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The Hawaiian exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 was organized by settler Hawaiians who were rallying for American annexation and trying to encourage tourism and more white settlement in the Islands.
THE VOLCANO OF KILAUEA (pronounced “Kill-away-ah”) Between the Chinese Theatre and the Ferris Wheel stood the cyclorama of the greatest active volcano in the northern hemisphere. In front of the pavilion was a heroic statue of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of -re, made by another Chicago artist, Ellen Rankin Copp, the sculptor, and under the canopy a choir of Kanak musicians sang to the public, evoking much applause. The word is or nearly so. The great circular painting was made for a company of which the Hon. Lorin A. Thurston, Hawaiian Minister to the United States, was President, and W. T. Sensen, Manager. Walter W. Burridge, a painter, of Chicago, visited Hawaii and made a two-years’ study of the mountain; thereafter, with a corps of assistants, he painted and built the scene, the entire expense rising to $80,000. The crater is eight hundred feet deep and three miles across. It is a lake of bubbling and thunderous lava set in the side of Mona Loa, a mountain fifteen thousand feet high. The station for the spectator of the picture was a heap of lava which had exuded and solidified in the centre of the crater. A priest climbed the cliffs that rimmed the scene and chanted an invocation to Pele, and his form added to the realism of the effects. The mountain peak and the Pacific Ocean, the baleful fires of the never slumbering volcano, the mists and lava floods, all conspired to make a great picture.
The Kilauea cyclorama on the Midway Plaisance at the World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893.
The Dream City, Halsey Cooley Ives
In connection with the panorama of the Bernese alps may be mentioned that of the volcano of Kalauea, displayed in a polygonal building further to the west of the plaisance and on the opposite side of the avenue. Over the portal is the figure of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fie, its pose suggested by the well-known legend of a race wherein the goddess, being worsted by a native prince, pursued him in a chariot of molten lava, hurling fire-brands after him as he sought refuge in the sea. Circling the walls within are some 22,000 square feet or nearly half an acre of canvas, whereon is depicted “the inferno of the Pacific,” the largest volcano on the face of the earth. While not without merit, it does not compare with the other as a panoramic painting, the effect being largely produced by electric lights, pyrotechnics, and other mechanical contrivances. The point of observation is in the very heart of the crater, and not on its brow where thousands of travellers have stood. Gazing upward and around, the spectator is encompassed with  a hissing, bubbling sea of lava, with tongues of flame and clouds of steam rising from fathomless pits to overhanging crags and masses of rock. All this is expressed with studied but not with artistic realism, fragments of rock being blended with painted cliffs on which are dummies and painted figures, presumably intended for tourists, while flashlights in various colors, with detonation of bombs and crackers, imitate in showman fashion the awful grandeur of an eruption.
The volcano concession also advertised the first hula troupe to perform at a world fair, accentuating the shift in the character of Native Hawaiian displays in international exhibitions from sovereign, historically-situated, and modern self-presentation to feminized, exotic, tourist curiosity.
Jennie Wilson and companion performing the hula at Midway Plaisance at the World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893.
Jennie Wilson, whose mother is a native Hawaiian, and an unknown companion, performing at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago at the Midway Plaisance in an exhibit called the” South Seas Islanders.”
This was the first time the hula was performed in the mainland of the United States. She and her group inadvertently contributed to the bad reputation of the hula with the “come-on” song they were required to sing to urge audiences to see the “naughty hula.”
By the turn of the century, Jennie was to reap the bitter results of this reputation. She reported that island people would spit at her because she was a hula dancer.