American History01 Aug 2008 09:51 am
The World’s Fair (or Columbian Exposition) in Chicago was one of the most magnificent events of the late 19th-century. Over the six months of the fair, visitors numbering nearly half the population of the United States attended, and a number of technological marvels, from the elevator to the Ferris Wheel, made their debut. However, it was also the backdrop to a grisly series of murders, and that’s the story told by Erik Larson in The Devil in the White City.
The major architects of the Columbian Exposition were Frederick Law Olmstead (the designer of Central Park in New York City) and Daniel Burnham. Burnham justly receives most of the credit for planning or designing the 200 buildings spread over 633 acres, known at the time as the “White City.” Another figure in the story, however, is Dr. Henry H. Holmes. Holmes (whose real name was Herman Webster Mudgett; he changed it in honor of Sherlock) ran a “World’s Fair Hotel.” It was a solid business idea: he got the name early, put the hotel near the fair and had its 27 million visitors as potential customers. But, the hotel also included a greased wooden chute that led to a man-sized kiln in the basement. That’s where Holmes disposed of the bodies.
What exactly did Holmes do? How did his murders relate to the Fair? Why is Burnham the other main character? For all of that, you’ll need to read the book. Click here to order a copy.
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