The Devil in the White City-Part II
“The yards embodied everything Anna had heard about Chicago and its irresistable, even savage drive toward wealth and power” (Larson, 264–265). This thought is taken from the perspective of. Anna Williams, sister of Minnie, Dr. Holmes’s current love interest, visiting Chicago from Texas in Part II of DITWC. It struck me that this one sentence describes the true nature and essense of Burnham and Holmes; a savage drive toward wealth and power. Each man definitely carved out their own path.
Burnham could not resist the temptation to make history as “the” architect the World’s Fair in the prime of the industrial age. I think he wanted to follow more of the European style and the conventional American architects and industry were not used to his ideas. At the sacrifice of his family life, often dealing with colleagues and dignitaries in a mildly “savage” manner to get what he wanted, all for the sake of wealth and power maybe. Larson characterized him as “[B]rilliant and charming, but once fixed on a thing, he was as unyielding as a slab of Joliet limestone” (Larson, 143).
It’s plain to see Dr. Holmes used the allure of Chicago and the World’s Fair to fulfill his personal desires for wealth and power. Using the influx of visitors to the fair and building a hotel nearby was security that his insatiable desire to entrap and kill women-and it was most always young women-would surely be fulfilled. He was wealthy not only because of his profession, but because he could manipulate his way out of any situation; thus far, in the book anyway.
What I also found remarkable was that the due to the ever-increasing crime rates in the city, Burnham hired his own police force just for the fair alone. Although the crime rates were at their highest, these atrocious murders being committed by Dr. Holmes right underneath everyone. How can one person be that clever at keeping so many people fooled?
Along with all of the cultural changes described in so much detail by Larson, were the intricate details of how the Chicago World’s Fair was being constructed. It was fascinating to learn that this was a pivotal time in the industrial revolution. “The fair alone consumed three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago” (Larson, 254). It was interesting that Einstein visited the site so many times and used the World’s Fair as a means to rest mass lighting for the first time.
“These were important engineerin milestones…[and] for many visitors these nightly illuminations were their first encounter with electricity (Larson, 253–254).
The Gilded Age of the late 1800s was defined as a time of great economic and industrial growth, but also a time of major social upheaval. The word “gilded” means: “to coat with gold; to give a bright, pleasing aspect to; to add unnecessary ornamenation” (Dictionary.com).
I definitely think the author touched on all of the aspects of this time in history in his book, from the people to the culture to the beginning of big business and infrastructure in America. It was all there in the City of Chicago, with the World’s Fair as the catalyst.