On this date in 1892, Chicago threw a parade to dedicate the World’s Columbian Exposition. The Columbian Exposition was a world’s fair commemorating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. Planning for the exposition had begun in the 1880s. Several great American cities vied for the honor of hosting the celebration. City officials pleaded their case vociferously and persistently, but in the end it was the last-minute fundraising efforts of banker Lyman Gage, who managed to raise several million dollars above what the second-place city — New York — had come up with. Congress awarded the World Columbian Exposition to Chicago. Although the original plan was to hold the exposition in 1892, infighting and construction setbacks delayed the opening until May 1, 1893. The fair ran until October 30 and drew 27 million visitors. The author Hamlin Garland urged his parents: “Sell the cookstove if necessary and come. You must see the fair.”
Many products made their debut at the Columbian Exposition: Juicy Fruit gum, Cracker Jack, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and Cream of Wheat among them. In June 1893, a bridge builder named George Washington Gage Ferris Jr. unveiled his invention: a 264-foot-tall wheel that bore his name. The first Ferris wheel carried two thousand people at a time, at a cost of 50 cents each, and it saved the Exposition from financial ruin. And Gottlieb Daimler displayed a boat and an automobile powered by combustion engines: an exhibit that would inspire Henry Ford to come up with his own “Quadricycle,” his first car, which he successfully tested three years later.