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A Century of Progress Exposition

On May 27, 1933 Postmaster General James A. Farley officially opened the gates to A Century of Progress. When the fair closed October 31, 1934, thirty-nine million visitors had paid to walk through fairgrounds that stretched along the lakeshore from 12th to 39th streets. In the midst of the Great Depression, this fair returned a profit to its organizers and helped to counter an image of Chicago as a gangster-ridden town. Fair organizers raised money from a $10 million bond issue, exhibit rental fees, concession contracts, tickets, and fair memberships, but not through municipal, state, or federal subsidies. The local economy received an important boost from fair jobs as well as from ticket and pavilion sales. At the conclusion of the fair and according to the contract with the South Park Commission, the predecessor to the Chicago Park District, all evidence of the exposition was removed and the space returned to parkland. The Chicago Park District retained a few structures on the site, but these have since been demolished. Balbo's Column, a gift from the Italian government in 1933, is the last relic on the original fair site. Buildings were sold and removed to new locations. The most dramatic example was the relocation of six modern houses by barges to Beverly Shores, Indiana. Most fair structures and equipment were demolished or sold for scrap.