Century of Progress
A Century of Progress International Exposition was the name of a World's Fair
World's Fair
World's fair, World fair, Universal Exposition, and World Expo are various large public exhibitions held in different parts of the world. The first Expo was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, in 1851, under the title "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All...

 held in Chicago from 1933 to 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. Its motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts" and its architectural symbol was the Sky Ride
Sky Ride
The Sky Ride was an attraction built for the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1933. It was a transporter bridge , designed by the bridge engineering firm Robinson & Steinman, that ferried people across the lagoon in the center of the fair...

, a transporter bridge
Transporter bridge
A transporter bridge is a type of movable bridge that carries a segment of roadway across a river. The gondola is slung from a tall span by wires or a metal frame. The design has been used to cross navigable rivers or other bodies of water, where there is a requirement for ship traffic to be...

 perpendicular to the shore on which one could ride from one side of the fair to the other.


A Century of Progress was organized as an Illinois nonprofit corporation in January 1928 for the purpose of planning and hosting a World's Fair in Chicago in 1934. The site selected was new parkland being created along the Lake Michigan shoreline between 12th and 39th streets in Near South Side, Chicago
Near South Side, Chicago
The Near South Side is a community area of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. It is located just south of the downtown central business district, the Loop, which is itself a community area...

. Held on a 427 acres (1.7 km²) portion of Burnham Park
Burnham Park (Chicago)
Burnham Park is a public park in Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The park, which lines along six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, connects Grant Park at 14th st. to Jackson Park at 56th St. The of parkland is owned and managed by Chicago Park District. It was named for urban...

 the Century of Progress opened on May 27, 1933. The fair was opened when the lights were automatically activated when light from the rays of the star Arcturus was detected. The star was chosen as its light had started its journey at about the time of the previous Chicago world's fair—the World's Columbian Exposition
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

—in 1893. The rays were focused on photo-electric cells in a series of astronomical observatories and then transformed into electrical energy which was transmitted to Chicago.


The fair buildings were multi-colored, to create a "Rainbow City" as opposed to the "White City" of the World's Columbian Exposition. The buildings generally had a Moderne design to them in contrast to the neoclassical themes used at the 1893 fair. One of the more famous aspects of the fair were the performances of fan dancer Sally Rand
Sally Rand
Sally Rand was a burlesque dancer and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance. She also performed under the name Billie Beck.-Early life and career:...

. Other popular exhibits were the various auto manufacturers, the Midway (filled with nightclubs such as the Old Morocco, where future stars Judy Garland
Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years and for her renowned contralto voice, she attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage...

, The Cook Family Singers
The Cook Family Singers
The Cook Family Singers were originally formed in 1885, by David J Cook and his wife, Martha. The family hailed from Lucedale, Mississippi. Cook and his wife had six children and on Sunday afternoons after church, they would pass the time by perfecting their singing of harmonies and old gospel blends...

, and The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters were a highly successful close harmony singing group of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. The group consisted of three sisters: contralto LaVerne Sophia Andrews , soprano Maxene Angelyn Andrews , and mezzo-soprano Patricia Marie "Patty" Andrews...

 performed), and a recreation of important scenes from Chicago's history. The fair also contained exhibits that would seem shocking to modern audiences, including offensive portrayals of African-Americans, a "Midget City" complete with "sixty Lilliputians
Lilliput and Blefuscu
Lilliput and Blefuscu are two fictional island nations that appear in the first part of the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The two islands are neighbors in the South Indian Ocean, separated by a channel eight hundred yards wide. Both are inhabited by tiny people who are about...

", and an exhibition of incubators containing real babies,
One of the highlights of the 1933 World's Fair was the arrival of the German airship Graf Zeppelin on October 26, 1933. After circling Lake Michigan near the exposition for two hours, Commander Hugo Eckener
Hugo Eckener
Dr. Hugo Eckener was the manager of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin during the inter-war years, and was commander of the famous Graf Zeppelin for most of its record-setting flights, including the first airship flight around the world, making him the most successful airship commander in history...

 landed the 776-foot airship at the nearby Curtiss-Wright Airport in Glenview
Glenview, Cook County, Illinois
Glenview is a suburban village located approximately north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 41,847...

. It remained on the ground for twenty-five minutes (from 1 to 1:25 pm) then took off ahead of an approaching weather front bound for Akron, Ohio. For some Chicagoans, however, the appearance of the Graf Zeppelin over their fair city was not a welcome sight, as the airship had become a prominent reminder of the ascendancy of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 to power earlier that same year. This triggered dissension in the days following its visit, particularly within the city's large German-American population.

