Welcome to the Fair: The Midway Plaisance

Ethnic Exhibitions
White City Civilization
The Midway Primitives
Citations and Contact

The Western entrance to the Midway Plaisance - One of the major attractions, the Captive Balloon allowed fifteen “visitors who have aerenautic [sic] tastes” at a time to “make a voyage skyward, ascending fifteen hundred feet – five hundred higher than the celebrated Eiffel Tower" (Pierce 273).


Starks W. Lewis, 1893

Several ethnic exhibits can be seen from this view of the Midways Plaisant: the Austrian Village, West African Dahomey Village, Scandanavian Lapland Village, and Hungarian Concert Garden are on the left, from foreground back. The Moroccan exhibits, Chinese village and theater, ostrich farm, American Indian village and East Indian village can be seen on the right.

This bird's eye view was taken from the famous ferris wheel (hover mouse over above image to see)- invented by George W. Ferris for the fair.


"Along the Plaisance" and "Midway Character Types" (rollover) color plates by Charles S. Graham from The World's Fair in Water Colors, 1893

Many portraits of this style were taken of the exhibits' residents.

The Chinese Theater

Japanese women on the Midway (C.D. Arnold). Rollover is a Japanese ho-o-den at the Fair.

  The Bedouin Chief and Family who "found a haven in Midway Plaisance toward the end of the summer,"and named their child "Chicago Columbus." Supposedly, "[t]his picture is most instructive, recalling to readers of the Bible the costumes of the Holy Land, which have changed little in centuries. The painters who should thus apparel the Blessed Virgin and the Child would, without doubt, reach a high degree of historical accuracy."

“'Papa Ganon,’ a celebrity of Midway Plaisance...brought to Chicago...the tallest and most remarkable men that were shown on the Street of Nations. They arrived in Chicago on the 25th of April, 1893, and the party of forty-five, marching, with their native music, from the Dearborn Station to the Illinois Central Suburban Station, and again into Midway Plaisance, made a stirring scene. The Aissoire at the left was six feet four inches high, and could eat fire, run skewers through his cheeks and tongue, and cast spells on the colored waiters of Chicago in a way that caused a profound sensation.”

The "physically superior" Samoans

 The "homesick" Javanese "gained the good-will of the millions who saw them."

"Exotic" dances were introduced on the streets of the Midway.
Interior of the East Indian Building, with "lithe and well-bred...Hindoos"

Inside the Lapland Village
Spearmen performed "sham battles" for public entertainment.


Next: Citations and Contact
or see Images of the White City


Images Selected from Goodyear Archival Collection at The Brooklyn Museum, Images with caption quotes selected from
A Portfolio of Photographic Views of the World's Columbian Exposition (St. Louis, MO. : N. D. Thompson Co., 1893-1894.)