"October 12. --The Discovery.--It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it." Pudd'nhead Wilson's mordant calendar entry in Mark Twain's bleak comedy of race and class, Pudd'nhead Wilson, with its w icked pun on "wonderful," may well have seemed apt to at least some of the book's readers when it appeared in 1894. It was the year of the great railway strike which spread like a prairie fire from its origins in Pullman, Illinois. An epic insurgence of s ympathy in the form of a national boycott in support of the Pullman strikers, the event pitted the United States Army against the American Railway Union, and the clash resulted in the most destructive civil violence since the Civil War. But the previous s ummer, when close to 30 million people had trekked by railroad to visit the Fair staged in Chicago on reclaimed swamplands on the shores of Lake Michigan, in commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of that same discovery, Pudd'nhead's coy remark w ould not have made a hit. Surely Chauncy M. Depew's view of the occasion carried the day. In his oration at the dedication ceremonies in October 1892 (the Fair itself would not open its gates until May of the following year), the New York senator and indu strialist summed up the common belief. "This day be longs not to America, but to the World. The results of the event it commemorates are the heritage of the people of every race and clime. We celebrate the emancipation of man." Of course, what he meant, a nd what the Fair would proclaim, is that America
How shall we take this event, which lasted but a summer-an oasis of fantasy and fable at a time of crisis and impending violence? Given its time and place, the Fair invites ironic scrutiny as few other events and objects in the age. Not the gesture alone of planting a new "city upon a hill" for the world to admire, but the accidental setting of that gesture between the financial panic of 1893 and the strike of 1894 makes White City seem a fitting conclusion of an age. The fruition of the alliance between "the word Culture" and corporate powers, it closes out an era. But it also inaugurates another. It lays bare a plan for a future. Like the Gilded Age, White City straddles a divide: a consummation and a new beginning.
We shall take it as a pedagogy, a model and a lesson not only of what the future might look like but, just as important, how it might be brought about. And in our analysis we shall look rig& only at what it says but at what it fails to say, what it k
eep& hidden. For example, as a model city it taught a lesson in the coordination of spaces and structures. some 400 buildings covering almost 700 acres of once swampy land dredged and filled and
inlaid with canals, lagoons, plazas, and promenades, and a preserve of woods. Based on Olmsted's unifying ground plan, it taught the public utility of beauty, the coordination of art with the latest mechanical wonders: railroads, dynamos, electrical
bulbs. It was, of course, a city without residences, though it offered advice in great detail about how families might live in cities of the near future: the model electrical kitchen, for example. How did its manifest harmony of parts (and in the central
Court of Honor, of architectural style, height of buildings, color: a uniform
whiteness) come about? The overt message stressed the structure of authority, a structure which gave to the
Director of Works, Daniel H. Burnham, a free hand in selecting designers, architects, engineers, and approving their
plans. Burnham's task seemed a model "commission," aloof from politics and practical economics, answerable only
to the corporation which employed
The manual did not mention "labor." But one covert message
about how a model future might be built lies in Walter Wykoff's
account of his experiences as a "road builder" on the fairgrounds
in the spring of 1892. A Princeton graduate who had undertaken
an "experiment" of tramping across the country to learn
firsthand how the world looks and feels from the point of view
of a working stiff, Wyckoff published his extraordinary narrative
of hard knocks and wrenched perspectives in Scribner's and then
in two volumes. In the second, The Workers: An Experiment in
Reality: The West (1899), he described his experiences as a laborer
on the fairgrounds. His employment there was a happy reprieve
after a bleak winter of unemployment on the streets of Chicago.
Now he finds himself with "wholesome labor in the open air,"
and has no complaints. He lives in a temporary "hotel" on the site
"of the future 'court of honor' " with about four hundred other
workers. They include "half a score of nationalities and of as many
trades," including the unskilled, "who work in gangs." "Housed and
fed in this one house," they seem altogether in an ideal situation.
Yet the picture contains an ambiguous note: "Guarded by sentries
and high barriers from unsought contact with all beyond, great gangs of us, healthy, robust men, live and labor in a marvelous artificial world. No sight of misery disturbs us, nor of despairing poverty out in vain search for employment." Regimentati
on on one hand, artificial security on the other: the picture suggests that White City's proposal for a future
Of such weavings of the overt and covert is White City made. By design, the Fair set itself against what lay beyond its gates. It enforced its lessons by contrast. The irony of opening its gates almost at the exact moment in May 1893 when banks and factories closed theirs in the worst financial panic of the nation's history only highlights the contrast, the dialogue of opposites between the Fair and the surrounding city, between White City and the great city of Chicago. As Julian Ralph pointed out in Chicago and the Worlds Fair (1893), a book written for Harper's and "approved by the Department of Publicity," Chicago displayed an energy and an exuberance in need of discipline: its politics, for example, showing the worst features of the spoils system, while its parks, governed by a commission above politics (responsible business leaders appointed by the county or state, not the city itself), represented a hopeful direction. With its own corporate structure, its chain of command, and its contented labor force (in fact, a number of strikes delayed construction), White City would show how a place like Chicago might be governed as well as how it might look. Just as the ground plan of the Fair implicitly rebuked the monotonous grid of Chicago's streets, so the Department of Works and its master plan rebuked the rule of mere competition, of commercial domination over beauty and order. By model and example, White City might thus inaugurate a new Chicago, a new urban world.
Much has been written about that master plan and its execution: Burnhams single-mindedness, for example, in choosing a uniform neoclassicism in uniform whiteness for the Court of Honor, and his preference for New York architects over local
Like the structure of the organizational command behind it, the Fair took its stand on symmetry of form, most strikingly in the Court of Honor, a harmonious arrangement of the major buildings on orthogonal axes alongside bodies of water and open plaz as. Here, symmetry proclaimed the immediate message, the underlying spatial form speaking directly to the senses through the prestige of neoclassical monumentality. The message joined form to monument, each building and each vista serving as an image of t he whole. Here, symmetry asserted itself as an unmistakable conquering presence. But the Court of Honor represented only one portion of the master plan. Less immediately apparent was the symmetrical order of the entire fairgrounds, Am design embracing a d iversity of buildings, styles, exhibitions, and events. As a style, neoclassicism was reserved for the Court of Honor. But radiating from that center, a principle of balance and order governed the entire fairgrounds.
In the Rand McNally Handbook (Andrew McNally was one of the chief backers of the Fair and member of the board of directors), Daniel Burnham explained to the public how the Fair's unfamiliar organization of space should be understood. After des cribing the work of transforming the "desolate wilderness" and "dreary landscape" of the original site, he wrote:
It might seem peculiar that Burnham should describe the Midway, with its mixture of modern machinery and vernacular buildings, as fantastic -reproductions," implying that the real and the original were to be found in the academic classicism of the Co urt of Honor. But the spatial divisions proclaimed just what Burnham implied, that reality must be sought in the ideality of high art. The Court of Honor provided the center around which the rest of White City was organized in hierarchical degree; indeed, the carnival atmosphere of the Midway Plaisance confirmed by contrast the dignity of the center. And, of course, the center represented America through its exhibitions, the ou tlying exotic Midway stood for the rest of the world in subordinate relation.
The design, then, encompassed a schematic set of contrasts, and by this it further promulgated its message of unity through subordination. But the heart of the message did not lie in the geometric form alone; it lay in the fact that the formal center
of the Fair was derived from "art," from "culture." The Fair insinuated this primacy at every
turn. Its organized spaces and classified exhibitions were an intellectual edifice indispensable to the message, as were the religious, educational, and scholarly events of the World's Congress Auxiliary. The motto of them events and meetings schedul
ed throughout Chicago during the months of the Fair articulated the message of White City: "Not Matter, But Mind; Not Things, But Men." If the Fair displayed matter and things, the Congress reflected on their meaning.
