Moody and the Chicago World’s Fair
September 14, 2010
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
History and Heritage of Fundamentalism
The following is excerpted from The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and Fundamental Baptists, -

Moody was unceasing in his evangelistic zeal. When the Chicago World’s Fair was held in 1893, Moody saw an opportunity. It was called the World’s Columbian Exposition because it was held on the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first expedition to the Americas. The world was coming to Moody’s door, and he would be ready. “Many Chicago believers argued for a boycott because the World’s Fair was open on Sundays and the Parliament of Religions at the Fair would showcase the world’s various religions. Moody, instead, saw an opportunity for evangelism” (Vincent, The MBI Story).

Earlier in 1893, in London, Moody had been told by a doctor that his heart was weakening and that he would have to ease up on his work. He had determined to do this, but on the voyage back to the States on the
Spree, he had an experience that changed his mind. It happened after the announcement was made that the ship was sinking. He described it like this:

“No one on earth knows what I passed through at the thought that probably my work was finished, and that I would never again have the privilege of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and on that first dark night after the accident, I made a vow that if God would let me live and bring me back to America, I would go back to Chicago, and at this World’s Fair, preach the Gospel with all the power He would give me. And God has made it possible for me to keep that vow during the past five months. It seems as if I went to the very gates of Heaven during that two days on the sinking ship, and God permitted me to come back and preach His Son a little longer.”

“After landing on these shores he went to his Northfield home, and having brought the students of Mt. Hermon and Northfield together at six o'clock in the morning, he said to them, ‘If you have any regard for me, if you love me, pray for me that God may anoint me for the work in Chicago; I want to be filled with the Spirit that I may preach the Gospel as I never preached it before; we want to see the salvation of God as we have never seen it before’” (J. Wilbur Chapman, The Life and Work of Dwight Lyman Moody).

The exposition, which was on the shore of Lake Michigan, covered 690 acres that was reclaimed from a swamp. Two hundred ornate new buildings were constructed; a huge reflecting pool was built, plus canals and lagoons. One building alone covered 40 acres, the largest enclosed space ever constructed. More than 27 million people attended from 46 countries during the six months the fair operated. It featured the first moving walkway (3,500 feet long), the first Ferris Wheel (264-feet tall), the first picture postcards, and the first performance of the Pledge of Allegiance. Buffalo Bill Cody set up his Wild West Show just outside the exposition. The attendees were introduced to Juicy Fruit Gum, Cream of Wheat cereal, Hershey chocolate, Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Vienna sausage, hamburgers, carbonated drinks, and Cracker Jacks. Norway sent a replica of a Viking ship, and Spain sent full-scale replicas of Columbus’s ships, Pinta, Nĩna, and Santa Maria. The fair was attended by many famous people, including Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell. A young Harry Houdini performed there.

A major theme was technology. Among the 65,000 items on display were Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope, the world’s largest telescope, an early motion picture device, the zipper, spray painting, telautograph (primitive fax machine), vacuum tubes, the first fully electric kitchen (including electric dishwasher), searchlights, the fluorescent lamp, neon lights, the telephone, the gasoline powered automobile (Daimler Benz Victoria). Above all, the Chicago World’s Fair was a showcase for electricity. It was the most thoroughly electrified, well-lit city built to that time. Nothing like it had ever been seen. There were 100,000 incandescent lamps. Light bulbs outlined every building. Giant searchlights could be seen from 60 miles away. Colored lights lit the hundred-foot plumes of water bursting from the MacMonnies Fountain. The Edison Electrical Tower was 82 feet tall and featured 18,000 lights that gave “condensed bursts of sunlight.” Electricity was supplied by the Westinghouse company. The fair occurred in the midst of a war between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison over which type of system would dominate commercial electricity, Westinghouse’s alternating current (AC) or Edison’s direct current (DC). Both men submitted bids for electrifying the fair, and Westinghouse won.

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