Homepage   People   Places   Plays    Site Map

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

previous: New York, Columbus Celebration 1892

The World's Columbian Exposition, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing in America, was actually held in 1893, a year later than had been planned. New York City, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, and Chicago had all wanted to host the fair and the loud and lively competition occurred. ...  It took three years of preparation and hard work to produce the Exposition. Although dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892, the fair grounds were not opened to the public until May 1, 1893. The Exposition closed on October 30, 1893. World's Columbian Exposition, Just the Arti-Facts, Chicago Historical Society, 1998 http://www.chicagohs.org/AOTM/May98/may98fact3.html

EJ Phillips was playing in Lady Windermere's Fan

Sherman House
J Irving Pearce
Chicago, Oct 19th 1893

My dear daughter Neppie,
On Saturday is what they call Manhattan Day at the Fair and a great many are expected from NY City & State.  The papers think fully 5000 will come, so perhaps Albert will make one of them.  There are a great many strangers now in town - every street is crowded - they are coming and going all the time and the number of Express wagons loaded with trunks going to & fro from hotels and Depots is astonishing.

I only took a little look at a few of the State buildings on Tuesday.  Did not get into the interesting part of the grounds.  Kept that for another day.  Would like all my children to be with me, then I might enjoy it. 
Dr & Mrs. Nagle are here and came to see me at the back door afterwards, but I had left the theatre.  They are stopping at 54 East 34th Street  - quite a distance from here and about half way to the Fair grounds.
Hattie was still waiting for the arrival of the little stranger.  She did not expect to wait so long.  I am glad I had the pleasure of visiting the Homestead before it passes into the hands of strangers.  I enjoyed that day so thoroughly that I have the whole landscape before me. 

I believe we are to remain here three weeks and perhaps longer.  We have very strong attractions against us but so far we have done very well.  The theatre we play in is called the Schiller.  It is a new theatre and very comfortable in regard to dressing rooms &c.  With love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Ted and your dear little self I remain your loving  Mother   E.J. Nickinson

J. Irving Pearce
Chicago  Octr 28th 1893

My dear Son,
I had looked daily for your arrival, and not hearing from you feared you had started and something had happened to you.  I have not enjoyed a pleasant state of mind, but duty is duty and business is business, and you were right not to come when you could not do so without inconvenience to others.  But you might have written, if only one line to let me know you had heard from me.
I am sorry you could not have taken advantage of so low a rate of fare to and from Chicago, not on account of the World's Fair but to see the City itself.  But as you say, it is over now.  I see by the papers that the last Erie Excursion train left N.Y. on the 25th.  On Monday the Fair closes, and by the end of the week all the buildings will be empty.
I have been twice.  The day after I arrived, and last Monday Mrs. Fay, Kittie and I spent about four hours there.  Mrs. Fay was disappointed that you did not come.  I do not think the arrival of Frank would have pleased her more.  He, by the way, was to have come, but was taken sick, and could not avail himself of the employee excursion train.  Mrs. Fay has not seen him since he came to New York.  Must be seven years.  She said five, but it is more than that. 

We play here next week, 6th Milwaukee, 13th Detroit, 20th Cleveland, 27th Cincinnati, Decr 4th St Louis.  Love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Ted and Neppie from their loving Mother

Thursday Novr 2nd/93
Chicago, Ill.

My dear daughter Neppie,
Tuesday I paid my final visit to the Fair, making my third visit there and yet I cannot say I have seen a quarter of what it contained.
Yesterday I had to watch the great gathering of the people at the City Hall, which is just opposite this hotel, to pay their last tribute of respect for their late Mayor Carter Harrison who was so suddenly killed last Saturday.  I never saw so many people & carriages together, the largest funeral I ever saw.  In the Afternoon I had a Matinee.
[This letter] would have been longer but that a lady took me into the parlor as I came out from lunch to tell me how much she admired me last night, and how beautiful my dresses were.  Kept me two hours talking.  I have the Palmer Co playing at Hooleys and have met many of my old companions.  Love and Kisses dear to my 3 darling children Albert, Ted and Neppie from their loving Mother

Mayor Carter Harrison was shot at his house (after spending the day at the Fair with mayors from other cities) by a disappointed office-seeker.  Harrison had been active in organizing the Fair and was to have been married (for the third time) the week after he was shot, to Miss Howard of Biloxi. 