"Not Matter, But Mind; Not Things, But Men". the art of White City took the same motto. The distinctions in the motto were critical, reinforced everywhere in White City as part of the exposition's basic message. By itself, matter stood at a distance from art; the products of labor and science occupied a realm of their own. But art provided the mode of presentation, the vehicle, the medium through which material progress manifests itself, and manifests itself precisely as serving the same goals as art : the progress of the human spirit. Here, too, a subtle contrast functioned as method. Just as the departments of the Congress represented a conceptual map of the realm of mind and spirit, so the division of the Fair's exhibitions into twelve departments mapped out the activities that constitute civilized society: agriculture, mining, machinery, transportation, invention, and so on. Quite apart from the location and style of the buildings housing each exhibition, the classification system served as a gui de to one meaning: the material. Exhibitions provided further breakdowns of categories into the names of corporate business: General Electric, Westinghouse, Krupp of Germany. Progress thus appeared in the form of goods produced by capitalist enterprise, a dding the name of private ownership to the products of labor. The substance of the exhibitions offered, then, not simple matter and things but matter and things as commercial products.
Between the abstract name of the department and the specific
Over the eastern entrance of the Machinery Hall appeared a pediment with "Columbia" seated on a throne, bearing a sword
A model of the true, ideal shape of reality, and in the methods of attaining that shape, the World's Columbian Exposition made itself relevant almost exactly to the extent that the world outside its gates did not conform to its symmetry. What may str ike us as ironies are instead contradictions held in momentary balancenot a confusion of values, as historians have suggested, but an effort to incorporate contrary and diverse values under the unity of a system of culture in support of a system of societ y. The architect Henry Van Brunt, writing in Century before the Fair opened, made the matter explicit:
In order, therefore, to present a complete and symmetrical picture of modern civilization, it is necessary that the Columbian Exposition should not only bring together evidences of the amazing material productiveness which, within the century, has ef
fected a complete transformation in the external aspects of life, but should force into equal prominence, if possible, corresponding evidences that the finer instincts of humanity have not suffered complete eclipse in this grosser prosperity, and that, in
this headlong race, art has not been left entirely behind. The management of the Exposition is justified in placing machinery, agricultural appliances and products, manufactures and the liberal arts, the wonderful industrial results of scientific investi
gation, and other evidences of practical progress, in the midst of a parallel display shaped entirely by sentiment and appealing to a fundamentally different set of emotions. It is the high function of architecture not only to adorn this triumph of materi
alism, but to condone, explain and supplement it, so that some elements of "sweetness and light" may be brought forward to counterbalance the boastful Philistinism of our times.
"Look here, old fellow," one of Adams's close friends, the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was reported to have said to Burnham during a planning session, "do you realize that this is the greatest meeting of artists since the Fifteenth Century?" In its completed form, White City seemed indeed the triumph of a distinct community of artists, architects, scholars, and patrons: a community whose social commitment to the reforming power of beauty had grown and deepened during the crisis of the Gilded Age . In March, before the opening of the Fair, they gathered in Madison Square Garden in New York to pay tribute to Burnham, and among the more than two hundred guests were names high on the list of Arnold's apostolate: Charles Eliot Norton, the editor and p oet Richard Watson Gilder, the inevitable E. L. Godkin, Olmsted, President of Johns Hopkins Daniel Coit Gilman, the architects Richard Hunt and Charles McKim, men of practical affairs like the businessmen Henry Villard, Marshall Field, Lyman Gage, and Abram Hewitt-and the admiring William Dean Howells. Norton spoke of the general design of the Fair as "noble, original, and satisfactory," and of the Court of Honor as "a splendid display of monumental architecture," showing how well "our ablest architects have studied the work of the past." On such occasions, the voices of culture rang loud in self-praise, for the Fair proclaimed, at last, their role.