The "dream cars" which American automobile manufacturers exhibited at the fair included Cadillac's introduction of its V-16 limousine; Nash
Nash Motors
Also see: Kelvinator and American Motors CorporationNash Motors was an automobile manufacturer based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the United States from 1916 to 1938. From 1938 to 1954, Nash was the automotive division of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation...

's exhibit had a variation on the vertical (i.e., paternoster
A paternoster or paternoster lift is a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. Passengers can step on or off at any floor they like...

) parking garage—all the cars were new Nashes; Lincoln
Lincoln (automobile)
Lincoln is an American luxury vehicle brand of the Ford Motor Company. Lincoln vehicles are sold mostly in North America.-History:The company was founded in August 1915 by Henry M. Leland, one of the founders of Cadillac . During World War I, he left Cadillac which was sold to General Motors...

 presented its rear-engined "concept car" precursor to the Lincoln-Zephyr
Lincoln-Zephyr was a marque for the lower priced line of luxury cars in the Lincoln line 1936-40. Lincoln-Zephyr and Mercury, introduced 1939, bridged the wide gap between Ford's V-8 De Luxe line and the exclusive Lincoln K-series cars. This served a purpose similar to Cadillac's smaller LaSalle...

, which went on the market in 1936 with a front engine; Pierce-Arrow
Pierce-Arrow was an American automobile manufacturer based in Buffalo, New York, which was active from 1901-1938. Although best known for its expensive luxury cars, Pierce-Arrow also manufactured commercial trucks, fire trucks, camp trailers, motorcycles, and bicycles.-Early history:The forerunner...

 presented its modernistic Pierce Silver Arrow
Pierce Silver Arrow
The Pierce Silver Arrow was a concept car designed by James R. Hughes, of which five were built in a record three months, and introduced at the 1933 New York Auto Show.- History :...

 for which it used the byline "Suddenly it's 1940!" But it was Packard
Packard was an American luxury-type automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana...

 which won the best of show.

One interesting and enduring exhibit was the 1933 Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition
1933 Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition
The Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition was part of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. The Fair's theme that year was a Century of Progress, and celebrated man's innovations in architecture, science, technology and transportation...

 that demonstrated modern home convenience and creative practical new building materials and techniques with twelve model homes sponsored by several corporations affiliated with home decor and construction. Marine artist Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein (Hilgos)
Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein (Hilgos)
-Early Years:A native of Montreal who grew up in Portland, Oregon, Gorenstein started painting as a teenager at a time when women artists weren't very well received...

 painted twelve murals for the Navy's exhibit in the Federal Building for the fair. The frieze was composed of twelve murals depicting the influence of sea power on America, beginning with the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 when sea power first reached America and carrying through World War I.

The first
1933 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The 1933 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the first playing of the midseason exhibition baseball game between the all-stars of the American League and National League , the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 6, 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the home...

 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also known as the "Midsummer Classic", is an annual baseball game between players from the National League and the American League, currently selected by a combination of fans, players, coaches, and managers...

 was held at Comiskey Park
Comiskey Park
Comiskey Park was the ballpark in which the Chicago White Sox played from 1910 to 1990. It was built by Charles Comiskey after a design by Zachary Taylor Davis, and was the site of four World Series and more than 6,000 major league games...

 (home of the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois.The White Sox play in the American League's Central Division. Since , the White Sox have played in U.S. Cellular Field, which was originally called New Comiskey Park and nicknamed The Cell by local fans...

) in conjunction with the fair.
In May 1934, the Union Pacific Railroad
Union Pacific Railroad
The Union Pacific Railroad , headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, is the largest railroad network in the United States. James R. Young is president, CEO and Chairman....

 exhibited its first streamlined train, the M-10000
The Union Pacific Railroad's M-10000, delivered to the railroad on February 12, 1934, at a cost of $230,997, was the first internal combustion engine, lightweight streamlined express passenger train in the United States. The carbodies and interior fittings were built by Pullman-Standard...

, and the Burlington Route its famous Zephyr
Pioneer Zephyr
The Pioneer Zephyr is a diesel-powered railroad train formed of railroad cars permanently articulated together with Jacobs bogies, built by the Budd Company in 1934 for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad , commonly known as the Burlington...

