Sunday, May 31, 2015

First Madison Square Garden Opens in Old Building

Phineas T. Barnum's Roman Hippodrome.  Note tent covering the open roof.
When  William Kissam Vanderbilt finally got control of a chunk of grandpa Cornelius Vanderbilt's estate in 1879, he knew just what he wanted to do with one of the assets.  The old Commodore owned the property where a half-derelict hulk of a building sat on prime Manhattan real estate

The large structure had originally been the New York and Harlem Railroad depot, which the Commodore bought and incorporated into what became the New York Central.  In 1871 station operations moved to the shiny new Grand Central DepotPhineus T. Barnum then stepped in and leased the building.  He took the roof off, gutted it, and converted it into an oval arena 270 feet long, with tiers of seats and benches.  It was rechristened first  as the Great Roman Hippodrome then even more grandly  Barnum's Monster Classical and Geological Hippodrome.  The bombastic showman experienced great success staging his famous circus and other spectacular exhibitions including chariot racing there.

In 1876 Barnum gave up his lease to concentrate on his increasingly lucrative touring circus.  Irish born band leader Patrick Gilmore, composer of When Johnny Comes Marching Home and other famous marches, then took over the building re-dubbing it Gilmore's Garden.  When he was not presenting his own concerts there, Gilmore, rented the space to promoters of  flower shows, beauty contests, temperance and revival meetings, walking marathons. and in 1877 the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show then called the NewYork Bench Show.  He also presented boxing matches at a time when prize fights were illegal in the Empire State by passing them off as exhibitions and even as demonstrations accompanying lectures on the manly arts of self-defense.

The promoter of the Dog Show briefly took over the building but kept Gilmore's name on it.  He added genteel tennis matches and installed an ice skating rink for use during the frigid winter months. 

Vanderbilt's renovated and renamed Madison Square Garden.
It was undoubtedly the boxing which attracted the younger Vanderbilt.  He considered himself something of a sporting man and owned a very successful horse racing stable in France.  Later he was a co-owner of the yacht Defender, which won the 1895 America's Cup.   He took over the building and with minor facelift re-opened in on May 31, 1879 as  Madison Square Garden

Vanderbilt booked boxing exhibitions featuring Police Gazzette heroes like Heavyweight Champion John L. Sulivan.  Other sports attractions presented to crowds of up to 10,000 patrons included track and field meets and bicycle racing--maybe the most popular spectator sport in the country--on his specially built banked  velodrome trackThe National Horse Show joined the dog show as an annual attraction and Barnum came back to exhibit his prize elephant Jumbo Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show became a national sensation there during a long run in 1886.  The place also hosted national conventions of the Elks and other organizations. 

The old building established itself as the Big Apple's prime multi-purpose venue for big events.  But it was in deteriorating condition and uncomfortable or unusable much of the year--stiffing hot in the summer and freezing cold and dark during the long winter monthsHarper's Weekly described it as a "patched-up grumy, drafty combustible, old shell."

After 11 years Vanderbilt grew tired of his toy while civic leaders clamored for its replacement, an expensive project he had no interest in underwriting.  Enter a consortium the richest men in the city and country--J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnagie, William Waldorf Astor, and others plus showman Barnum--who bought the building and land, tore it down, and erected an impressive replacement also called Madison Square Garden.

Stanford White met a bad end at the roof top restaurant of Madison Square Garden which he designed,
The second Garden was designed by famed architect Stanford White  and opened in 1890 at the staggering cost of $3 million.  The grand new edifice did have a roof making it the largest indoor arena/exhibition space in the country.  In fact a famed Roof Garden Restaurant became a place to be seen for the city elite and a venue for late night entertainment after the Broadway shows were done for the evening.  White was famously shot and by the husband of his lover, Gibson Girl model and actress Evelyn Nesbit there in 1906.

