Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Expo: The Magic of the White City: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893

I wanted to see this because I’d just read a book about the construction of the White City, and about the serial killer, Herman Mudgett, who stalked it and murdered at least 20 young women in a hotel he built specially for the purpose. I hadn’t realized just what a big deal it was. Everything about it was mind-boggling, and it would amaze people even today. I went to the 1954-65 New York World’s Fair, which was slightly bigger, but was a hodge-podge of clashing styles, without a unifying theme. Words really fail me here; this film is overflowing with superlative statistics about it, to the point that you begin to get a little sensory overload, much as the people who visited it did. It would be pointless to cite any of them. There was simply too much to see, over 600 acres in the biggest buildings the world had ever seen, absolutely crammed with the beautiful (a solid silver statue 60 feet high) and the trivial (an Eiffel Tower made out of corncobs), in the Victorian manner. In fact, you could think of it as the culmination of the Victorian Age and the real beginning of the 20th Century. And in a year it was all over. This all happened before the movie camera, but there are so many photos and etchings and tintypes and rotogravure illustrations, most of them brilliantly hand tinted, that you hardly notice the lack. An excellent documentary.