Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 2 (1893) "Chicago's Proudest Day"

C. D. Arnold, photographer. World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.
View toward southern Colonnade across the Grand Plaza.
On this day May 2, 1893, $2 million in gold was shipped oversees, straining reserves which had already fallen below the psychologically important $100 million mark. Uncertainty over the value of the nation's currency brewed.

But it was a feeling of excitement that made headlines. America's accomplishments as the "world's youngest nation" was on full display at Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition, described by the NY Tribune as "Chicago's proudest day." The Exposition was a celebration of 400 years since Columbus came to the Americas.  President Grover Cleveland launched the festivities "by the pressing of a button which started the mighty machinery and the rushing waters and the running wheels." The electrical age had begun.

It was dazzling. "No on realized how infinite the ramifications of the electrical spark until the great fountains threw up their geysers seventy feet into the air, and the rumble and hum of the wheels in the Manufacturers Building and the clatter of the machinery in all parts of that area of a mile square or more told the story of the final culmination of scientific thought."

While America celebrated its triumph in Chicago, the dark side of progress was portending. Uncertainty about the currency caused prices on Wall Street to drop dramatically just days later, ushering in the Panic of 1893, one of the worst depressions in American history.
Post a Comment

Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.