The second Garden became the annual home for the touring Barnum and Ringling Brothers circuses and eventually their combined show.  It continued to be the venue of choice for top prize fights and in 1902 and '03 the indoor games of the professional World Series of Football.  It also hosted important national events like the 1924 Democratic National Convention which nominated John W. Davis after 103 ballots.

Despite the cultural importance of the building, it was not a financial success and in 1925 the mortgage holder, New York Life Insuranceforeclosed, tore it down. then erected their skyscraper headquarters on the site.

A third Madison Square Garden was built away from Madison Square on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets where trolly barns once stood.  The new structure was owned by Tex Rickard whose New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL)made it home from 1926. 

Basketball was represented in a series of collegiate double headers every week featuring top local and national teams as well as the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) beginning in 1938 and hosted seven NCAA Men's Basketball Championship finals between 1943 and 1950.  The New York Nicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) began their residency in 1949.

Although this incarnation did not host any national political conventions, Franklin Roosevelt used it to stir up support for his first Presidential campaign with a mammoth rally in 1932.  Thirty years later the Garden was packed for a birthday celebration for John F. Kennedy at which Marylin Monroe famously crooned him "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in a slinky silver sequined gown that she had to be sewn into. 

A large portrait of George Washington loomed over a huge German American Bund pro-Nazi rally at the Garden in 1939.
Garden III was available to anyone with the pockets deep enough to pay the rent so was often the site of events for diametrically opposed groups.  The American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee held a Boycott Nazi Germany rally there in 1937 but in 1939 the German American Bund staged an even larger event in support of isolationists trying to keep the U.S. from entering World War II on the side of the British and French.

Billy Graham conducted a 16 week revival Crusade there in 1957.

In the 1960's ownership and management was taken over by the new Madison Square Garden Company under the leadership of impresario Irving Feld of Ringling Bros.  The  company laid plans for yet another incarnation, this time built over Pennsylvania Station between Seventh and Eighth Avenues from 31st to 33rd Streets.  After the new building was opened in 1968, the old Garden III was torn down.  The original plan was to erect a new world's tallest building at the old site but that was squelched by massive neighborhood opposition resulting in strict height limits for new construction in the area.  It remained under-used as a parking lot until 1989 when the Worldwide Plaza opened on the site.

Today's Madison Square Garden IV is round.
The newest Garden increasingly became a venue for big pop concert events in addition to its traditional diet of sports.  These famously included a 1971 rock-and-roll revival concert immortalized by Ricky Nelson's song Garden Party, Elvis Presley, George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh, and the Concert for New York City following the September 11 attacks.  Artists like Elton John, Billy Joel, Parlaiment-Funkadelic,  and U2 have all played there many times with Joel having the record of more than 60 appearances.

The Garden was also the launching pad for the re-introduction of professional wrestling into mainstream pop culture as the venue for the inaugural Wrestlemania presented by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1985 and many subsequent marquee events.

The Democrats held their convention at the Garden in 1976, 1980, and 1992.

Despite a billion dollar renovation in 2011-'13, the Garden lost long time tenants the Ringling Bros. Circus and Disney on Ice  to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The City of New York wants to expand Penn Station underneath the Garden which would require that it be torn down and relocated.  This has been a major issue in the city for years with the MSG company resisting the move.  In 2013 they were granted a ten year extension of their air rights permit after which time they will either have to move or begin a new, and risky, application for another extension.  In all likelihood by the end of the permit the Garden will be forced to relocate two blocks away just south of the James Farley Post Office

Madison Square Garden V is in the cards.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Memorial for Lincoln Dedicated on Decoration Day

The crowd assembles for the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was Decoration Day, as it was still styled back then, the national holiday to commemorate the dead of the Civil War, traditionally observed by decorating graves, parades of Civil War veterans, and stem winding patriotic oration by politicians grand and petty.  It was also a fitting day to dedicate a memorial to the martyred Commander in Chief of that bloody conflict.  On May 30, 1922 the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was officially dedicated.
Clamor for some kind of monument to Abraham Lincoln began weeks after his death.  A group of officers gathered in Philadelphia to re-affirm loyalty to the Union and pledge support should the assassination portend a guerilla war, or what we would call today, terrorist extension of the war.  They also offered their services coordinating public aspects of Lincoln’s funeral.  On May 30 1865 they held their first public meeting at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall under their newly decided upon name, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS).  The group was modeled after the organization Revolutionary War officers, the Order of Cincinnatus. 