That role appeared as the making of a landscape of fantasy in
which goods might be displayed as progress, as emblems of a
beneficent future. The final message of the Fair concerned the
method of making such a future: through a corporate alliance of
Is business, culture, and the state. But another part of the message
was precisely to keep that alliance aloof, not so much hidden and
disguised but above reproach, beyond criticism. And, for this
function, art and culture served simply to dazzle the senses in
The influence of beauty arrayed as public monuments had a somewhat similar effect even on critics of the social order which lay beyond the gates of the Fair. White City, wrote Henry Demarest Lloyd, "revealed to the people possibilities of social beauty, utility, and harmony of which they had not even been able to dream." Its image of coordination and cooperation for the end simply of beauty was a vision to lighten "the prosaic drudgery of their lives." Even Eugene V. Debs spoke of "the lofty ideal" of the Fair, its "healthful influences ... upon the national character." He made these observations in an editorial in the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine against a plan to keep the fairgrounds closed on the Sabbath, thereby depriving many worki ng people of the chance to look "upon the beautiful in art as well as nature, a form of worship," Debs remarked, "entirely devoid of cant and hypocrisy, superior to any worship narrowed by creeds and dogmas." In another article during the summer, Debs wou ld describe the Fair as primarily a tribute to labor. But for one moment at least White City seemed to him a secular church, exactly the place for Sunday worship.
It was left to William Dean Howells to draw the appropriate conclusion. Writing as the "Altrurian Traveler" in his utopian novel of angry social criticism then running serially in Cosmopolitan, Howells exempted the Fair from his assaults on se
Of the effect, of the visible, tangible result, what
The future latent in White City seemed to Howells to he an America that once was.
Henry Adams, on the other hand, persisted in viewing the Fair in his usual hard light of politics and power, drawing quite different conclusions for the future. In spite of the 'Babel of loose and ill-joined ... thoughts and half-thoughts and experim
ental outcries" he detected on the fairgrounds, "Chicago was the first expression of American thought as a unity." The meaning of that apparent unity and its effect on him became clear when he returned to Washington in time to learn that Congress had reso
lved the long-standing money controversy by repealing the Silver Act and confirming a single gold standard, at the behest of bankers and capitalists. Realizing that his own "antiquated dislike of bankers and capitalistic society" had made him little bette
r than a crank," Adams recorded that now, especially after the Fair, he seemed better able to accept the new realities. "All one's friends, all one's best citizens, had joined the banks to force submission to capitalism," he wrote, finally resolving the h
esitation and vacation of the American people between "two forces, one simply industrial, the other capitalistic, centralizing, mechanical." Chicago had represented to him, subliminally at least, the defeat of the "simply industrial,"
the final victory of the centralizing, me-
The message of the Columbian Fair may have been clear, but actual lessons varied with perspective. If it stood for culture, its symmetry indicated relative positions of value, even of inclusion and exclusion. American blacks stood beyond the gates, p etitions for an exhibition, a building, or a separate department all rejected. They were denied participation in the Fair, in its administration, on the National Commission, even on the construction force and ground crews (except as menials). Indians foun d themselves included among the exhibitions of the ethnology departmerit, part of a display (in Julian Ralph's words) "to exemplify the primitive modes of life, customs, and arts of the native Peoples of the world." Quoting the chief of that department, R alph writes that native Americans will appear as "a living picture ... each family to be living in its native habitation; the people to be dressed in native costume, surrounded by characteristic household utensils, implements, and weapons, and engaged in their native occupations and manufactures": not exactly a Wild West show, but nevertheless a spectacle of the "savage" in a lower state of progress. Prominent blacks organized an independent 'Jubilee" or "Colored People's Day," at which the distinguished Frederick Douglass renamed White City "a whited sepulcher." Former slave, author, and statesman, Douglass attended the Fair a s commissioner from Haiti-not as citizen of his own country. In his speech at the "Jubilee" he clarified one of the lessons of the distinctions incorporated into the Fair's spatial scheme, the contrasts between the Court of Honor and the Old World customs
Images implied and stated of blacks and Indians served the total pedagogy. No social image served more significantly, however, than that of women. This was the moment, as the Fair proclaimed, when women (like artists) came into their own. By the initiating Act of Congress, a Board of Lady Managers served alongside the World's Columbian Commission. A separate department both of exhibition and of the World's Congress, the world of women furthermore possessed a building of its own: a building, moreover, designed by a female architect (the only American building whose design was open to competition), decorated, arranged, and furnished entirely by women. At the Congress, more than three hundred women read papers on a variety of topics concerning the history and social position of their gender: Elizabeth Cady Stanton on suffrage, Susan B. Anthony on politics, Jane Addams on housework and factory work. Champions of women's political rights and of radical reform were accorded places at the Congress, as indeed were advocates of single-tax and public ownership at other sessions. But they did not appear among the more socially proper figures of the Lady Managers, nor did militant notes ring prominently in the exhibitions. Instead, the prevailing note was domesticity, the unique, and uniquely virtuous, powers of women as mothers, homemakers, teachers, and cooks.
