The Devil in the White City

Prendergast and the Chicago World's Fair 11th Grade

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 represented a triumphant moment of success for the city of Chicago as well as for the entire nation. Yet, the grandeur of the fair was paralleled with an equally great amount of corruption and abuse. During this time known as the Gilded Age, America experienced many extremes—extreme wealth, extreme poverty, extreme greatness, and extreme horror. Inside the bubble of magnificent buildings and forward thinking ingenuity that was the fair, Americans escaped, at least for a moment, the dirt and filth of the outside world. Nearby, a man named Eugene Patrick Prendergast lived in his own sort of bubble—one that would eventually burst and lead to the murder of Chicago’s governor, Carter Harrison. As explained in Larson's The Devil in the White City, the insanity tinted in both Prendergast’s delusional obsession and in the nation’s obsession with creating the World's Fair ultimately led to the downfall of one and the triumph of the other.

Prendergast’s life was in many ways similar to the lifespan of the fair itself. As it is being built, many including those within Chicago, have serious doubts as to the plausibility of achieving such a difficult task. Yet, when the Fair opens, it becomes clear that...

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