Eventually more than 12,000 former Union officers enrolled, including virtually all surviving field grade officers and senior commanders.
From the beginning they made it their purpose to honor the memory of Lincoln.  In cooperation with the Grand Army of the Republic, (GAR), the veteran’s organization open to all ranks and to which most MOLLUS members also belonged, and leading Republican Party organizations, they lobbied Congress for a monument.  In 1867 Congress passed the first of a series of bills that led to the formation of a commission to oversee the design, construction, and fundraising for a monument. 
This is the hideous design for the first proposed Lincoln Monument which fortunately never got off the ground.
America was spared an embarrassing eyesore embodying all of the florid excess of the late 19th Century when public subscriptions lagged for the selected design by Clark Mills which would have featured a 70-foot tall structure adorned with six huge equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues crowned by a 12-foot tall statue of Lincoln. 
The idea languished, but was not forgotten until the approach of the 50 anniversary of the war neared.  MOLLUS and the GAR stepped up their lobbying efforts.  Illinois Senator Shelby Moor Cullom, who had personally known Lincoln since their pre-war days as Springfield lawyers and Republican Party politicians, spearheaded support in Congress.  He submitted his bill for a new commission six times from 1900 to 1910 before it finally passed.  Opposition to a monument to Lincoln was nearly unanimous among Southern and border state legislators who stilled viewed him as the villainous aggressor in what they insisted on calling the War Between the States.  A renewed wave of Lost Cause nostalgia was sweeping the South along with the final eradication of the last vestiges of Reconstruction reforms and the stripping of Blacks from voting roles.  Some Northern Democrats also feared that a Lincoln monument would simply become a rallying point for the Republicans, who had dominated the country since the war.  There were also objections by those who felt that only George Washington should be commemorated in the capital.  The bill was finally passed when the word “monument” was replaced my “memorial.” 
The Lincoln Memorial Commission was formed in 1911 with President William Howard Taft as its president.  Within a year architect Henry Bacon was selected to design the building and a location in Potomac Park, recently created by land fill from marshy ground by the River in a direct line with the Capitol and the Washington Monument.  The location was in keeping with the 1901 McMillan Plan, which laid out a monumental core for the city around the National Mall.  The Potomac Park location was designated for a major future monument to anchor that end of the Mall. 
The Memorials mammoth Seated Lincoln.
Bacon’s plan for a mammoth Greek Doric Temple featuring a statue of a seated Lincoln came in for some criticism as being too ostentatious for the humble Lincoln.  A counter proposal was made for a model log cabin to emphasize his man-of-the-people roots.  Other people objected to the location.  None the less, in 1913 Congress signed off on the project and authorized $300,000 to get it underway, the balance to be raised by subscription. 
Construction on the marble temple soon got underway and continued at a steady pace, even through the First World War and the administration of a somewhat unsympathetic southern born Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson.  The temple was built on a concrete foundation, 44 to 66 feet in depth to support its massive weight on the spongy former marsh.  The temple itself is 189.7 by 118.5 feet and is 99 feet tall with 36 columns representing the 36 states—including the secessionist ones—at the time of Lincoln’s death. 
In 1920 as construction neared completion it was realized that the original statue of the seated Lincoln by Daniel Chester French would be dwarfed by the cavernous interior and it had to be nearly doubled in size to 19 feet tall.  Finishing touches included inscribing Lincoln’s most famous words on the walls and Jules Guerin was commissioned for two interior allegorical murals. 
Chief Justice and Memorial Commission President William Howard Taft, President Warren G. Harding, and Robert Todd Lincoln at the dedication.
Everything came together for the 1922 dedication.  MOLLUS was designated by the Commission to plan and execute the program.  Taft, by then Chief Justice of the United States was the principle speaker and formally presented the Memorial to President Warren G. Harding on behalf of the Commission.  Also on hand and speaking to the assembled crowd of several thousand was Lincoln’s only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, a former Secretary of State. 
The Memorial is now a revered shrine and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.  It had been the site of historic events including Marion Anderson’s famous 1939 outdoor concert and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech to the 1963 March on Washington.  At the height of the turmoil following the Kent State Shootings Richard Nixon paid an unannounced late night visit to the Memorial and engaged if a dialogue about the Vietnam War with surprised visiting students. 
The Memorial has been used in many films, most memorably as an inspiration for James Stewart’s young senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
It is administered by the National Park Service, but every year on Lincoln’s Birthday the members of MOLLUS, now made up of the descendents of Civil War officers, dutifully conduct a memorial service there.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Better Late to the Party than Never, Rhode Island

