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The Devil in the White City

  • Study Guide
Summary

Part III: In the White City (Chapters 26-31)

Summary Part III: In the White City (Chapters 26-31)

Summary: Chapter 26: Opening Day

Dignitaries approach in carriages, including President Cleveland, Mayor Harrison, Burnham, Davis, and many others. A long procession follows them through the Midway Plaisance to the Fair. Ten thousand men have transformed the grounds overnight, clearing all the trash and empty boxcars, laying sod, and planting flowers. However, the Ferris wheel remains unfinished.

The ceremony begins at eleven o’clock, filled with pageantry. Crowds in formal dress completely fill the Court of Honor. Set atop a table draped with an American Flag, President Cleveland turns a gold key and the Fair comes to life. Steam engines in the Machinery Building roar, water soars through the pipes and turns on a central fountain, and a huge American flag unfurls. The crowd begins to sing “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” the unofficial national anthem.

Despite the incomplete Ferris wheel, Opening Day is a success with at least a quarter of a million people in attendance. However, on subsequent days the numbers drop drastically, likely due to the country’s financial panic and “reports of the unfinished character of the Fair.” Banks fail around the country. Olmsted’s team needs to undo the flowerbeds planted for Opening Day.

Burnham assigns Frank Millet the task of imagining ways to boost attendance at the Fair. Millet organizes fireworks, parades, and special days to honor particular states or groups of people. Still, attendance only reaches a sub-profit daily average of 33,000.

Summary: Chapter 27: The World’s Fair Hotel

Holmes’ hotel begins to fill, though he only accepts female guests. Women like him despite the dark gloominess of the hotel. Minnie becomes jealous of the women and therefore inconvenient to Holmes, so he rents a flat outside the neighborhood to keep her away from the hotel. Guests return late or keep to themselves because the hotel lacks common areas. Holmes doesn’t mind when someone checks out early without paying her bills. Nobody finds it odd that the friendly physician smells of chemicals.

Summary: Chapter 28: Prendergast

Prendergast believes he will soon be appointed as Corporation Counsel. He sends a postcard to a man named W. F. Cooling who works with the German newspaper in Chicago. He advises Cooling that Jesus is the ultimate authority, and offers him an assistantship upon this appointment.