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The Devil in the White City

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Summary

Part III: In the White City (Chapters 43-47)

Summary Part III: In the White City (Chapters 43-47)

Summary: Chapter 43: Prendergast

Prendergast grows impatient about his government appointment. He goes to City Hall to see his future office, and is shocked that the clerk doesn’t recognize his name. He asks to see Kraus, the current Corporation Counsel. Kraus mockingly introduces Prendergast to the men in his office as his “successor,” and asks if he would like the position immediately. Prendergast does not appreciate their snickering.  

Summary: Chapter 44: Toward Triumph

Attendance explodes on Chicago Day in October, three weeks before the end of the Fair. Harrison urges businesses to close for the day. The weather is perfect. Millet organizes a fireworks show.

Guards collect three tons of silver for the day’s profits and the Fair pays off its debt. The Paris World’s Fair record of 397,000 attendees is “broken to smithereens.” The total admission at the Chicago Fair is 751,026 people, holding the record for any peaceable event in history. Only the closing ceremony on October 30th remains. Burnham will finally be recognized as the greatest architect.

Summary: Chapter 45: Departures

The builders of the Fair transition to their normal lives. McKim slips off silently and writes to Burnham expressing how wonderfully everything turned out. The architects ponder whether they should blow up the Fair or set it on fire, rather than painfully watch it fall into disrepair. Larson foreshadows that this idea is prophetic. Olmsted’s health fails and he accepts that he nears the end of his career, but despite his ailments, he will die happy. Louis Sullivan returns to Adler & Sullivan, but the firm does poorly. Sullivan fires his junior architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Ten thousand workers are left without jobs and many end up on the streets. Mayor Harrison does what he can to provide temporary jobs and beds.

Holmes decides to leave Chicago as well. The private detectives sent by families of missing people inquire too intently for Holmes’ comfort. He sets fire to the top floor of his hotel for the insurance money, and files a claim under the name H. S. Campbell. However, the investigator suspects fraud and insists that H. S. Campbell show up in person. Holmes drops the claim.

The investigation reignites Holmes’ debt problem. His spurned creditors hire George B. Chamberlin of Chicago’s Lafayette Collection Agency to represent them. He calls Holmes to a meeting that includes all his creditors, their attorneys, and a detective. Holmes apologizes with false warmth and explains how the economic panic has ruined him. Chamberlin is shocked to see that the creditors sympathize with Holmes. He asks Holmes to step outside while the group talks. Holmes flees.