C. D. Arnold, photographer. World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.
View toward southern Colonnade across the Grand Plaza.
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.