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Travel and Transportation Building, Chicago World's Fair

Primarily, the illustrative qualities and colors along with the contrasting building shapes are dominant features here. 

A unifying feature about these postcards is their central horizon line. This guides the gaze to the middle of the postcard's features. The spires, wires, and polygonal architectural features of the buildings' shapes illustrate technology of a powerful future. Exposed wires and beams were once the symbols of "works in progress," but the choice to highlight these finished elements in this postcard further exemplifies the future as a place where wonders are both visible and invisible. The thin cables working as building supports seems oxymoronic--how can steel so thin uphold such a heavy structure? Here, common knowledge of physics is even called in to question as the building compound sprawls across the card. Additionally, the marked absence of human life suggest activity inside the buildings, reinforcing the cultural shift toward mechanical production rather than agrarian.  

Electrical Building, Chicago World's Fair

A sailboat crosss the Electrical Building on Lake Michigan. 

Mirrored by water and sky, the Electrical Building presents a unified "face" toward earthly elements. Unlike structures that reinforce an organic feeling, the tall cylinders and multifaceted rectangular fronts reflect industry and productivity. The sprawl of the compound suggests stability. The sailboat is an interesting anomaly here: simultaneously, it suggests the presence of humans, but also recreation. The implied narrative of this postcard associates electrical power with images of wealth (the sailboat) and leisure.

Below, a poster for the World's Fair shows a geometric illustration of "Progress." The color palette veers away from flesh and earth tones. The sky is a deep red, and silhouettes of visitors on the steps are in solid colors. The geometry doubly reflects anonymity (for the people) and access (for the gaze of the viewer). 


Here, a stitched panorama of Chicago's skyline illustrates the "real life" Chicago against the postcards' and poster's graphic depictions. Note the structures stretching from the shore on to the water itself. Unlikes the graphics, which feature a single building in isolation, the panorama reflects the sheer mass of construction as well as its consequential chaos. Here, the image appears "peopled" because see just how close the structures are, anticipating visitors and foot traffic. 


1933's World Fair was called "The Century of Progress," and all its exhibits focused forward on the future, especially by way of promoting the sciences. The primary rhetoric we see in this postcard exhibit is its depiction of "future and progress" by its focus on angular architecture, depiction of science, and noticeable absence of people.

In the midst of an economic depression, the World's Fair in Chicago became an opportunity for Americans to look forward and turn to progress in a time of financial struggle. The World's Fair featured exhibits by companies such as Firestone and Kraft. However, the enormous Hall of Science featured exhibits on the sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, and earth sciences. 

As evidenced by the illustrative and highly saturated colors in the postcards, the future was depicted as bright, clean, and angular. This connotes an ideology of progress with hygiene and efficiency, and most importantly, scale. The sheer size of the buildings may humanize them in the sense that we can project a body or shape to the overall building, but the angle of the depiction rarely focuses on fronts, windows, or entrances--points of human access. Instead, the gaze falls on the entirety of the building structure, or the building as distinct from its natural surroundings.

The myth of the future is an especially powerful trope: visitors to the fair engage in "real-life" simulations of a future far away from the limitations of the everyday struggle most Americans faced to some degree during the Great Depression . This creates a liminal window for the fair, and its depictions. While visitors engage images and prototypes of a planned future at the fair, they are reminded of the current state of the country around them. The contrast between future and present creates a chasm for the visitor and postcard viewer. Perhaps the viewer experiences anxiety or elation, and  perhaps the myth of shared progress momentarily nulls a present worry of shared depression.