World Expositions of Paris (1889 and 1900) and Chicago (1893 and 1933) By Frangos, Mike
The world expositions were monumental, public spectacles originating in the industrial fairs of early-nineteenth-century France and culminating in the Expositions Universelles of Paris (1889 and 1900) and the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and Century of Progress International Exposition (1933) of Chicago. The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London was among the first of the nineteenth-century industrial exhibitions featuring monumental exposition architecture with its cast-iron and glass Crystal Palace designed by Joseph Paxton (1803–1865). For cultural observers of the time as well as later critics, the Crystal Palace and later expositions – particularly the fin de siècle expositions held in Paris (1889 and 1900) and Chicago (1893) – exemplified the culture of mass consumption that had its origins in the bourgeois society of the nineteenth century. In The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) described the world expositions as ‘places of pilgrimage to the commodity fetish’ (7) in which workers were transformed into consumers through the mediation of iron and glass architecture. The American expositions of the 1930s intensified the massive displays of utopian expectation and technological progress on offer at the fairs with their exhibits of ‘dream cars’ and ‘houses of tomorrow’, monuments to Consumerism as well as science fiction visions of the future.