A political cartoon decrying Rhode Island's failure to ratify the Constitution.

Always contrarian Rhode Island had stamped its tiny foot and threatened to hold its breath until it turned blue.  No, they would absolutely not ratify the tyrannical document known as the Constitution of the United States. 
Sure, the moneyed interests in big states were for it—Virginia. New York, Pennsylvania. And not-quite-so-big Massachusetts and Connecticut had voted for ratificationbut that was all the more reason to be suspicious.  The big bullies were likely to swamp the sovereignty of the pipsqueak.  And Massachusetts had been literally threatening the existence of the Colony since Baptist Roger Williams and his followers escaped the clutches of Puritans and set up a refuge of religious toleration.  Connecticut on the other side was now even more firmly in the hands of the highly orthodox Black Legion of Congregational ministers deeply suspicious of loose religious practices next door which included a thriving Jewish congregation, Quakers, and even—horror of horrors—Catholics.
Rhode Island, heavily dependent economically on its ports and merchants, had been such a hot bed of opposition to heavy handed British taxation and trade restriction policies that a mob of locals had done the faux Indians at the Boston Tea Party one better and burned the grounded revenue schooner Gaspee to the water line back in 1772.  And it became the first colony, a mouse roaring at a lion, to sever its ties to the mother land, declaring its independence on May 4, 1776, two months before the Continental Congress got around to it.  Its delegates at the Congress, Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery naturally cast Rhode Island’s single vote for Independence.
The Black 1st Rhode Island Regiment of Militia helped General John Sullivan recapture Newport during the American Revolution.
During the war the British easily occupied Newport, which became a major base Royal Navy Base.  Yet the tiny colony still managed to provide one of the most important and reliable Regiments of the Line for George Washington’s often beleaguered Continental Army.  When the French entered the war as allies, American troops under General John Sullivan, including the all Black 1st Rhode Island Regiment of state militia, in somewhat uneasy cooperation with French forces under Admiral the Comte d'Estaing dislodged the British.
Ruined Newport became the principle base of operations for the French and General Washington took up residence there planning to go on the offensive when their combined forces could be brought to bear in unison.  It was from there that the General launched his long march to Yorktown to trap Lord Cornwallis’s army on a peninsula bottled up by the French fleet.  You probably recall how that worked out.
But having played a critical role in the Revolution, Rhode Island’s post war economy was more devastated than most of the other colonies.  Its merchant traders had trouble re-establishing old trade routes as the British cut off lucrative trade with the sugar and spice islands of the Caribbean.  Instead they used their ships to turn increasingly to the Slave Trade and within a few years Rhode Island dominated between 60 to as much as 90% of that trade, tying its economy to the slave holding South.
When the Articles of Confederation failed to provide enough centralized government to retire war debt and facilitate trade, Rhode Island suspicious of the undertaking, never even sent delegates to what became the Constitutional Convention.
In the years following the adoption of the Constitution by the convention in 1787 there was a vigorous national debate aimed at encouraging the former colonies to ratify the Constitution and officially join the new Federal Union.  The eloquent and elegant arguments of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay were countered by dire warnings of tyranny and the re-imposition of monarchy by wily political leaders like Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and New York Governor George Clinton who styled themselves Anti-Federalists.  Rhode Island was firmly in the Anti-Federalist camp.
Old Kings County Court House –now a public library in Kingston—where the ratification was defeated by a special Convention in March 1790. Constitution was last voted against by Rhode Island in 1790

