World's Fairs/Expositions

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893-- more properly known as The Columbian Exposition, featured on its "Midway Plaisance" many iconic shows, rides, food, and midway games that are still in evidence today.

Showmen, Performers, and entire genres of show history were defined at the earliest World's Fairs. In addition to the first display of "great engines, steel cannons, the typewriter, television, the elevator, even the Statue of Liberty" ("World's Fairs and the End of Progress: An Insider's View", Alfred Heller, 1999) great fairs showcased everything from ethnological exhibits of native peoples, to Lou Dufour's pickled baby shows, from the defining hootchie-cootchie of Little Egypt, to the freaks of Ripley's "Believe-It-Or-Not" Odditoriums.

After the Chicago World's Fair, a few traveling carnival companies began touring the United States, so that by 1902 there were 17 traveling carnivals in the United States. By 1905 there were close to 50, and by 1937 there were over 300 carnivals playing civic celebrations, state and county fairs across the United States.