Aunt Jemima – Aunt Jamima pancake mix got its first big promotion at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Standing at the world’s largest flour barrel, 12 feet high, and 24 feet across, Chicagoan Nancy Green, in character as “Aunt Jemima,” sang songs, told stories, demonstrated the mix, cooking and serving thousands of pancakes to fairgoers. Advertising artist, A. T. Frost, used Nancy Green’s image to create the famous image of Aunt Jamima.
Phosphorescent lamps (a precursor to fluorescent lamps) – Nikola Tesla used cordless low pressure gas discharge lamps, powered by a high frequency electric field, to light his laboratory. He displayed fluorescent lamps and neon lamps at the World Columbian Exposition.
Cracker Jack – Frederick William Rueckheim—known informally as “Fritz”—and his brother Louis mass-produced an early version of Cracker Jack and sold it at the first Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. At the time, it was a mixture of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts and was called “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts”. It was given the name Cracker Jack in 1896.
Congress of Mathematicians, precursor to International Congress of Mathematicians – As part of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America, a series of scientific. and philosophical congresses was scheduled, among them a “world congress” of mathematicians and astronomers. Felix Klein of Göttingen brought a number of contributions from European mathematicians and opened the Congress with a brief address on “The Present State of Mathematics,” in which he emphasized that “what was formerly begun by a single mastermind, we now must seek to accomplish by united efforts and cooperation.”
Elongated Coins – The first elongated coins in the United States were created at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, held in 1893. Several designs were issued to commemorate the fair, and are available in the elongated coin collecting community today.
Frontier Thesis – Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”, was put forth in a scholarly paper in 1893, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”, read before the American Historical Association in Chicago during the World’s Columbian Expostion. He believed the spirit and success of the United States was directly tied to the country’s westward expansion.
Ferris Wheel – The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. With a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft) it was the largest attraction at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893. It was intended to rival the 324-metre (1,063 ft) Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition.
Automatic Dishwasher – Modern dishwashers are descended from the 1887 invention of Josephine Cochrane who invented a new advanced dishwasher, also hand-powered, which she unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Cochrane was quite wealthy and was the granddaughter of John Fitch, the inventor of the steamboat. She never washed dishes herself and invented the dishwasher because her servants were chipping her fine china.
John T. Shayne & Company – The achievements of the Shayne brothers in the manufacture of fine furs helped to bring a newfound respect for American goods which were primarily reserved only for the elite European manufacturing houses of Russia, France and Germany. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, The New York Times reported, “The joint exhibit of C.C Shayne of New-York and John T. Shayne of this city has received awards which, by reason of their number and their language, leave no doubt that the Shayne fur products surpass those made in any part of the world.” The company was founded on November 6, 1884 by John Thomas Shayne (born August 26, 1852) an importer/manufacturer of furs, civic leader and Democratic politician. The firm was formally incorporated on May 23, 1899 and held the distinction of being “the largest business of its kind outside of New York City.” The store was first located at 187-189 State Street in the Chicago Loop (the city of Chicago’s central business and shopping district) and later moved to the John Crerar Library building at 150 N. Michigan Avenue where it remained until the department store ceased operations in 1979.
Juicy Fruit Gum – Wrigleys Juicyfruit Gum occupies a special place in the history of chewing gum as it was first chewing gum invented by Wrigleys and was introduced at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The gum became an instant hit and was followed by Wrigley’s mint gum and cinnamon flavors.
Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat – Quaker Oats was on a mission to prove a market for cereal for breakfast by introducing it to the public during the Chicago World’s Fair. Despite journalists who sampled it and likened it to the consistency of a doormat, the hot cereals took hold and became a staple for many Americans.
Shredded Wheat – Henry Perky invented shredded wheat cereal in 1893. The wheat is first cooked in water until its moisture content reaches about 50%. It is then tempered, allowing moisture to diffuse evenly into the grain. The grain then passes through a set of rollers with grooves in one side, yielding a web of shredded wheat strands. Many webs are stacked together, and this moist stack of strands is crimped at regular intervals to produce individual pieces of cereal with the strands attached at each end. These then go into an oven, where they are baked until their moisture content is reduced to 5%. The Natural Food Company was based at Niagara Falls, New York in 1901. It became the Shredded Wheat Company in 1904. It was bought by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) in December 1928. United States production moved to Naperville, Illinois in 1954, where it is still made
Hershey’s Chocolate – The Hershey Chocolate Company was simply a wholly owned subsidiary of Milton Hershey’s Lancaster Caramel Company. Using chocolate-making equipment purchased at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the company produced baking chocolate, cocoa and sweet chocolate coatings for the parent company’s caramels.
US Commemorative Stamps – The United States Post Office Department produced its first picture postcards and commemorative stamp set.
US Commemorative Coins – United States Mint offered its first commemorative coins: a quarter and half dollar. The half dollar was the first US legal tender to bear the portrait of a foreigner.
Windy City Moniker – Some argue that Charles Anderson Dana of the New York Sun coined the term related to the hype of the city’s promoters. Other evidence, however, suggests the term was used as early as 1881 in relation to either Chicago’s “windbag” politicians or to its weather.
Benjamin Franklin King, Jr. – Benjamin Franklin King, Jr billed himself as “Ben King, the Sweet Singer of St. Joe”. He first came to prominence for a concert given during the World’s Columbian Exposition. Introduced to the Press Club of Chicago, he was quickly picked up by Opie Read, who invited King to tour with him, reading his poetry with piano accompaniment.
The Zipper – The “clasp locker,” a clumsy slide fastener and forerunner to the zipper was demonstrated by Whitcomb L. Judson.
Spray Painting – To hasten the painting process during construction of the fair in 1892, the Decorations Director for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Francis Davis Millet invents spray painting.
Pabst Blue Ribbon – The company has historically claimed its flagship beer was renamed Pabst Blue Ribbon following its win as “America’s Best” at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Even though it earned that name, it never actually won a blue ribbon. Whether the brand actually won an award in 1893 is unclear. Some contemporaneous accounts indicate that many vendors were frustrated by the fair’s refusal to award such prizes. One account says that the only prizes awarded by the executive committee were bronze medals, in recognition of “some independent and essential excellence in the article displayed”, rather than “merely to indicate the relative merits of competing exhibits.” Copy on the label:
This is the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Nature’s choicest products provide its prized flavor. Only the finest of hops and grains are used. Selected as America’s Best in 1893.
Pabst also made an appearance at A 1933 Century of Progress fair, in the form of the Pabst Casino.
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