The Unconscious Influence of Electric Gondolas on American Civilization

James Antle, Fordham University


The picturesque landscape of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition influenced the plans of Chicago in the years that followed. The agency of scenery to inform a city was its illusion of unity beyond discreetly visible objects, which was also the expression of the landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted. Certainly there were other people and messages too. Intelligible communications rely on many shared meanings composed in a single expression. In the years since the Fair many relational meanings have changed, including those between America and nature, nature and technology, and each with art, science, and the study of cities. Only one expression is looked at in this thesis: the electric gondolas on the lagoons around the Wooded Island. Two assumptions are made about this expression: 1. it was successful; and 2. it can be attributed to an author. These assumptions are based upon records of praises about the landscape, and a statement by the Fair’s Director of Works giving credit to the Landscape Director, Olmsted. If these assumptions are tenable, then it may be possible to consider two forms of one expression as one and the same expression: the historical, material form of boats expressed in picturesque scenery, and an ideological form of social unity expressed in writing. This thesis calls that one expression: “the unconscious influence of electric gondolas on American civilization.” All other expressions of the Fair are not considered within.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Art history|Landscape architecture

Recommended Citation

Antle, James, "The Unconscious Influence of Electric Gondolas on American Civilization" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10281187.