To assuage those fears, ten new Amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights were added to the original document.  Rhode Island, however, was still suspicious.
Rhode Island voters—property owning white men—rejected ratification in a popular referendum on March 27, 1778 by the lopsided margin of 237 to 2,708 after neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut had affirmed it.
One by one all of the other 12 former colonies fell into line isolating and surrounding the littlest state, which seemed determined to hold on to its own independence. 
It is said that no state was forced to ratify the Constitution, but that might be a stretch in the case of Rhode Island.  With her ports becoming havens for smugglers, gunboats began cruising menacingly off shore.  Annual muster days of Massachusetts were marked by drill that hinted that a march against its neighbor might be in the offing. 
George Washington had already been elected first President of the United States under the Constitution, and had taken the oath of office in New York City where Congress was also meeting.  A new national government had become a reality.
On May 29, 1790 after a bruising debate in the legislature, members finally ratified the Constitution by the narrowest of margins—34 for to 32 against.
Rhode Island became the last of the Original 13 to join the union.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cabaret Church--A Gala Reimaging for a New Era and New Generation

The very future of church as it has long been practiced is a hot topic in religious circles these days.  Church membership, attendance, and identification are all in steep decline across denominations.  More people than ever are not identifying themselves with any faith in national surveys and younger people seem most alienated from traditional faith life.
The Rev. Sean Parker Dennison of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, Illinois has been one of the many searching for new ways to make religion and church meaningful to those who are not connected to traditional worship.  Last year he had a vision, he called it the Cabaret Church.  This Sunday on the grounds of the congregation at 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry that vision is becoming a reality.   People from across Northern Illinois and even farther will be gathering for a 21st Century revival without the hellfire and damnation.

Cabaret Church will be celebrated from noon to dusk on Sunday, May 31.  It will celebrate three aspects of a new and vital church—art, compassion, and resistance.  The arts are an expression of spirituality made concrete and thus the day will feature performers in many styles and genres.  Compassion is the heart of religion which calls on the recognition of the common humanity of all.  Resistance is enacting compassion to make the world a healthier and fairer place against all the social conventions that seek to separate people and set them against each other.
Rev. Sean Parker Dennison of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry.

Last year Rev. Dennison was inspired by the cutting edge performer and cultural icon Amanda Palmer. “Truth be told,” he wrote “I love all of it: the uninhibited self-expression; the nakedness of body, mind, and soul; the unabashed insistence that the power of art can change us and therefore change the world. ‘We are the Media!’ Amanda Palmer sings.  I want to add: ‘And we are the Church!’ Or maybe: ‘We are the Sacred! We are the Holy! We are Everything That Matters and everything beautiful and ordinary and amazing…”
He was also inspired by Palmer’s famous and fabulously successful Kickstarter appeal directly to her loyal fan base to finance her next album outside of the regular music industry loop.  Maybe, Dennison thought, a similar approach could be made to raise the funds necessary to put on a living laboratory of the Cabaret Church.  It worked.  Money was raised by individual pledges from excited individuals around the country and matched by a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program.

