Between May 1 and October 31, 1893, more than 12 million people visited the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America. More than 65,000 exhibits covered 600 acres on the city’s South Side, illuminated at night by hundreds of thousands of light bulbs. Visitors looked at new inventions, listened to lectures, saw art exhibits and sporting events, watched movies, rode the original Ferris Wheel, and tasted new foods such as shredded wheat and Juicy Fruit gum. The fair was Chicago’s declaration that it had rebounded from the devastating fire of 1871 and was now one of the world’s great cities.
The Exposition generated countless souvenirs. Many attendees saved their admission tickets, which had cost 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children under 12. Adults who favored whisky and had a sense of humor could purchase an anatomically correct, pig-shaped flask with a cork in its rear from Illinois’ own Anna Pottery. Twenty-seven year old Ida Robinson of Peru, Illinois, brought home the embroidered handkerchief from the fair. She kept it in a glass ribbon box she had made and decorated herself. Joseph Stewart of Tennessee visited the fair before heading to Arizona to become a cowboy. He treasured the keepsake jewelry box he bought there until he died at age 89.