DescriptionWorld's Columbian Exposition: Amazing Diary from a Fair Attendee. One of the finest items in this auction, a treasure house of information as rare as any. This is a pocket diary kept by Jessie Wilson from late 1892 to the end of 1893, certainly the finest diary from the World's Columbian Exposition we've ever seen.
Jessie Wilson was a young woman, probably 19-22 or a bit older. Her diary, a 144-page leather-bound notebook that measures 3.5" x 6" is chock full of observant, articulate details penned in a fine quality handwriting.
Her diary is a centerpiece of a forthcoming book, The World's First and Grandest Midway, to be published next year by the University of Illinois Press.
Miss Wilson's diary is remarkable in its simplicity and paints the picture that every history author seeks to find to make his or her stories complete, i.e. the descriptive and down-to-earth details of how each person acted, reacted and participated in the events of the period. This is generally known as "history from below," first-hand accounts of history from the average person, rather than the military or political leader or later historian. Amazingly, Miss Wilson, who clearly came from a family toward the higher side rather than the lower side of the Chicago economy, attended more than 50 times during the duration of the giant exposition and was so thoughtful as to chronicle what she saw each time.
Excerpts from the diary include:
-"I have had fine times at picnics in the old park (Jackson Park, site of the WCE)...in the pavilion which is now the Iowa State Building.
-When they began to make the lagoons and prepare for the fair, Maude, Weaver, James, Miss Beatrice Wilcox, Harry and I went to the grounds to find good places for the girls to sketch.
-At Dedication Day we had a fine opportunity to see the celebrities and as there were very few people in the part of the grounds we selected we could see them without any crowding. McKinley tipped his hat to Earnest as he shouted to him.
-Opening Day. I happened to meet Ernest at the florist and he wanted to go with our party to the fair.
-The Indian School from Albuquerque sang for us in the Indian department room and Yellow Jacket-an Indian-gave a very fine speech asking for liberty for the Indians.
-Some men were trying to bore holes from under the Swiss Booth (where they were selling diamond jewelry) but (exhibitors) heard the noise and saw a hole in the floor.
-The New York Building is very unfinished but well may be the finest building when complete.
-There was a fire in the Electrical Building and we saw the fire engine.
-The last fireworks were set off while we were still on the dock at the fair. Still I believe we had the finest view of the fireworks.
-We went down the street to Old Vienna and this was very quaint. We felt as if were in a foreign country."
A fascinating first-hand account of the finest fair in American history and a unique historical item. From the collection of Norm Bolotin.
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