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)

At the Cold Storage Building, which produces ice and stores perishable goods, a small fire occurs on June 17th.  A small but crucial element in the design had been left out during construction, causing seven insurers to cancel their policies. Fire Marshal Edward W. Murphy foreshadows that something worse will happen. Nobody tells Burnham. 

Summary: Chapter 35: At Last

Ferris dedicates his wheel to the engineers of America, and it officially opens to paying customers on June 21st. Larson points out that if the Exposition Company had not revoked their original offer to Ferris before giving it back six months later, the wheel would have been completed in time for Opening Day.

There is general concern about the wheel’s safety simply because it looks too thin, as if a high wind could knock it over. Ferris tries to allay these fears, and Larson foreshadows that the wheel will be put to the test in a few weeks.

Summary: Chapter 36: Rising Wave

Attendance finally begins to climb to around 90,000 people per day. Olmsted is mostly pleased, though he critiques the lack of a central entry and unplanned concession buildings. He praises Burnham for leading so many architects to work together in such a short a time to produce something so grand. Meanwhile, the nation’s economy continues to collapse. Banks, rail lines, and businesses close, prompting terror and suicide.

There is a surprising lack of crime at the Fair. Many notable people visit and meet by chance: Houdini, Tesla, Edison, Clarence Darrow, Paderewski, Woodrow Wilson, Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and so many more. Helen Keller meets Frank Haven Hall, the man who invented the Braille typewriter. Cody invites Susan B. Anthony to his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performance.

Chicago takes great pride in the Exposition, especially the Ferris wheel. People compare the Fair to a wonderland or dream that nobody wants to end. Visitors experience so much “grace and beauty” on the fairgrounds, they believe nothing bad can happen.