Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson

If one is interested in a history of Chicago this is a great read.  Its strong narrative details the construction of the World Exhibition commemorating Columbus' discovery of America in the late 19th century.  As the narrative reveals the machinations of building the expo, one reads of the heinous deeds of a serial killer sociopath who easily dispatches his victims and converts them to cadavers and articulated skeletons profiting from them by conveying them to medical schools.

One is introduced to the leading citizens of the city: Montgomery Ward, Marshall Fields and Bertha and Potter Palmer.  Daniel Burnham is the lead architect and Frederick Olmstead is the lead landscaper, the one who did New York's Central Park.

George Ferris constructs the first successful Ferris Wheel and the bicycle becomes an everyday vehicle with equally sized wheels compared to the original design of an over sized front wheel.  Westinghouse gains the lighting contract over General Electric and converts the light bulbs to alternating current.

The reader is introduced to the famous Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show.  As a matter of fact, Cody, a consummate showman, denied a concession for fear of attracting the wrong type of crowd does very well. By procuring a nearby sight, Cody along with Anny Oakley and hundreds of Native Americans do not have to share profits and as a result, Cody becomes very wealthy without being a part of the World's Fair.  The organizers of the fair underestimate the attraction of the old wild west frontier, now an extinct way of life.

As one reads about the civic rivalry between New York and Chicago, one gets a glimpse of the most twisted monster of a man.  He easily gains the confidence of young women and lures them to his castle only to snuff out their lives and their children for no real reason except a thirst for killing and a desire for added profit.

Mr. Larson delivers a well constructed book of story telling and history in this nonfiction record of the 1895 Columbian World's Fair at Chicago IL.

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