The very prominence of women at the Fair heightened the ambiguities
in their conceived role. The Women's Building, designed by Sophia Hayden in a harmonious neoclassical style,
struck the artist Candace Wheeler favorably as "the most peacefully human of all the buildings. . . like a man's ideal
of woman--delicate, dignified, pure, and fair to look upon." Adorned with
murals representing "The Primitive Woman" (by Mary Mac-Monnies) and "Modern Woman" (by Mary Cassatt)-the
one welcoming her man home from the hunt, the other engaged in
happy pursuits of art, of music and dance-the building occupied
the significant site of the exact junction between the Court of
Labor, too, was represented, but in a manner finally not entirely pleasing to Eugene Debs. Praising the Fair for its educational value, Debs echoed Frederick Douglass in his reversal of the hierarchical placement of labor and culture: "The Fair, after all was the sublimest testimony the world has ever heard or seen, in all the centuries of the civilizing, elevating, liberalizing force of labor. Everywhere, from the turnstiles through which the millions passed to review the wonders of the Fair-over all, above all, surrounding all, the imagination, without an effort, could see written, as vivid as electric light, the announcement that the Columbian Fair is monumental of the achievements of labor." How clearly this lesson was in fact written in the fantastic sky of the Fair is hard to tell, but certainly the architects of the Court did their best to conceal the message. Debs's meaning, however, lay at a deeper level than the merely tangible signs of human labor in physical constructions; it lay in a theory of political economy denied implicitly throughout the structures of the Fair, its organizing and controlling corporation, and its design: "We are quite willing to admit the alliance between money and labor in the accomplishments of great undertakings, but this must be said, because it is true that the greater credit is due to labor, because it is the creator of the capital with which, where justice holds the scales, it is in ceaseless harmony."
But where in fact did justice hold the scales? Within the year,
Debs was indicted and jailed for refusing to obey a federal injunction
against the boycott by the American Railway Union of the
major railroad lines. Called in support of a bitter strike by members
of ARU against the Pullman Palace Car Company, the sym
The Pullman strike, its burning railroad cars, and the path of ugly violence it traced through Chicago, seems the most dramatic external instance of history playing tricks on the White City. What starker contradiction than the strike and the themes o f the Fair? But the relation of events lay even deeper. The model industrial town of Pullman and White City articulated quite similar intentions. Pullman, too, arose from a design, a planned community conceived by a single architect, S. S. Beman (responsible for the Mines and Mining building at the Fair), who designed the factories and homes and supervised construction. The aim was to create an environment conducive to steady work, good morals, and industrial peace. The community had attracted world attention as an experiment in industrial relations, and in 1885 the economist Richard T. Ely visited the town to see for himself whether Pullman succeeded "from a social standpoint." A liberal reformer sympathetic to socialism, Ely reported his findings in an article in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Did Pullman fulfill the ideal of helping each individual "to participate as fully as his nature will allow, in the advantages of the existing civilization?" The report was mixed.
