We’ve all seen pictures and movies of the 1933-34 Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago. From WTTW to the Museum of Science and Industry to the Randolph Street Market, images of the Rainbow City are not hard to find. But what has been exceedingly hard to find until now is color film of the event.
A Los Angeles company called Periscope Films has put an 11-minute video on YouTube (above) showing the World’s Fair in a way we’ve never seen before. Film was still a new medium in 1933, and color even more rare, so you’ll forgive the cameraman for having all the dexterity of a 1990’s music video.
What he captures is the fair in startlingly vivid color, and without the sort of modern-day editorial clipping we get from the local television stations. He shows indian chiefs in full headdress, the exhibit of newborn babies in incubators (then a remarkable new technology), The Midget Village and even The Plantation Show— all guaranteed to fill the midway with protestors if they were to appear today.
Even if you’ve seen the Century of Progress before, the video is worth watching. In color, you notice different things. For example, while the world around them was filled with orange, red, blue, and green, virtually everyone is dressed in black and white. Go figure.