From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 17, 1892

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Throughout the 1880s most major American cities were competing to host an exposition celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World. By 1890 the finalists besides Chicago included New York, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. As the result of a tremendous local booster effort, the United States Congress chose Chicago. To allow local communities all advantage in their particular celebrations of the milestone anniversary in 1892, the World's Columbian Exposition was to open in Chicago in 1893.

The fair was well under construction in 1892 in and around Jackson Park on the city's South Side and millions of visitors were expected the following year. In anticipation of this influx the city recognized a need to hire more policemen in order to enforce order at fair time and to monitor sanitary regulations designed to eliminate the accumulation of filth and thus the outbreak of disease. This communication was referred to the council's Committee on Finance on the same day it was prepared. That committee delayed for several weeks but after repeated appeals from Mayor Washburne and Superintendent McClaughry it reported favorable on the request and in this the full council concurred on November 28.

When the exposition did open in 1893 Carter Harrison presided as the city's mayor. As such he remained true to his campaign promise of keeping Chicago a "wide open city." That is, gambling and prostitution were allowed to flourish as long as they kept to their established boundaries and as such caused no offense to those who did not seek them out.

Points to Consider

Why was the police superintendent requesting additional officers?

What was the "World's Fair" to which this document refers?

If you had been the Mayor of Chicago during the World's Columbian Exposition, what would have been some of your principal concerns?

Describe national economic conditions in 1893. How did they affect the fair?

See Related Document:

See Related Document: 28, 45 and 49

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