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The Devil in the White City

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Summary

Part III: In the White City (Chapters 32-37)

Summary Part III: In the White City (Chapters 32-37)

Summary: Chapter 32: Nannie

Anna “Nannie” Williams visits Minnie, and Minnie introduces Holmes as Henry “Harry” Gordon. Anna’s suspicions about Holmes recede as she sees his warm personality and the affection he has for Minnie. They take Anna on a tour of Chicago. The extravagant buildings awe her, but she does not like the stench, smoke, and darkness. At the Union Stock Yards, Holmes shows no emotion at the butchering, but Minnie and Anna are horrified.

They visit the Fair. The vast Court of Honor overwhelms them. The Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building is particularly impressive. Anna marvels at the trains, electric boats, and the elevated railway that runs atop the Fair’s perimeter. In the Midway, belly dancers, camels, a hot air balloon, a wax museum, and a house of optical illusions astound her. They return to the Fair nearly every day for two weeks. Holmes invites Anna to stay for the summer, and she sends her trunk.

Summary: Chapter 33: Vertigo

Mrs. Ferris, Gronau, Rice, and a few others board the first car put on the Ferris wheel. Spectators rush into the next car, prompting the engineer to stop the wheel. However, nothing adverse happens. Gronau reports that the car feels still, but one can see how fast it is moving by looking down out the window. At the top, everyone cheers, and then falls silent, admiring the “grand sight.” Over the next two weeks, Rice and Gronau continue adding cars and passengers. In total, there are 36 cars and more than 2,000 passengers.

Summary: Chapter 34: Heathen Wanted

To learn why the attendance has been so much lower than expected, Olmsted travels incognito on business trips and asks people what they have heard about the Fair and whether they plan to attend. He gathers that people are excited but have heard rumors of incompleteness and plan to go later after their harvests, when everything is set up. However, they worry about the expense, given the economic crisis. Olmsted is delighted to hear that the buildings and landscape enthrall people more than the exhibits.

Olmsted offers some ideas for improvements so that visitors are blown away. He suggests they fix the uneven and muddy gravel paths, clear litter from the grounds, and get rid of the steam vessels Burnham allowed on the water. He believes the fairgrounds should be more fun, and suggests having “heathens” in full native costume mingle with the crowds. Burnham thinks Olmsted’s suggestions are too subtle, and wants the visitors to be awestruck by the Fair’s grandness.

The Fair restricts photography. Burnham hires photographer Charles Dudley Arnold for all official photos. Visitors can rent a portable Kodak camera, the first “snap-shot,” but no one can take pictures for free.