A bit of The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, among other World’s Fairs, in Elmhurst, IL

A bit of The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, among other World’s Fairs, in Elmhurst, IL
Wood and Marble bench from 1893 World's Columbian Exposition

Article 4 in Series:  Remnants of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago

***UPDATED INFO***  1/2/2013- Just received word from the Elmhurst History Museum that while the traveling exhibit on the first floor ends January 7th the “Elmhurst Goes to the Fair” exhibit upstairs has been extended to April 21, 2013!


In an ongoing series of articles concerning what still remains of the Columbian Exposition, I would be at great fault not mentioning the wonderful exhibition, or pair of exhibitions to be exact,  at the Elmhurst History Museum (formerly the home of the first Village President Henry Glos and his wife Lucy) at 120 E. Park Avenue.   Once named “Cottage Hill”, the city of Elmhurst has always had close historical ties to the city of Chicago and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition is one of those ties.  At least two prominent Elmhurst residents had close ties to the fair.    Thomas Barbour Bryan was at least partially responsible for Elmhurst’s name because his brother-in-law, Jedidiah Lathrop along with Seth Wadhams were responsible for planting many of the Elm Trees along Cottage Hill and in 1869 at Bryan’s suggestion “Cottage Hill” became “Elmhurst”. Thomas Bryan was largely responsible for Chicago winning the bid to become the host city of the Columbian Exposition by heading a committee that lobbied for Chicago in Washington D.C.  He was also made “Commissioner at Large” of the Fair and traveled throughout Europe gaining the support of many foreign nations and as a protestant gained a private audience with Pope who also supported the Exposition.  One of the other residents is the great American female artist, Caroline Dupee Wade, who had lived most of her life in Elmhurst since 1863.  Wade was picked to be part of the decorating committee of the Illinois Building at the Columbian Exposition and had many of her works displayed at the Palace of Fine Arts (Museum of Science and Industry).

On the first floor of the Historical Museum is the national traveling exhibit , “Centuries of Progress:  American World’s Fairs, 1853 – 1982”.  This particular exhibit covers the stateside fairs from the 1853 Crystal Palace exhibition  to the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee.  The exhibit boasts 125 objects, photographs, and other memorabilia from the various fairs.

On the second floor is the local Elmhurst display entitled, “Elmhurst Goes to the Fair”.  On display here are the stories of three Elmhurst residents including Bryan and Wade and includes an original wood and marble bench which was placed on display at the Columbian Exposition by a group of Chinese business men. (The nation of China officially boycotted the fair for political reasons)  At the close of the Fair, Elmhurst resident, Thomas E. Wilder, purchased the bench at the close of the fair and it became part of his estate.  The Wilder Mansion was donated by the Wilders along with artifacts including the bench to the city of Elmhurst and his home became the Elmhurst Public Library.  The Library donated the bench to the History Museum in 1956.

Also on display is a self portrait of Caroline Wade as well as one of her desks, a set of souvenir lithographs of the fair found in the Glos Mansion and various other souvenirs including custom etched Libby glasses and various documents, coins and medals.

If you are as much a fan of Fair history as I am you owe it to yourself to stop by the Museum and take in both exhibitions.  You should hurry though because they only run until January 6th.  The exhibitions are organized by The Hagley Museum and Library and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.   The Museum is open Tuesdays through Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00pm and admission is FREE! For more information you can go to their website at www.elmhursthistory.org or call them (630) 833-1457.

Article 1 – Christopher Columbus and The Cold Storage Building

Article 2 – Carved Wooden Panels from Japanese Ho-o-den  together again at the Art Institute

Article3 – Actual Artifact signed by “The Devil in The White City”

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