The arts will be at the heart of the celebration.  Among the noted performers participating are nationally known folk rock recording artist Namoli Brenett; spoken word artist Christopher D. Sims a/k/a UniverSouLove; singer songwriter Lindsay Katt; the performance art group Environmental Encroachment, a not-your-grandfather’s marching band;  Rune the Lion, one of the Chicago area’s most exciting and original pop rock bands; the youthful hip hop artist and rapper Zigga;  and singer, composer, and activist Jim Scott’s jazz and world music inspired sound.  In addition on the grounds and in the church building will be hands-on art activities all day long for adults and for children.
Namoli Brenett
A number of ministers including Dennison, Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, Rev. Meg Riley of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and Rev. Chip Roush of the First Unitarian Church of South Bend will participate through the day with what might be called un-sermons, short ten minute chats modeled on Ted Talks.  Their non-sectarian topics will challenge people to integrate the spiritual into their daily lives and live out a personally developed faith in the real world.
Local vendors will have healthy vegetarian and some vegan food options including pita pizzas, falafel, sandwiches, cookies, and other items for sale. Water will be available and soft drinks for sale. Cabaret Church is a substance-free event and no alcohol will be permitted.


The entire event is free and open to the public.  Families and children are particularly welcome.
There will be parking in the church lot and overflow parking in two nearby lots.  Volunteers will help visitors find spaces.
For more information contact Tree of Life Congregation at 815 322-2464 or visit the Cabaret Church website at .







The Century of Progress Thrilled, Employed Chicago

Compared to the famous World’s Columbian Exposition—The White City in 1893 or the New York World’s Fair of 1938, Chicago’s Century of Progress is not well remembered outside of its home town.  But the city thought so much of it that they made it the fourth and final red star on the city flag, the others representing the Ft. Dearborn Massacre, the Great Chicago Fire, and the afore mentioned 1893 shindig.

The fair opened on May 27, 1933, the depths of the Depression.  It had been a long time coming.

The idea germinated among civic boosters in the mid 1920’s eager to find a way to showcase the city in a way that would erase it already established image as a gangster riddled, corrupt city wracked by recurring labor violence.  Harkening to the success of the Columbian Exposition, still vivid in civic memory, they decided to stage another big fair and invite the world.

In 1927 Rufus C. Dawes, an oil magnate, was elected Chairman of an organizing committee and he brought his brother, Charles H. Dawes, the sitting Vice President of the United States, on as chief finance officer and fundraiser.  With their clout, they rounded up big donations from the city’s business elite.  They pressed forward even after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  Led by Sears and Roebucks President Julius Rosenwald $12 million dollars in gold notes was raised to seed construction of the fair.  Additional money was raised by selling shares to the public that included passes to the fair when it opened.  Major corporations built pavilions or participated in other exhibitions.  And, of course, admission tickets brought in revenue once the fair was opened. 

Beyond infrastructure and making land fill along Lake Michigan south of the Loop, relatively little public money went into the fair.  But the lakefront site was worth a fortune stretching south from the Museum of Science and Industry and including Northerly Island, separating the grounds by a lagoonMcCormick Place now stands on the lake shore portion of the grounds and for years after the fair Meigs Field occupied Northerly Island until it was plowed under by Mayor Richard M. Daley and converted to a park.

Construction for the Fair was put in the hands of operations manager Lenox R. Lohr, a former military engineer and destined to become President of NBC.

Originally the theme of the Fair was to be a celebration of Chicago history since the city’s incorporation in 1833, hence the name Century of Progress.  But as it grew nearer Dawes agreed to turn the fair into an exposition of science and industrial development.  At the urging of scientists Dawes also agreed to erect a Hall of Science as one of the signature exhibits at the fair.  But the science being celebrated was not head-in-the-clouds basic research.  It was science in service to industry.  The Hall of Science motto said it all, Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.
The Burlington Zephyr on display contrasted to a 19th Century steam locomotive and cars.
More than two dozen major corporations jumped on the bandwagon with pavilions of their own including General Motors with its working assembly line, Chrysler, Firestone, Havoline Motor Oil—a 21 story sky scraper adorned by a giant working thermometer—and Sears and Roebucks among others. The Travel and Transport Building featured a railroad exhibition that included the stainless steel clad streamline train the Burlington Zephyr, a big hit with the public.  There were several model homes including a House of the Future that predicted the automatic dishwashers and air conditioning would become standard in American homes.
A committee of leading architects and designers was selected to plan and execute the various exhibit and entertainment areas.  In keeping with the theme of scientific advancement, architectural styles were modern, streamlined and influence by the Art Deco movement.  Instead of the gleaming white of the Columbian Exposition, buildings embraced a bold color palette.  Innovation in styles, construction, and materials was encouraged.

