By: Harry McEwen Pettit Published by: Cuneo Press
Date: 1934 (copyright) Evanston, IL
Dimensions of Image: 24.35 x 24.75 inches
This is a large, awe-inspiring bird's eye view, looking down upon the Century of Progress World's Fair at the height of a days' activity, along the lakefront of Chicago. The work is quite rare, with wordcat referencing just one other example in the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. We have also come upon a postcard showing the same view, but no other examples of the large print.
The printed image is taken from a painting by Harry McEwen Pettit, an artist based in Evanston who did some work for Harper's Weekly at the turn of the century. The ariel view presents a rather vast expanse of the the lakefront, from 39th Street in the south up the 3.5 miles of the fairgrounds to Soldier's Field, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Planetarium. Beyond lies Grant Park, with the iconic Buckinham Fountain that had been dedicated just 7 years prior, the surrounding Chicago Skyline and Navy Pier jutting out into Lake Michigan.
While for Chicagoans the Century of Progress is most commonly regarded as centennial celebration of Chicago establishment in 1833, for the out-of-town visitors it was a window into the future and what was to come with regards to technology. The official theme of the fair was Technological Innovation with the motto "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts." Contrary to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, that showcased the neo-classical "White City," the Century of Progress strove to create the Rainbow City with buildings designed around Art Decco style modern architecture.
The view this print provides us with illustrates that theme wonderfully. While outside the fairgrounds automobiles drive along highway 41, (DuSable-Lake Shore Drive) inside the fair thousands of visitor explore the wide range of exhibits, some of which were made to portray the history of the city and cultures of the world, but most featured exciting new advancement in automobile and aviation technology. Biplanes of the age can be seen swooping through sky while Goodyear blimps soar above the Midway. Throughout the foreground of the view, scores of visitors make there way in and about the many auto-manufacturers buildings where they likely marveled at cars like the Buick Series 40, Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood Convertible or Oldsmobile Streetrod Coupe. On the north end of the fair, visitors could take the Sky Ride suspension transporter bridge that acted as a gondola-style air-ferry that stretched over Burnham Harbour.
Below the image an advertisement is found for the Tudor Ellis Hotel, located six blocks to the south gate garage. The hotel offered single rooms with bath and kitchenettes as well as sight-seeing tours, lake trips, and souvenir World's Fair tickets. An image of the hotel with its address, phone number, and other pertinent information has been adhered within the lower margin of the print and the script on either side can be felt with a light touch, which leads us to believe it was inscribed after the initial printing. This suggests that the publishers either offered advertising space to sponsors or the hotel took it upon itself to utilize the wide margins to draw in visitors of the fair.
Condition: This bird's eye view print is in A condition with but a few small cracks in the lower margin. The piece has been linen-backed for preservation and presentation purposes, an entirely reversible process.
1932 S. Halsted St. #200 Chicago, IL 60608 | P: (312) 496 - 3622