rocket cars” traveled the 1,850 feet on cables at 200+ feet above the ground. At night the towers were lit up and had “great searchlights that (would) sweep the sky.” There were five companies that were behind the creation of this ride including Otis Elevator and the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, which I think it is safe to say were the designers of this bridge.
Sure wish I had a chance to see it.
This postcard from the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago depicts the “Court of Electrical Group,” which had various electrical displays from 20 different companies. According to the guide, the bas-relief sculptures are 40 feet high, and appear to be outstanding examples of Art Deco. The interior had many exhibits including a “fever machine” that had something to do with medicine that is only explained as a “gift of science.” Other displays include a mockup of a living room with various futuristic uses for electric and also a farm which had an exhibit on how electricity could be used for “bug killing.” In other words, this may very well be the introduction of the bug zapper.
One thing I hadn’t noticed until I scanned this card was the photo credit in the upper left-hand corner for Kaufmann & Fabry. This company managed to get the pretty sweet gig of being the official photographers for the Fair. This meant all postcards, posters, ads, official photo books, etc, were all shot by this one company. Looking them up on the web I found plenty of examples of their photographs ranging from photos of the 1929 Cubs to rail road images, but next to nothing about the company itself. The only reference I could find about the company is from the Encyclopedia of Chicago site. They briefly mention that Kaufmann & Fabry (1910 – 1963) were part of a new wave of photographers that focused on architecture and advertising instead of running a portrait studio. Whomever they were, they left a wealth of images of early 20th century Chicago.
Another postcard from the 1933 A Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. This card is of Fort Dearborn which was the original army outpost that was erected in 1803. The Fort itself has a rather ingloroius history. After war with Great Britain started in 1812 the inhabitants of the Fort and the neighboring civilians were told to march back towards Michigan. Soon after they left they met hostile Patowatomi Indians and most were killed. After that the Fort was looted and burned to the ground.
According to my guidebook from the Fair this replica of the fort was built to be exactly like the original. Inside there were various history related displays. I can’t say as to how accurate all of this was, but the list of contributors was pretty impressive. They included: The Chicago Historical Society, The Army & Navy, The Smithsonian, and West Point - Just to name a few.
My Grandma Alice told me a family story about how my ancestors owned a house (or cabin) on the site of where the fort stood. I’ve never been able to confirm that tale, but maybe that is the reason why she kept this postcard. The real fort was located at roughly the corner of Whacker & Michigan Avenue (across the river from the Wrigley Building). I was walking down there a year or two ago and noticed that there was a marker in the ground with an outline of the footprint of the fort. So if you’re ever walking down Michigan Avenue don’t forget to look down for the marker (but make sure you don’t blindly walk out into traffic).
The 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair was commemorating the centennial of the founding of Chicago. While this postcard doesn’t show the entire Fair it does give the viewer a bit of perspective on the enormity of this creation. I remember my Grandma Alice telling me stories about the Fair and how it lifted the spirits of so many that needed lifting because of the Great Depression. As a matter of fact, it was so successful that it was extended into 1934. The success of this fair is probably why she kept so many mementos (a few of which I’ve already posted).
The back of the card states “A view looking south over the World’s Fair Grounds showing the General Exhibits Group in the foreground: also showing Time and Fortune Pavilion, Firestone Exhibit, Paris, Thermometer, etc.” (The thermometer is that large tower in the background on the left.) With all of these buildings (most of which were in the now classic Art Deco style) you would think that at least a few of them remain. Sadly, this isn’t the case. You’d be hard pressed to find any remnants from this event, which is not only sad but also weird considering the size and the fact that the number of visitors that attended was over 40 million!
The 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago offered visitors a chance to purchase a souvenir to remember every single aspect of their visit, including postcards of the shuttle buses that they rode. This isn’t an exaggeration on my part; the back of the card mentions only the shuttle bus and not the Hall of Science. The card notes that the shuttles “accommodate 15,000 to 20,000 passengers per hour” which does give some insight into just how many people attended the Fair. The postcard also shows exactly how much the movement of Art Deco was used throughout. It must have been otherworldly to enter and experience such a setting.
A postcard of the Hall of Science from the 1933 “A Century of Progress” World’s Fair in Chicago. The guide book states it covered about 400,000 square feet, which was massive. In it all of the sciences were represented except astronomy, which was covered by the Adler Planetarium. There were also displays from businesses like the Scholl Manufacturing Company were experts trained by Dr. Scholl examined and helped people with their feet issues.
The building sat caddy corner to Soldier Field (going southeast) on what was called the South Lagoon (now called Burnham Harbor). The parking lot for Burnham Harbor, some bike trails, and part of Museum Campus Drive now cover that spot. It appears that since that time not even the street names remain the same.