2616 - 1992 29c World Columbian Stamp Expo
US #2616 was issued for the 1992 World Columbian Stamp Expo. Click image to order.

On May 1, 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago, Illinois.

Though the 1876 world’s fair in Philadelphia had been a financial failure, American businessmen wanted to try again.  Particularly, they wanted to hold a fair marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in America.  While several cities made a bid to host the expo, Chicago was ultimately selected when banker Lyman Gage raised several million dollars in a 24-hour period, putting him ahead of the competition.

230-40 - 1893 Columbians, "short" set, 11 stamps
US #230-40 – The first 11 Columbian stamps. Click image to order.

Work began immediately on preparing the exposition grounds.  The exposition was supposed to open on October 21, 1892, but the grounds were so massive, that was impossible.  Instead, the city of Chicago staged an extravagant three-day dedication celebration for October 20-22, which included a massive parade and series of ceremonies.  The parade was held on October 20, 1892.  It was both a celebration of the fair as well as Columbus’ arrival in America.

It was one of the largest single parades up to that time, with a large number of notable guests from a variety of different associations.  Its been estimated there were at least 75,000 parade participants and over a million spectators from around the country.  Click here to see photos of the parade and a long list of those involved in the procession.

October 21, 1892, was the official dedication day.  It began with a sunrise salute by national guardsmen from all the states at the time, numbering about 10,000. President Benjamin Harrison and his cabinet were in attendance.  They then joined in a 300-carriage procession through much of the exposition grounds to the Manufactures building.  The dedication ceremony there included a number of speeches and presentations as well as performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hail Columbia.”  The celebrations continued into the night, with the archbishop of Ireland delivering a speech.  The ceremonies concluded the next day with additional dedication ceremonies.

E3 - 1893 10c Columbian Exposition - Messenger Running, Orange
US #E3 – Although it was not issued solely for the Columbian Exposition, US #E3 is considered a part of that issue. Click image to order.

Work on the grounds continued after the dedication so that the exposition could open up on May 1, 1893.  In an age before mass communication, the Columbian Exposition brought nearly 27 million people from around the world together to display the highest level of architecture, art, and industry.  Hundreds of specially designed buildings, fountains, and statues were constructed specifically for the Exposition.

59350 - 1992 Columbian Exposition FDCs, set of 16
Item #59350 – Set of 16 Columbian Expo ’92 First Day Covers. Click image to order.

Spanning more than 600 acres, the Exposition featured over 200 buildings by top architects of the time.  The classically styled buildings were all painted white, giving that section of the expo the name, “White City.”  These spectacular buildings served as the inspiration for L. Frank Baum’s Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz as well as Walt Disney’s theme parks (his father was a construction worker at the Fair).  In fact, the Fair’s architecture inspired the nationwide City Beautiful Movement, in which cities coordinated landscapes, promenades, and structures to make more stunning, cohesive urban areas.

With so many people from different places coming to one location, several congresses and parliaments were held to take advantage of the unprecedented gathering.  There were congresses dealing with a number of topics including anthropology, labor, medicine, temperance, commerce and finance, literature, history, art, philosophy, and science.

M679 - 1893 Columbian Collection with FREE Album and Mounts - Scott #230-38, Used
Item #M679 – Set of 9 Columbians with a FREE album. Click image to order.

The largest of them all was the Parliament of Religions.  Held from September 11 to 27, it marked the first meeting of representatives of Eastern and Western religions.  Among the speeches given was one by Hindu representative Swami Vivekanand, “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!”  This quote from the Bhagvad Gita seemed especially fitting for this significant convergence of religions.

The 1893 Exposition was also the first World’s Fair to include national pavilions.  In all, 46 nations participated, introducing Americans to a wide array of new technologies and cultural traditions.  These included German artillery and a Viking ship from Norway.  W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, and several others also introduced the world to the African-American musical style through performances.

2624-29 - 1992 Columbian Souvenir Sheets, set of 6
US #2624-29 – Issued in 1992, these stamps were printed with the same 100-year-old dies as the original Columbians.  Click image to order.

Other significant firsts at the Fair included the first US commemorative coins and the introduction of Cracker Jacks, Quaker Oats, and Shredded Wheat.  The US Post Office Department also issued its first commemorative stamps ever, the highly sought-after Columbians.

Click here to view scenes from the Columbian Expo and here for more about the 1893 Columbians.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. I am glad that you mentioned Swami Vivekananda. He was a realized person. His teachings and writings are well recognized. People all over the world should realize that all ( religious) roads lead to one destination. The creator of our universe (GOD) is one and only one. His manifestations are innumerable. If this fact is understood by mankind true peace prevails in modern world.

    1. Not true! Not true at all! All religions in the world do NOT lead to the same “one destination.” Only the orthodox Christian religion leads to an eternity in heavenly bliss. Why? Because only the OCR expounds the self-denying, self-sacrificing deity (the God-man Jesus Christ) who clothed Himself with the very human flesh and blood that He participated in creating holy and undefiled but rebelled against the Creator. He the sinless One thereby was able to substitutionally suffer and die–and did so–for the sinful ones (humankind) thereby appeasing the just God’s righteous anger and gaining forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for all, something that is gained/received through faith in that Savior-Redeemer, a faith that’s also a gift given by God so that mankind can appropriate His wonderful gifts of mercy and grace. No, all other world religions tout the necessity of becoming or making oneself worthy of their deity’s love for them, of serving their deity. However, orthodox Christianity’s deity did not deign to be served but to serve mankind and thereby rescue them unto eternal glory.

      1. Christianity has done it’s share of atrocities, because God willed it. Ask the victims of the Rhineland massacre in 1096, or almost every Jew or Muslim in Jerusalem during the Crusades. Nor should you forget just about anyone deemed unfit during the Inquisition. I do not believe this qualifies as “rescue them unto eternal glory”.

    2. I totally agree with you, Mr. Mamidi. True peace will prevail if all religions are open to each other and are willing to listen. Like the great Mahatma Gandhi once said, I have no problem with Jesus who was a good man and advocated a closer and personal relationship with our Creator, but I do have a problem with some who claim to be his believers and who were and are still doing evil in his name! Stamp collecting supposed to bring people closer together without being judgmental on those who are different than we are.

  2. We don’t have to prove anything. The proof is in the pudding. This is the greatest country in the world. Founded on the principles of freedom. That is why people are flocking to get in. They were in 1893 and they are today and those that can’t, collect our stamps or their countries copy the theme. That’s why stamp collect is such a great pastime. Thank you Mystic.

  3. Great historical info and photos on the Columbian Exposition. You should consider putting your many historical articles related to stamps online (YouTube or other). I really appreciate them and doing so might even result in more people taking an interest in stamps and even more customers for Mystic.

  4. I found it interesting that the article said President Harrison was at the dedication but there was a picture of president Cleveland in the link so I looked it up and Harrison lost the 1892 election to Cleveland so there was a different president for the dedication and opening, probably something unique among World Fairs and expositions.

    1. Maybe read Living BUDDA, Living Christ.
      The cause of religious wars. Thank you Pope John Paul III.

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