The Century of Progress grounds with the Lagoon separating the Lake Shore land fill and Northerly Island spanned by the towering Sky Ride.

Unemployment was rampant and the Depression in full swing when construction on the mammoth project got underway employing thousands.  When the fair opened thousands more got work on site or in the burgeoning tourist boom it brought to the city.  The work was welcome, but union labor was excluded where ever possible and wages kept low.
The corporate dominated exposition was a symphony to a brighter consumer futurePresident Franklin D. Roosevelt was impressed enough by the fair’s power to stimulate spending on consumer durable goods, and complement the Federal government’s efforts to jump-start the economy, that he urged Fair organizers, dominated by Republicans openly hostile to the New Deal, to reopen the fair for a second season in 1934.  Largely in order recoup the large private investment in the fair, organizers were glad to do so.
Corporate domination, of course, filtered much of what the Fair presented.  Unlike the Columbian Exposition, which included many liberals and progressives among its organizers, the Century of Progress ignored minorities, women, and the contributions of labor.  There was not a Women’s Progress Pavilion as in 1893.  Women were excluded from planning functions and participation.  They were depicted mostly as idealized homemakers eager for the labor saving gadgets of the future or as entertainers.  
Blacks fared even worse.  Virtually their only presence was in a Darkest Africa exhibit where some were displayed as ignorant savages.  They were excluded from almost all Fair jobs except for the most menial cleaning work.  And to top it off, many of the exhibitors, food vendors, and entertainment venues openly refused them admission.  It took a concerted effort by Chicago Black legislators who threatened to bolt and join anti-Chicago downstate representatives in blocking the necessary re-issuance of a state charter to reopen in 1934, to include a ban on racial discrimination on the fairgrounds in the legislation
The Graff Zeppelin over the fairgrounds.
One high profile visitor to the fair never set foot on the grounds but stirred controversy.  The German dirigible Graf Zeppelin, newly festooned with the Swastika symbol of the Nazi regime that had come to power a year earlier, circled overhead one day drawing huge crowds.  But the powerful local German community was deeply split over the new government and erupted into a war of words and recrimination in competing left and right wing publications.
Despite these problems, visitors swarmed to the exposition. In its two years, the fair attracted 48,769,227 visitors including 39,052,236 paid admissions. In addition to the spectacular commercial exhibits, they were drawn by the signature Skyride, with rocket cars carrying visitors 219 feet above the fairgrounds, the answer to 1893’s Ferris Wheel.  There were also the Enchanted Isle for children, the Odditorium freak show, and ethnic villages with food from around the world.  Several venues provided entertainment. The first Major League Baseball All Star Game was held in conjunction with the Fair in Soldier Field.
Sally Rand may have been the most talked about attraction
But the most successful of all was the Streets of Paris which offered Sally Rand and her proactive Fan Dance.  The exotic dancer became as much a symbol of the fair as Little Egypt was at the Columbian Exposition.
When the fair finally closed on October 31, 1934, it had actually turned a small profit—something virtually no other international exposition or world’s fair has ever done.
Despite complaints about traffic and noise, Chicago was sorry to see the Century of Progress go.  Thousands were back among the unemployed at a time when jobs were scarce.  Hotels, restaurants, shops, and transportation companies felt the pinch of lost revenue.  And a sparkle of gaudy gaiety in bleak times was gone.