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Chicago's Greatest Year, 1893Chicago's Greatest Year, 1893

The White City and the Birth of a Modern Metropolis

Joseph Gustaitis

Narrated by Fred Filbrich

Available from Audible

Book published by Southern Illinois University Press

In 1893, the 27.5 million visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair feasted their eyes on the impressive architecture of the White City, lit at night by thousands of electric lights. In addition to marveling at the revolutionary exhibits, most visitors discovered something else: beyond the fair’s 633 acres lay a modern metropolis that rivaled the world’s greatest cities. The Columbian Exposition marked Chicago’s arrival on the world stage, but even without the splendor of the fair, 1893 would still have been Chicago’s greatest year.

An almost endless list of achievements took place in Chicago in 1893. Chicago’s most important skyscraper was completed in 1893, and Frank Lloyd Wright opened his office in the same year. African American physician and Chicagoan Daniel Hale Williams performed one of the first known open-heart surgeries in 1893. Sears and Roebuck was incorporated, and William Wrigley invented Juicy Fruit gum that year. The Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry all started in 1893. The Cubs’ new ballpark opened in this year, and an Austro-Hungarian immigrant began selling hot dogs outside the World’s Fair grounds. His wares became the famous “Chicago hot dog.”

“Cities are not buildings; cities are people,” writes author Joseph Gustaitis. Throughout the book, he brings forgotten pioneers back to the forefront of Chicago’s history, connecting these important people of 1893 with their effects on the city and its institutions today. The facts in this history of a year range from funny to astounding, showcasing innovators, civic leaders, VIPs, and power brokers who made 1893 Chicago about so much more than the fair.

Joseph Gustaitis is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicago. He is the author of many articles in the popular history field. After working as an editor at Collier’s Year Book, he became the humanities editor for Collier’s Encyclopedia. He has also worked in television and won an Emmy Award for writing for ABC-TV’s FYI program.


“The year was a turning point in the city’s fortunes, and readers will find Gustaitis’s recounting enjoyable, whether one is from Chicago or not.”

Publishers Weekly

“Chicago has had many interesting and historically pivotal years that brought about fundamental change in our quality of life, governance, and manner of living. Joseph Gustaitis makes a strong and convincing case for 1893, a year of hope, optimism, and tragedy in a city driven by ideas, innovation and the triumph of a glorious World’s Fair.”

—Richard Lindberg, author of The Gambler King of Clark Street and Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life

“Gustaitis provides an interesting, informative snapshot of Chicago’s architectural, cultural, political and social life at one of the most significant times in its history.”

—J.W. Stamper, University of Notre Dame

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University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks