On May 1, 1893, just 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire, Chicago invited the world to come for a visit. The occasion was the World’s Columbian Exposition. New York City, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Chicago had all lobbied the U.S. Congress for the honor of hosting this grand world’s fair. On February 24, 1890, Congress chose Chicago because of its central location, its railroads, and the money it had already raised to host an exposition.
Chicago architect Daniel Hudson Burnham served as director of design and construction. He hired several prominent architects to design particular buildings. American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who had designed Central Park in New York City, planned the exposition site beside Lake Michigan. Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the artistic director.
On October 21, 1892, four months before the event opened, thousands gathered for a Dedication Day. Interspersed between the speeches were several songs. John Philip Sousa and his band played. The 5,000-member Columbian Chorus sang. Included in the program were “The Heavens Are Telling” by Joseph Haydn and the “Hallelujah Chorus” from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. As the second largest city in America prepared for their six-month extravaganza, they honored God in their dedication ceremony.
The World’s Columbian Exposition was a tremendous success, perhaps the most successful of any event ever held in America. An estimated 27 million people came from around the country and around the world. That is a huge number when you consider that America only had 63 million people. People wanted to come so badly that some mortgaged farms or homes to be able to afford the trip. One man leaving the fair told his wife that it was worth it, even if they had spent the “burial money.”
It encourages me to know that the dedication ceremony included portions that honored God. History has many stories of faith and courage and triumph. I am sad that it seems that today many people only want to talk about the negative things that have happened before–and there are many of those negative things. However, there are many positive and honorable ones, too.
In Hebrews 11, God encourages us with reminders of the faith of people who lived before us.
Therefore, since we have
so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance
and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.