, which made a record-breaking dawn-to-dusk run from Denver, Colorado, to Chicago in 13 hours and 5 minutes. To cap its record-breaking speed run, the Zephyr arrived dramatically on-stage at the fair's "Wings of a Century" transportation pageant. The two trains launched an era of industrial streamlining.

Both trains later went into successful revenue service, the Union Pacific's as the City of Salina, and the Burlington Zephyr as the first Pioneer Zephyr. The Zephyr is now on exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry
Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago)
The Museum of Science and Industry is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA in Jackson Park, in the Hyde Park neighborhood adjacent to Lake Michigan. It is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition...


Frank Buck furnished a wild animal exhibit, Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp. Over two million people visited Buck’s reproduction of the camp he and his native assistants lived in while collecting animals in Asia. After the fair closed, Buck moved the camp to a compound Buck created at Amityville, Long Island.


Originally, the fair was scheduled only to run until November 12, 1933, but it was so successful that it was opened again to run from May 26 to October 31, 1934. The fair was financed through the sale of memberships, which allowed purchases of a certain number of admissions once the park was open. More than $800,000 was raised in this manner as the country came out of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. A $10 million bond
Municipal bond
A municipal bond is a bond issued by a city or other local government, or their agencies. Potential issuers of municipal bonds includes cities, counties, redevelopment agencies, special-purpose districts, school districts, public utility districts, publicly owned airports and seaports, and any...

 was issued on October 28, 1929, the day before the stock market crashed. By the time the fair closed in 1934, half of these notes had been retired, with the entire debt paid by the time the fair closed in 1934. For the first time in American history, an international fair had paid for itself. In its two years, it had attracted 48,769,227 visitors. According to James Truslow Adams
James Truslow Adams
James Truslow Adams was an American writer and historian. He was not related to the famous Adams family...

's Dictionary of American History, during the 170 days beginning May 27, 1933, there were 22,565,859 paid admissions; during the 163 days beginning May 26, 1934, there were 16,486,377; a total of 39,052,236.


Much of the fair site is now home to Northerly Island
Northerly Island
Northerly Island is a man-made peninsula along Chicago's lakefront. The site of the Adler Planetarium, Northerly Island connects to the mainland through a narrow isthmus along Solidarity Drive dominated by Neoclassical sculptures of Kościuszko, Havliček and Copernicus...

 park (since the closing of Meigs Field
Meigs Field
Merrill C. Meigs Field Airport , was a single strip airport that operated from December 1948 until March 2003. It was built on Northerly Island, the man-made peninsula that was also the site of the 1933–1934 Century of Progress in Chicago....

) and McCormick Place
McCormick Place
McCormick Place is the largest convention center in the United States. It is made up of four interconnected buildings sited on and near the shore of Lake Michigan, about 4 km south of downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA. McCormick Place hosts numerous trade shows, including the Chicago Auto Show,...

. A column from the ruins of a Roman temple
Roman temple
Ancient Roman temples are among the most visible archaeological remains of Roman culture, and are a significant source for Roman architecture. Their construction and maintenance was a major part of ancient Roman religion. The main room housed the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was...

 in Ostia given to Chicago by the Italian government to honor General Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo was an Italian Blackshirt leader who served as Italy's Marshal of the Air Force , Governor-General of Libya, Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa , and the "heir apparent" to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.After serving in...

's 1933 trans-Atlantic flight still stands near Soldier Field
Soldier Field
Soldier Field is located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois, United States, in the Near South Side. It is home to the NFL's Chicago Bears...

. The city added a red star to its flag
Municipal Flag of Chicago
The municipal flag of Chicago consists of two blue horizontal stripes on a field of white, each stripe one-sixth the height of the full flag, and placed slightly less than one-sixth of the way from the top or bottom, respectively. Between the two blue stripes are four red, six-pointed stars...

 in 1933 to commemorate the Century of Progress Exposition (at the time, it was the third star – the City added a fourth star in 1939). In conjunction with the fair, Chicago's Italian-American community raised funds and donated the statute of the Genoese
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 navigator and explorer, Christopher Columbus (Grant Park)
Christopher Columbus (Grant Park)
Christopher Columbus is a bronze statue in Grant Park, in Chicago. It was created by Milanese born sculptor, Carlo Brioschi, and installed in 1933. It is set on an exedra and pedestal designed with the help of architect Clarence H. Johnson....

. It was placed at the south end of Grant Park, near the site of the fair, and is located east of S. Columbus Drive and north of E. Roosevelt Road.