The first impression of the town gave Ely a striking contrast
with the typical "Coketown" image of industrial centers: "Not
a dilapidated doorstep nor a broken window." The streets were
in perfect condition, with young, promising shade trees. The
The Pullman venture preceded White City. It applied culture to "the social problem," as a calculated "investment" for the sake of obedience and acquiescence. But aestheticism of the sort represented by the design of the town, Ely implies, is alien to the daily lives, and especially to the work experience of Pullman's employees. The very aim to "elevate" laborers carries troublesome paternalistic overtones. In fact, looking more closely at the social order of the town, Ely discovers that "the citizen is surrounded by constant restraint and restriction and everything is done for him, nothing by him." "It is benevolent, well-wishing feudalism, which desires the happiness of the people, but in such way as shall please the authorities." He finds "an all-p ervading feeling of insecurity. Nobody regards Pullman as a real home." Has culture forged "new bonds of dependence?" "There is repression here as elsewhere of any marked individuality," Ely concludes, and adds a chilling prophetic image: "Everything tend s to stamp upon residents, as upon the town, the character expressed in 'machine-made."'
In a pamphlet prepared by the Pullman Company for visitors
What sort of alternative did Sullivan's "golden doorway" represent, the portal which opened upon Pullman's exhibit, and
In the retrospect of An Autobiograpby of an Idea, White City precipitated Sullivan's dilemma of vocation. It was, in his eyes, a dilemma of culture itself, a shift in the direction of American architecture away from the path he and Root, follo
wing the lead of H. H. Richardson (who had died in 1886), had wished to take. Sullivan understood that original direction as toward a native organic architecture, a kind of building which, being both native and organic, would represent the highest respons
ibility of the architect: as he put it in Kindergarten Chats (published in 1918, though written in 1901), "to initiate such buildings as shall correspond to the real needs of the people." Democracy, the people, democratic culture: these terms fall
throughout Sullivan's copious writings (all the more copious as his active career declined). In an early lecture of 1885, Sullivan had called for a native expression in architecture, a "national style" answering to "the wishes of the public, and ministeri
ng to its conceptions of the beautiful and the useful." Such a style would be organic in the sense of representing both the social function of the building (as the golden door represents a portal) and the structural purposes of the parts of the bui
lding, especially those parts normally consigned by architects to their engineers. In the concept "form follows function," Sullivan vested his ambitions for an architecture true to its place, its purpose, and the needs of its public. Such buildings would
not be mere scaffoldings for pictures of ancient build-
In an essay on the Fair, the noted architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler quoted Burnham as saying: "The
intellectual reflex of the Exposition will be shown in a demand for better
architecture, and designers will be obliged to abandon their incoherent originalities and study the ancient masters of
buildings." The remark has been interpreted as a rebuke to the followers
of Richardson, and to Sullivan especially for the exuberance of his
tall buildings, the Wainwright and Guaranty buildings, and the
18, massive Chicago Auditorium with its richly ornamented interior
and its high, elegant tower (all of these, together with the Transportation Building, executed by Sullivan in
partnership with Dankmar Adler). But the issue between Sullivan and Burnham
(fought out in Sullivan's monologue of 1924) was more than a
difference over style, between Richardson's mode of Romanesque in brick and masonry and the academic
neoclassicism Burnham came to champion during and after the Fair. The
deeper issues concerned both the character and the social function of public buildings, their role as pedagogics of
culture. Burnham's views would capture the day, and in the City Beautiful
movement of the next twenty years (after 1893) would leave their
mark in public structures and spaces, in park systems and boulevards, throughout the nation. Though finding a
fulfillment in the career of Frank Lloyd Wright, Sullivan's views in 1893 would suffer a defeat, not unlike and in some
ways strikingly similar to
In Sullivan's voice, however, like Whitman's, the name rang more with an abstract hope than with any specific experience of closeness with a public his buildings served. Writing most rapturously about the form in which he achieved his greatest triump hs, the skyscraper, Sullivan betrays a failure to reckon with new social realities, the very realities which Burnham seemed much better to understand and to serve. In "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered" (1896), Sullivan speaks of "social co nditions" which have resulted "in a demand for the erection of tall buildings." What these conditions are he claims it is not his purpose to discuss: "I accept them as the fact." Instead, he turns to the technical conditions, the physical problems posed b y the tall building. His account of the problems and of the organic (or functional) principles for their solution is as eloquent as were his actual solutions of the 1890's. But it is clear that while he refuses to discuss the social meaning of the tall of fice building, he does conceive of the form as an expression of individual power: materialistic, to be sure, but capable of transformation through art into a spiritual expression-an expression, moreover (in his words), "of the people, by the people, and f or the people." A physical problem of technics, the tall building is also an opportunity to express an emotion. The emotional power of the skyscraper lies in its sheer height, its loftiness. "This loftiness is to the artist-nature its thrilling aspect. It is the very open organtone of its appeal. It must be in turn the dominant chord of his expression of it, the true excitant of his imagination." Obeying that impulse to celebrate height and aspiration, the artist will create "a living form of speech, a na tural form of utterance ... an architecture that will soon become a fine art in the true, the best sense of the word, an art that will live because it will be of the people, for the people, and by the people."
