Primary Source: Map: World’s Columbian Exposition 1893 made by Rand McNally & Co. 


Follow along and take notes on the who, what, when, where, and historical significance for each major key term.

  • Electrification
  • White City
  • City Beautiful Movement
  • Turner Thesis
  • The Midway
  • Dahomey Village
  • Samoan Village
  • Exotification
  • Ferris Wheel
  • H.H. Holmes
  • Maps as Political Documents/ Collectible Ephemera

Guided Primary Source Discussion Questions 

  1. Compare the list of countries on the “Index to Foreign Sites and Buildings” (buildings located in the White City) to the foreign countries referenced in the “Index to Midway Plaisance.” Which countries appear on only one list? Which countries appear on both lists? What do you think visitors were supposed to conclude about these countries, depending on where their buildings were located (and how they were represented) in these two parts of the fairgrounds?
  2. Read through the indexes on this map to find the location of the “Indian Village” (in this context, Indian refers to Native American). Considering the historical context of 1893 — in particular, the fact that the Wounded Knee Massacre was less than three years before the World’s Columbian Exposition began — what is the significance of this Village’s location at the world’s fair? Here is a visual representation of Indian Village if you’d like to check it out.
  3. Imagine you visited the World’s Columbian Exposition and walked through the White City; consider the size and scale of the buildings, their placement on the fairgrounds, the location of the waterways, and the proximity of Lake Michigan. What do you imagine visitors were supposed to conclude about the United States after visiting the fair?
  4. While the World’s Fair was supposed to dramatize and put American progress on display, it excluded contributions made by African Americans. Take a look at the pamphlet “The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition” and see if you can identify what major concerns the famous black authors (Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass among others ) are protesting and why they feel racial representation matters.

Additional Primary Sources to Explore 

Dr. Sarah Gold McBride is a Lecturer in the American Studies Program at UC Berkeley, where she also received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in History. As a historian and teacher, her work centers on the social and cultural history of the nineteenth-century United States, and on the way we teach (and the way students learn) about the past. She is a co-founder of The Teaching History Conference and the current Executive Director of the Western Association of Women Historians. Dr. Gold McBride is currently working on a book about the meaning of hair in nineteenth-century America. She tweets about teaching (and sometimes about hair!) at @sgoldmcbride.