Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The City of Lights

The passage that stuck with me from Devil in the White City was:

“The lamps that laced every building and walkway produced the most elaborate demonstration of electric illumination ever attempted and the first large-scale test of alternating current. The fair alone consumed three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago.” (254)

Three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago!

This is one of the rare moments in the text when I felt transported to the fair. I could imagine how absolutely magical it must have seemed to the attendees, out of the darkness of their homes and streets, people coming from all over the country, especially those from farms and small towns where there was little to no electricity at all. And suddenly they see this incredible city of lights – lit even at night as if it were the middle of the day. It must have been incredible.

The lights and the Ferris Wheel are the two things I would love to have seen. Every time I drive down Lakeshore Drive at night, past Navy Pier, and I see the Ferris Wheel all lit up I think about the world’s fair. Even to my modern eye, the light display on the Ferris Wheel is mesmerizing, it looks like fireworks the way the lights radiate from the eye. I really wanted a better sense of the scale of the original Ferris Wheel and I found this online:

It blows my mind how enormous the original was! And it blows my mind that it was structurally sound. You could not have paid me to be in the first round of riders.

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