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Celebrating the New World


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About the Author

Robert Muccigrosso is professor of history at Brooklyn College and at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. He has also written American Gothic and is co-author of America in the Twentieth Century.


Muccigrosso (history, Brooklyn Coll.) turns his attention to America's quatercentenary celebration of Columbus's encounter with the New World. Chief architect Daniel Burnham followed his own dictum--``Make no small plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood''--in the general design of the White City, as the Chicago World's Fair was called. From its inauspicious beginning to its grand finale, the fair is an absorbing story. The author presents an interesting narrative, covering previous fairs, the reasons for selecting Chicago, the design and construction of buildings, the prominence of science and technology exhibitions, the attractions of the Midway, and the variety of world congresses, concluding with the legacy of the fair. The current controversy surrounding the Columbus quincentennial makes this volume's appearance timely. However, it adds little to earlier works, such as David Burg's Chicago's White City of 1893 (1976) or Reid Badger's The Great American Fair ( LJ 8/79).-- Nicholas C. Burckel, Washington Univ. Libs., St. Louis

Acknowledging that recent views of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago deem it ``an exercise in racism, class and gender domination, social control and cultural regression,'' Muccigrosso ( American Gothic ) argues for a more nuanced interpretation in this lucid, informative book. After exploring the culture of 19th-century world's fairs, and the development of Chicago politically, ethnically and architecturally, he turns to the exposition itself: topics include the controversy of the buildings' neoclassical design, the display of new technology, tension between high and low culture and the mixed references to both wilderness and urban life. The exposition had an important influence on architecture and urban beautification; while its focus marginalized Native Americans and African Americans, Muccigrosso urges an understanding of the event's temporal context. The displays of non-Western cultures and world religions, he writes, ``showed an urge to transcend geographical limits and create a world's fair.'' Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)

An excellent brief study of the great exposition...splendid and colorful. Journal of American Culture

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