INTRODUCTION Proceed to the Site-map
Proceed to the Site-map

I AM ARGUING that the Century of Progress World's Fair Exposition in 1933 Chicago served as an ordering space for progress. The technological advancements of the previous century were so incredible that they seemed to many to be creating a world of chaos. High speed transportation, entertainment that appeared from the airwaves, buildings without windows and designed under totally new principles of architecture... selling this "Progress" to the mass culture of America was going to require a marketing scheme of the largest scale.

WHAT WAS THIS PROGRESS that Chicago was celebrating? First and foremost, it was the progress that had built the city of Chicago in just one hundred years. This guiding principles of this progress were technological ones. The early twentieth century was the Machine Age and machine principles were dominant. The word Progress can take a variety of meanings but in 1933 progress could only mean the progress of the machine. This is not to say that cultural workers were not concerned with progress in other areas--certainly the Depression Era saw many successes in attempts at humanitarian progress--but he machine was both the tool and ordering principle for progress in all areas.

BECAUSE THIS TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS was so widespread, the 1933 Exposition quickly grew to be much more than a celebration of Chicago's history. It was the celebration of the history of the machine, particularly the machine in America, and a space to envision the future of the machine in America. For this future to become a reality, the leaders of technology and culture were going to need to convince Americans that this Progress was an ordered, manageable progress, one that Americans could feel safe with.

WISH YOU WERE HERE! Chicago's Exposition was attended by 27,703,132 people in 1933, and another 21,066,095 people in 1934 (according to Lenox Lohr's Fair Management; The Story of a Century of Progress, 1952, The Cuneo Press, Chicago). That's a significant number of Americans who were "Here," but even more who were not. (maybe you are) I argue that those Americans who did not attend the fair still participated in its activity of ordering progress in their consumption of the images and collectibles that emerged from the exposition.

IN THIS WEB-SITE I explore my thesis from a few different perspectives. I try to consider the relationship between technological progress and those Chicago citizens who were driving The Exposition Impulse. I explore the iconography of the fair itself to get at The Appearance of Order. I look the messages of posters, household items, and other collectibles to see how visitors were Taking it Home to their families, friends, and neighborhoods. I also look at a Counter-current to the ideology of the fair--the Progress Fallacy. In an Afterward, I explore the similarities between the the space of the fair in 1933 and the space of the web at the end of the millenium.

BEFORE MOVING INTO THIS SITE, I encourage you to explore the Site-map for a detailed account of the information that is available here. The site-map also includes a section on how to navigate this site.


This site created by Dustin Kidd for The 1930s, part of Crossroads,
American Studies
at The University of Virginia.
Comments and Questions: please e-mail.