Carter Harrison biography http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/chicago/peopleevents/p_harrison.html

Rooms single or en suite
$1.00 upwards
European plan
Absolutely fireproof
Milwaukee, Novr 8th 1893 

My dear daughter Neppie,
I left Chicago on Sunday 3 PM and arrived here at 5:15 PM.  Wish all my railroad trips could be so short.  I am comfortably located in the above hotel and it is adjoining the theatre. Everything is new, clean and elegant.  Consequently I regret we remain here only one week.
Have you heard that Nellie [Law]'s new baby is to be named Harriet Nickinson?  If not, I have the pleasure of informing you of the fact.  Such is the decision of Mr. & Mrs. Law.  It was quite a surprise to Hattie but she says she feels highly honored and pleased.  And I suppose will take upon her the responsibilities of GodMother.  Nellie is getting along splendidly.  Is down in the kitchen attending to cooking and dishwashing.  Mrs. Robinson, her nurse, was with her three weeks.  Left her on Monday.  Mrs. Law, Will's Mother, is with her though. 
I do not know how my affairs are going to turn out.  The Palmer Co open in San F'co on Xmas day and my name is on the list and has been rumoured in the papers as going with them, but so far nothing has been said to me by either [AM] Palmer or [Charles] Frohman about the matter.  If they do want me, I shall kick considerably against going, for the Company is to play new plays almost every week for three months which means daily rehearsals, eight performances and getting dresses ready for each new play.  I do not think my strength would hold out and there certainly would not be any money in it for me at present salary.  If they are willing to double my salary then I may accept, if asked!
We go to St Louis the week beginning Decr 4th.  The week following I do not know yet what becomes of us  yet!  Week before Xmas I hear we close.  Xmas week we are either in Washington or Baltimore and New Years day open in Philadelphia for two or more weeks at Broad St theatre.  This is supposed to be the route of this Co but it appears Messrs Frohman and Palmer engage people and pass them to each other as they see proper without asking "by your leave" of the actor.  The Actor's life is not now a happy one.
I did not see a great deal of the Fair.  I was not well enough to risk overtiring myself for my nightly work.  To have thoroughly seen the Fair and all the exhibits would require a daily attendance for a month or six weeks.  It was truly wonderful and beautiful, but I did not see one third of it.  I think its only fault was being on too gigantic a scale.  The residents of Chicago were tired of the tumult it caused and were glad to see it close.  Unfortunately the hand of a crank gave it a very sad ending in the death of Carter Harrison.   With love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Edward & Neppie I remain their loving Mother

X A great big Kiss right under that X for Ted from Grandma Nickins.  Enclosed find balance of birthday gift in envelope.             

next: Detroit, Nov 1893

Columbian Exposition webpages include
Chicago Public Library  http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/timeline/columbianx.htmlIllinois Institute of Technology http://columbus.gl.iit.edu/
Chicago Historical Society http://www.chicagohs.org/AOTM/May98/may98fact3.html
Jeffrey Howe, Boston College, Digital Archive of American Architecture http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/fa267/1893fair.html
Kathryn Kuenzel, Scenes from the 1893 World's Fair http://washingtonmo.com/1893/index2.htm
Julie Rose, The World's Columbian Exposition, Idea, Experience, Aftermath http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA96/WCE/title.html
Bruce Schulman, Interactive Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition  http://users.vnet.net/schulman/Columbian/columbian.html

World's Columbian Exposition, From Louis Sullivan to SOM: Boston Grads go to Chicago, MIT, 1996   http://web.mit.edu/afs/athena.mit.edu/org/m/museum/chicago/exposition.html  

Last updated Feb. 19, 2005

Homepage   People   Places    Plays    Site Map