Above: Vintage Poster for the Fair hints of the streamlined Art Moderne styles featured in the Architecture and Transportation of its Exhibits.

Held in the midst of Great Depression, the Exhibition was intended to demonstrate the generation of forces which built the nation, and how discoveries in basic sciences lead to products of industry which help to improve the human condition.  Some of the most modern and future concept cars of its time like the Lincoln Zephyr and Pierce Silver Arrow were presented by US Automobile manufacturers.  Railroad Companies presented the streamlined M-10000 and Zephyr trains, the latter arriving dramatically in the “Wings of a Century” transportation pageant after a record-breaking 13 hour 5 min. trip from Denver.  Italian pilot Italo Balbo led a fleet of 24 seaplanes on a transatlantic journey, landing in the waters off the fair grounds. The German airship Graf-Zeppelin arrived Oct 26 and circled the fair, providing one of the highlights of the first year.  “Homes of Tomorrow” introduced a dozen model homes including pre-fabrication techniques, new materials, futuristic furnishings and accoutrements like an airplane hanger and helicopter landing pad.

“Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts”

Right:  Plan of Chicago, 1909, plate CXXVII, painted by Jules Guerin, depicting the future site of the Exhibition in the upper center-left.

Above: Chrysler Motors Building   Below: Postcard with Science Hall and Oldsmobile Straight Eight and Six cars

Legacy and impact

Adler Planetarium in 1933

Today Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum of Natural History are the Exhibition’s most visible remnants along with Northerly Island Park, together forming the contemporary Museum Campus.  The Planetarium, the first in the Western Hemisphere in 1930, with a contemporary 1999 addition still provides a unique experience for visitors with some of the city’s best skyline views.  Near Soldier Field along the lakefront cycling path, where the former Italian Pavilion stood in 1934, a column from the Roman Temple in Ostia remains to commemorate Italo Balbo’s seaplane flight to the fair, a gift of Italy.  Chicago also renamed 7th Street Balbo Drive in his honor.  A fourth red star was added to Chicago’s flag in 1933 to commemorate the Exhibition.  The Burlington Railroad’s Pioneer Zephyr Train can still be seen at the Museum of Science and Industry on the city’s south side.  Five of the Homes of Tomorrow were moved across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana where they remain, managed by the Indiana Dunes National LakeshoreVisitors to the fair purchased plans for the homes and constructed them in other states.  The streamlined Art Moderne styles of products and buildings on display at the exhibition represent an elegant vision of early Modernism still influential today.  McCormick Place sited on the fair’s former grounds continues a legacy of exhibitions and conventions. 

Armco-Ferro-Mayflower Frameless Steel House

Three of the Homes of Tomorrow from the Exhibition:  the Florida Tropical House, the House of Tomorrow, and the Armco-Ferro-Mayflower House in their present location on the dunes of Beverly Shores, Indiana.  C-print on acrylic by Ives Maes, courtesy of the artist, Galerie Christian Nagel, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

- Stephen M. Long, AIA, LEED AP

Sources:

Brooks, Monica, 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: A Century of Progress Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition,

        <http://users.marshall.edu/~brooks/1933_Chicago_World_Fair.htm> (Marshall University, June

        2007) viewed June 2012.

Chicago Historical Society, A Century of Progress, <http://www.chicagohs.org/history/century.html>

        viewed June 2012.

Chicago World’s Fair: A Century of Progress Exposition, <http://www.cityclicker.net/chicfair/index.html>

        viewed June 2012.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, National Park Service, Century of Progress 1933 World’s Fair Homes

        and More, <http://www.nps.gov/indu/historyculture/centuryofprogress.htm> viewed June 2012.

Newberry Library Chicago, Make Big Plans: Daniel Burnham’s Vision of an American Metropolis,

        <http://burnhamplan100.lib.uchicago.edu/newberryexhibit/index.shtml> viewed June 2012.

Wikipedia, English Version, articles on Century of Progress

        <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_of_Progress>, Lincoln-Zephyr, Pierce Silver Arrow,

        1933 Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition, Northerly Island, Italo Balbo, viewed June 2012.


Photographs:

Vintage World’s Fair Chicago poster courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Plan of Chicago 1909, Plate CXXVII painted by Jules Guerin courtesy Newberry Library

Chrysler Motors Building courtesy Chicago Historical Society

Science Hall Postcard courtesy Chicago World’s Fair: A Century of Progress Exposition

Panoramic View of the Century of Progress from unknown internet source

Adler Planetarium 1933 from unknown internet source

Armco-Ferro-Mayflower House courtesy Monica Brooks

Homes of Tomorrow, 2011, C-print on acrylic by Ives Maes courtesy of the artist,

        Galerie Christian Nagel, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The event drew 48,769,227 visitors from around the world, and after its second year from May to October, though in a time of unprecedented economic challenges, the Exhibition succeeded in completely paying for itself without the benefit of any government subsidies or tax dollars, a first for International fairs in America.