Picturesque World’s Fair, An Elaborate Collection of Colored Views—Published with the Endorsement and Approval of George R. Davis, 1894
THE BATTLESHIP OF ILLINOIS, AND SURF.—The view presented here is one likely to prove of special interest to the thousands of people who often visited the Lake Shore Promenade within the Exposition grounds, to secure the benefit of the cool lake breezes and the shade of the afternoon. There appears very distinctly the scene presented when the breeze freshened a little, when even within the harbor the waves came dashing up against the sloping pier and underneath the granite paving of rock and all above in a cataract and then went rippling back into the parent water. During the Fair’s existence the granite was several times undermined, despite the stout planking forming a seaward wall, and was more than once relaid, accompanied by the grumbling of contractors. The insinuating force of the waves had not been fully comprehended even by the practical engineers in charge. In the photograph the antics of those same waters are represented in a most striking manner. The human could never have caught, did the camera, just that picture of the water hurled against the beach and tossed up and broken all frayed and feathered and distributed. It shows just how water appears at such a moment, and it makes a very striking picture. for which the grim old
battleship lying undisturbed makes a pretty and striking background. It was near the battleship that the United States life-saving service gave the daily exhibitions that proved to be one of the attractive features of the Fair.
In the decade preceding the Columbian Exposition, the United States Navy initiated a fleet modernization program. Sometimes referred to as the ‘New Navy’, the first steel-hulled warships were constructed to replace the wooden and ironclad ships from the American Civil War period. In 1891, the first class of modern American battleships, the Indiana-class, was laid down. These warships included modern technologies absent in their Civil War-era predecessors, particularly electricity and electrically-driven devices.
When the Columbian Exposition was being planned, it was decided to showcase this new naval technology. However, the Rush–Bagot Treaty forbade warships to operate on the Great Lakes. Furthermore, a battleship built on the Great Lakes would have been confined there for its entire existence because, prior to opening of the Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900, there was no way for it to leave. As a result, it was decided that a full-scale replica of a battleship would be constructed instead. This mock-up would permit the demonstration of new technologies being used in the Indiana-class warships. In keeping with the Navy’s policy of naming battleships after states and in honor of the Exposition’s location, the facsimile battleship was called Illinois.