It is hard to imagine words, in 1896, more deeply out of touch with the new corporate world of merging trusts and monopolies, of concentrated political power, than these elegant but sad cries of belief. Sullivan wished to celebrate business enterpris
e as heroic activity: a notion inherited from an earlier age of laissezfaire, of epic individual efforts. Richardson had seemed to show the way in his sole commercial building, the great Marshall Field
His golden door may well have seemed an ironic touch on the imperial fagades of White City, but the hint remained ambiguous; a clearer set of implications about the meaning of the Court, as events of the following summer would disclose, lay just thro
ugh Sullivan's portal, in the model of Pullman. Montgomery Schuyler, admirer and articulate expounder of the Chicago School, cast his own ironical and judicious eye on the same glittering scene, and reached closer to the heart of White City, to the secret
of its spectacle. Schuyler attributed the "success" of "the cloud-capped towers and the gorgeous palaces" to three specific
elements of design: unity, magnitude, and illusion. The three
terms name the very devices of imperial spectacle. Unity comes
from the classical forms which, having lost touch with their
origin, become simply forms [my emphasis], which can be used
without a suggestion of any real structure or any particular material."
Insubstantiality, then, is the very essence of White City
unity: forms without substance. And, in place of substance, magnitude, "inordinate dimensions" distracting from the
For a summer's moment, White City had seemed the fruition of a nation, a culture, a whole society: the celestial city of man set upon a hill for all the world to behold. It seemed the triumph of America itself, the old republican ideal. But dressed n
ow in empty Roman orders, that ideal had taken on another look and signified another meaning: the alliance and incorporation of business, politics, industry, and culture. The spectacle proclaimed order, unity, coherence-and mutuality now in the form of hi
erarchy. White City manifested the conversion of the old ideal, its transvaluation into not a communal but a corporate enterprise. Business and politics provided the structure, the legitimacy of power, the chain of command. Industrial technology provided
the physical power, forces of nature mastered and chained to human will, typified by tens of thousands of electric bulbs controlled by a single switch. And culture served as the presiding
White City implied not only a new form of urban experience but a new way of experiencing the urban world: spectacle. Visitors to the Fair found themselves as spectators, witnesses to an unanswerable performance which they had no hand in produc ing or maintaining. The Fair was delivered to them, made available to them. And delivered, moreover, not as an actual place, a real city, but as a frank illusion, a picture of what a city, a real society, might look like. White City represented itself as a representation, an admitted sham. Yet that sham, it insisted, held a truer vision of the real than did the troubled world sprawling beyond its gates.
