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Monday, January 16, 2006

The Columbian Exposition of 1893

Every now and then, something big happens which turns out to be hugely influential, only to fade into obscurity over time. The Columbian Exposition of 1893 was responsible for the creation of, introduction of, or inspiration for all of the following: hamburgers, carbonated soft drinks, the "cafeteria", the ferris wheel, the carnival midway, the theme park, Dvorak's New World Symphony, Scott Joplin's "ragtime", the 20th Century's museums of science and industry, practical AC electrical power, a precursor to flourescent lighting, motion pictures, the coin operated phonograph (aka jukebox), the indoor artificial ice rink, Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, Disneyland (Walt's father was a construction worker on some of the buildings), Aunt Jemima pancakes, Cracker Jack, Cream of Wheat, Quaker Oats, elongated coins, Juicy Fruit chewing gum, the first US commemorative stamp set, the first USPS picture postcards, the first US commemorative coins, and of course Little Egypt. The moving sidewalk would have to wait several years before it was worked consistently.

In addition, the populace of the west got its first glimpse into the culture of Japan, which had been completely closed to the west until just 40 years earlier (the Tokugawa Shogunate had closed Japan to the West for 200 years). Who would have predicted where Japan would be 100 years later? or 50 years later, for that matter. Sadly, the Japanese Phoenix House was burned by "vandals" during WWII. At the exposition, it was pretty clear where Germany was heading: there were an insane number of giant Krupp cannons.

Most important of all... it actually made a profit, although some people didn't think that was a noble cause.
The object of the Fair is now frankly proclaimed to be that of making as much money for its stockholders as possible. Amusement, of cheap and even vulgar sorts, is being substituted for education, because most people prefer being amused to being instructed.
Lots of respectable people didn't like the midway. I wonder what they would have thought about the Internet?

UPDATE in response to no one and nothing in particular:
At a time when it seems like just about everyone is apologizing for the crimes of Western Civilization, I feel like I'm its only true believer. I will not apologize for something that has greatly lengthened the lives of, improved the efficiency in the use of resources by, improved the living standards of, increased the knowledge and education of, increased the productivity of, increased the choices for, increased the justice experienced by all of those who participate in it: If you take every single person born into Western Civilization in the last 100 years (or even anyone captured into it or adopting it voluntarily) and match them up with a equal sized group outside of Western Civilization from any single time period (i.e. no cherry picking), it will be extremely easy to match them so that every single "civilian" has a life preferable to the matching non-"civilian".

Along with that, I believe it's important that we continuously improve the world we live in. Not by arrogantly tearing down what others before us have built, but by adding improvements when we see something that can be added. As someone said, civilizations die by suicide, not by murder.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A Wall Street Journal editorial (registration probably required) looks at a poll within various countries seeking how many people agree with the statement, "the free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world." Who's at the top of the list? China with 74% (the US is at 71%). Even after all that horrible communism (or maybe because of it), the Chinese still strongly believe in free markets. The Wall Street Journal beleives it's because of the Chinese culture.
...for a culture where common New Year's greetings include "I wish you happiness and many riches" and "may you make great profits," should we be surprised? (Most Hong Kong residents spend New Year's politely distributing packets of crisp new cash to their friends and family, ramming the message home.)
Of course then there's Europe where France was around 50% and the others in Europe apparently aren't much different. I'm wondering if we should have let Western Europe fall to communism during the Cold War to give them an appreciation for free markets and freedom in general. Right now they seem to have too much longing for the nanny state and powerful central governments telling them what to do. Oh well. They won't stop Globalism's great march forward based on the principles in Adam Smith's little red book. Capitalists of the World, Unite! :-)

You might find a non-fiction book called "The Devil In The White City" interesting. Not sure if you are aware of it. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375725601/sr=1-1/qid=1138046491/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-8974979-9028859?%5Fencoding=UTF8

Someone had mentioned that book in the reviews on Netflix. I'll probably never read it because I already have too many books on my reading list and the various web sources occupy more and more of my time.
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