When the future came to Chicago: a glimpse of the 1933 World's Fair (and in color, too)

May 24, 2011

I like this: a look at Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress world's fair, seen in crisp, early Technicolor.

We're so accustomed to seeing Chicago's second great fair memorialized in black and white photography and films. While the more famous 1893 World's Columbian Exposition celebrated human achievement over the previous 400 years, the 1933 fair (which ran until 1934) was aimed toward the future. Seeing the modern exhibition buildings in brilliant color--imagine it in contrast to the gray city behind it--returns the fair to its proper context.

There's some good stuff to be seen. I like the Chrysler Motors building at 1:32 designed by Chicago firm Holabird & Root. The Italian pavilion at 2:19, all color and right-angles, looks as it could have been built 20 years later. I wish that Cyclone rollercoaster was still there. Here's more, although the footage temporarily turns to black-and-white for a bit (and the narrator is even more excited here):

The fair films were posted on YouTube by a kind soul named jeffsabu.