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Chicago: Field Museum opens the vaults on 1893 World's Fair

October 25, 2013|By Anne Harnagel

It was exotic, it was huge and and it was expensive. It was Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893, a world's fair that brought together objects from all over the world in more than 65,000 exhibits.

Visitors now can experience the excitement of 120 years ago in the Field Museum's "Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair," which opens Friday. 

A stroll through the galleries will reveal more than 100 artifacts and specimens from the world's fair that have rarely or never been on display in the last 120 years. The large animal skeletons, taxidermied animals, fossils, meterorites, items from ancient cultures and raw materials from South America and Asia all were new to fairgoers.

Exhibition visitors will also get an overview of the Field Museum and its history; more than 50,000 objects from the fair became part of its initial collections.

The Columbian Exposition was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing, but it opened one year later. More than 25 million visitors attended over the fair's five-month run, paying 50 cents admission (25 cents for children). 

The fairgrounds covered 630 acres in Jackson Park and a strip of land, called the Midway, which was set aside for an amusement area.  The Midway was dominated by a 250-foot tall Ferris wheel, designed by its inventor, George Ferris. Fully loaded, it could carry 2,160 people.

The fair also introduced several products that are still popular, including Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima syrup and Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Gum.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, Chicago's Essex Inn and the Inn of Chicago Magnificent Mile are offering VIP packages that include tickets to the exhibition -- a timed-entry show -- that can be used any day of a visit.

Info: Admission tickets are included in both the museum's Discovery and All-Access passes and are $23-$30 for adults, $19-$25 for seniors and students with ID, and $16 to $21 for children ages 4 to 11. They can be ordered online or by telephone at (312) 922-9410. The exhibition runs through Sept. 7.

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