Wednesday, October 21, 2009

White City's Little Triumphs

The little trivial facts that Larsen quickly mentions in The Devil in the White City, were neat to read about. At times, I was more excited to read about the little things that came out of the White City. These little things represent the powerful cultural boom occurring in Chicago during the end of the 19th Century. I am going list some of my favorites, and I hope you guys and gals post some of yours too. This first one was exciting because it is a glimpse of how the Disney Empire became a sparkle in its father’s eye.

“In all, the workforce in the park numbered four thousand. The ranks included a carpenter and furniture maker named Elias Disney, who in coming years would tell many stories about the construction of this magical realm beside the lake. His son Walt would take note” (153).

Now, I know when you read that, you had to be like “Whooa!” Real long emphasis on “o.” I know I was. It is another example of one of those little cliffhangers Larsen lets you ponder. This particular hanger is answered immediately, compared to Mr. Ferris and his wheel. Your reading about Elias thinking, “Elias Disney? Could that be Walt Disney’s father?” and before you finish the thought Larsen answers your question. Well, at least that was my take on it. So without the White City we may of never had the pleasure of meeting Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Pluto, and so on. Disney World might have never happened, and all the entertainment they influenced would be non-existent. Thank You Mr. Burnham.

There was also the array of “firsts” that debuted at the White City.

“Within the fair’s buildings visitors encountered devices and concepts new to them and to the world. They heard live music…transmitted to the fair by a long distance telephone. They saw the first moving pictures on Edison’s Kinetoscope…They saw even more ungodly things – the first zipper, the first ever all electric kitchen…pancakes, under the brand name Aunt Jemima’s. They sampled a new, oddly flavored gum called Juicy Fruit, and caramel- coated popcorn called Cracker Jack. A new cereal, Shredded Wheat…a new beer [that] did well, winning the exposition’s top beer award. Forever afterward, its brewer called it Pabst Blue Ribbon” (247-48).

Now, when I go to Kuma’s Corner and order a PBR with my burger I can be proud knowing I can’t afford their better beer, but that PBR was the champion beer at the White City in Chicago 100 something years ago. Kuma’s Corner is a metal bar with famous burgers. They only serves PBR because their feelings on the more popular beers are as follows: “Death to Miller and Budweiser…they are over-produced and inferior products that prevent passionate craftsmen from sharing their gifts with all of us. All the beer they serve comes from small breweries.

The trivial facts that Larsen brings to the reader are interesting, but because of his writing there sometimes questionable. Even though he told me in the beginning, “this is not a work of fiction”(xi), I still had trouble believing everything he said, because it felt, at times, like a work of fiction. So when I read about PBR or Walt Disney, I had to look it up online to see how truthful his research was, and the trivial facts seem to be factual. Larsen wins this time but only in the trivial sense. What about all his H.H. Holmes mumbo jumbo? I’ll be a sucker and believe every word he says about Holmes, because I want to. I give him the benefit of the doubt. Why not? Entertain me Mr. Larson!

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