Century of Progress

1933-1934 Chicago
Chicago world's fair, a century of progress, expo poster, 1933, 2.jpg
A 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair poster. It was later decided to continue the fair into 1934. This poster features the United States federal building and Hall of States.
BIE-classUniversal exposition
CategoryHistorical Expo
NameA Century of Progress Exposition
MottoScience Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts
Area172 hectares (430 acres)
CountryUnited States
VenueLakefront, Northerly Island
Coordinates41°51′38″N 87°36′41″W / 41°51′38″N 87°36′41″W / 41.86056; -87.61139
OpeningMay 27, 1933 (1933-05-27)
ClosureOctober 31, 1934 (1934-10-31)
Universal expositions
PreviousIbero-American Exposition of 1929 in Sevilla and1929 Barcelona International Exposition in Barcelona
NextBrussels International Exposition (1935) in Brussels

A Century of Progress International Exposition was a World's Fair registered under the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), which was held in Chicago, as The Chicago World's Fair, from 1933 to 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. The fair's motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts", giving out a message that science and American life were wedded.[1] Its architectural symbol was the Sky Ride, a transporter bridge perpendicular to the shore on which one could ride from one side of the fair to the other.

One description of the fair noted that the world, "then still mired in the malaise of the Great Depression, could glimpse a happier not-too-distant future, all driven by innovation in science and technology." Fair visitors saw the latest wonders in rail travel, automobiles, architecture and cigarette-smoking robots.[2] The exhibition "emphasized technology and progress, a utopia, or perfect world, founded on democracy and manufacturing."[3]


Ticket for the opening day ceremonies at Soldier Field

A Century of Progress was organized as an Illinois nonprofit corporation in January 1928 for the purpose of planning and hosting a World's Fair in Chicago in 1934. City officials designated three and a half miles of newly reclaimed land along the shore of Lake Michigan between 12th and 39th streets on the Near South Side for the fairgrounds.[4] Held on a 427 acres (1.73 km2) portion of Burnham Park, the $37,500,000 exposition was formally opened on May 27, 1933, by US Postmaster General James Farley at a four hour ceremony at Soldier Field.[5][6] The fair's opening night began with a nod to the heavens. Lights were automatically activated when the rays of the star Arcturus were detected. The star was chosen as its light had started its journey at about the time of the previous Chicago world's fair—the World's Columbian Exposition—in 1893.[7] The rays were focused on photoelectric cells in a series of astronomical observatories and then transformed into electrical energy which was transmitted to Chicago.[8]