chicago columbian exposition


L. Frank Baum moved with his wife and children to Chicago around 1891, settling into a home at 1667 N Humboldt Ave. The former actor and failed entrepreneur had moved to Chicago to become a reporter for the Evening Post

After several years and moving from job-to-job, Baum began writing children’s poetry books, publishing a couple with no real success. 

In 1900 Baum released the book that would spawn a wildly successful series, countless stage productions and later a film that would become the most popular and beloved movie of all time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

As the urban legend goes, Baum was working in an office building on Michigan Ave, his window looking out directly across the street to the Art Institute. It is believed that his view of the very-brave-looking and regal lion statues, flanking the entrance to the museum, were his inspiration for the character of the Cowardly Lion.

Though the lion story can be disputed, it is generally agreed upon by literary historians that Baum’s inspiration for the Emerald City was the majestic White City of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.


Screenshots from The Great Ziegfeld, 1936.

Florenz Ziegfeld, the world famous showman and stage producer, was born and raised in Chicago - getting his start in show business promoting the strongman, Sandow, at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. 

This film is the first where I have have seen the World’s Fair recreated. It’s worth watching the beginning 20 minutes of the film to see (albeit stylized) recreations of the exposition’s sights and sounds.