In sum, White City seemed to have settled the question of the true and real meaning of America. It seemed the victory of elites in business, politics, and culture over dissident but divided voices of labor, farmers, immigrants, blacks and women. Elit
e culture installed itself as official doctrine of the Court, claiming dominion over the "low" confined to the outskirts of the Midway. In retrospect, the Fair has seemed not only a culmination of the efforts of ruling groups since the Civil War to win he
gemony over the emerging national culture but a prophetic symbol of the coming defeat of Populism and its alternative culture, the alternative "America" it proposed. White City expressed the very outlook later manifested by McKinley and the Republican ban
ner of "peace, prosperity, progress and patriotism," as well as the overseas crusades to spread the blessings of "our deeply incorpo-
But the ragged edges of 1894 implied that even in defeat advocates of "union" over "corporation" retained their vision, their voice, and enough power to unsettle the image of a peaceful corporate order. At stake in the sympathy boycott of the American Railway Union was more than a legal right, but a way of life and a world view. Arguing before the Supreme Court in October 1894, in defense of Eugene Debs, who had been speedily convicted of violating a federal injunction against the boycott, Clarence Darrow presented the legal issue in the light of a broader defense of the right of workingmen to associate in the first place. It makes no difference whether the members of the American Railway Union were themselves personally at odds with the Pullman Company, he argued. "They doubtless believed that their fellow laborers were unjustly treated, and did not desire to handle the cars of a corporation that was unjustly treating their brothers who were engaged in a struggle with this company." It was the very right to consider each other "brothers" that Darrow insisted upon. "The right to cease labor for the benefit of their fellows" lay at the heart of labor unions. "If no man could strike except he were personally aggrieved, there could be no strike of a combination of workingmen," he explained. For "the theory on which all labor organizations are based is that workingmen have a common interest, and that 'an injury to one is the concern of all.' " "Mutual aid" is "the very object of combination and association." To deny this principle, which indeed the court would do in denying Darrow's plea, "would leave each individual worker completely isolated and unaided to fight his battle alone against the combined capital everywhere vigilant and aggressive, to add to its own profit by reducing the wages and conditions of those who work."
The crux of Darrow's losing argument lay in his joining this familiar notion of mutuality with a developing concept of collective rights which lay "beyond equality." He put the issue pointedly. "Politically and theoretically the laborer is now a free
man, the equal of the employer, the equal of the lawyer or the judge.
Darrow spoke out of the accumulated experience of labor, of workers and farmers in the age of incorporation, evoking the spirit of the Knights of Labor as well as the Farmers' Alliance. He spoke in a losing cause before the highest court in 1894, des
cribing a vision of a new political concept arising from a culture of common need. In more figurative language, Eugene Debs invoked that same vision in images sharply at odds with the culture of Pullman and White City. Pausing for a moment to reflect on t
he events of 1894 while still in their midst, Debs wrote, in "Labor Strikes and Their Lessons" (published by John Swinton in his 1894 volume on the Pullman strike): "on one hand, a eat corporation, rich to plethora, rioting in luxuries, plutocratic, proud
, and powerful." And on the other, "not a picture of houses and lands, lawns and landscape, 'sacred grass,' violets and rose-trees, sparkling fountains and singing birds, and an
This fellowship for the woes of others-this desire to help the unfortunate; this exhibition of a divine principle, which makes the declaration plausible that "man was made a little lower than God," and without which man would rank lower than the devi l by several degrees-should be accepted as at once the hope of civilization and the supreme glory of manhood. And yet this exhibition of sympathy aroused by the Pullman strike is harped upon by press and pulpit as the one atrocious feature of the strike. Epithets, calumny, denunciation in every form that malice or mendacity could invent have been poured forth in a vitriol tide to scathe those who advocated and practised the Christ-like virtue of sympathy. The crime of the American Railway Union was the pr actical exhibition of sympathy for the Pullman employees.
Thus did the events of 1894 reveal to Debs and Darrow not only corporations (and the state) pitted against striking workers, but a clash of cultures: the pleasing prospect against the bonds of sympathy, of solidarity.
That tension would persist in America, submerged in periods of prosperity and wartime nationalism, only to reappear at moments of stress and crisis: the Depression of the 1930's, the agitations of the 1960's and 1970's. To be sure, since World War 11
a larger number of workers have shared in the abundance of an
incorporated America and have seemed to accept its cultural
premises. A wider diffusion of comfort and the goods of culture
(as well as education) seems to have overshadowed the vista of a
solidarity grounded not in consumption but in equality, the dignity of labor, and the sympathy of common need. Yet
it seems evident, almost a hundred years since White City and its aftermath at Pullman, that the question remains
unresolved. In the conflict of perspectives disclosed in Chicago in 1893-94 lay one
of the deepest and most abiding issues accompanying the incorporation of America.