The Polish Museum of America
Polish Museum of America
The Polish Museum of America is located in West Town, in what had been the historical Polish Downtown neighborhood of Chicago. It is home to a plethora of Polish artifacts, artwork, and embroidered folk costumes among its growing collection...

 possesses the painting of "Pulaski at Savannah" by Stanisław Kaczor Batowski, which was exhibited at the Century of Progress fair and where it won first place. After the close of the fair, the painting went on display at The Art Institute of Chicago where it was unveiled by Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international...

 on July 10, 1934. The painting was on display at the Art Institute until its purchase by the Polish Women's Alliance on the museum's behalf.

The U.S. Post Office Department issued a special fifty-cent Air Mail postage stamp, (C-18) to commemorate the visit of the German airship depicting (l to r) the Federal Building in Chicago, the Graf Zeppelin in flight, and its home hangar in Friedrichshafen
This article is about a German town. For the Danish town, see Frederikshavn, and for the Finnish town, see Fredrikshamn .Friedrichshafen is a university city on the northern side of Lake Constance in Southern Germany, near the borders with Switzerland and Austria.It is the district capital of the...

, Germany. This stamp is informally known as the Baby Zep to distinguish it from the much more valuable 1930 Zeppelin issues (C13–15). Separate from this issue, for the Fair the Post Office also printed 1 and 3 cent commemorative postage stamps, showing respectively Fort Dearborn
Fort Dearborn
Fort Dearborn was a United States fort built in 1803 beside the Chicago River in what is now Chicago, Illinois. It was constructed by troops under Captain John Whistler and named in honor of Henry Dearborn, then United States Secretary of War. The original fort was destroyed following the Battle of...

 and the modernistic Federal Building. These were also printed in separate souvenir sheets as imperforated blocks of 25 (catalog listings 728–31). In 1935 the sheets were reprinted (Scott 766-67).

Depictions in Popular Culture

  • Nelson Algren
    Nelson Algren
    Nelson Algren was an American writer.-Early life:Algren was born Nelson Ahlgren Abraham in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Goldie and Gerson Abraham. At the age of three he moved with his parents to Chicago, Illinois where they lived in a working-class, immigrant neighborhood on the South Side...

    's 1935 novel Somebody in Boots
    Somebody in Boots
    Somebody in Boots is writer Nelson Algren's first novel, based on his personal experiences of living in Texas during the Great Depression. The novel was published by Vanguard Press in 1935. The title refers to someone with material well-being and authority, as poor folk and the powerless wore shoes...

    features the Chicago World's Fair of 1933-34, with the Century of Progress being described as "the brief city sprung out of the prairie and falling again into dust."
  • Jean Shepherd
    Jean Shepherd
    Jean Parker Shepherd was an American raconteur, radio and TV personality, writer and actor who was often referred to by the nickname Shep....

     wrote about attending the Century of Progress as a boy in In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
    In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
    In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is a book of short stories by Jean Shepherd .It was first published by Doubleday in New York in October 1966....

  • The Century of Progress is depicted in the films Massacre
    Massacre (film)
    Massacre is a 1934 American drama film directed by Alan Crosland. The film stars Richard Barthelmess and Ann Dvorak as its Native American protagonists, and also features Charles Middleton, Sidney Toler, Claire Dodd and Clarence Muse.-Plot:...

    starring Richard Dix
    Richard Dix
    Richard Dix was an American motion picture actor who achieved popularity in both silent and sound film. His standard on-screen image was that of the rugged and stalwart hero.-Early life:...

    , and in Buddy (1998) starring Rene Russo
    Rene Russo
    - Early life :Russo was born in Burbank, California, the daughter of Shirley , a factory worker and barmaid, and Nino Russo, a sculptor and car mechanic who left the family when Rene was two. Her father and maternal grandfather were of Italian descent. Russo grew up with her sister, Toni, and their...



A collection of materials including images is held by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries
Ryerson & Burnham
The Ryerson & Burnham Libraries are the art and architecture research collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. The libraries cover all periods with extensive holdings in the areas of 18th, 19th and 20th century architecture and 19th century painting, prints, drawings, and decorative arts...

 at the Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is one of America's largest accredited independent schools of art and design, located in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. It is associated with the museum of the same name, and "The Art Institute of Chicago" or "Chicago Art Institute" often refers to either...

. The Century of Progress Collection includes photographs, guidebooks, brochures, maps, architectural drawing
Architectural drawing
An architectural drawing or architect's drawing is a technical drawing of a building that falls within the definition of architecture...

s, and souvenir items.

External links

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