William Henry Jackson’s Classic Photos of The White City

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620. [JACKSON, William Henry (photographer)]. CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR. Die Weisse Stadt. Chicago & Denver: The White City Art Company, [1894]. [18] pp., 80 photographic (half tone) plates by Jackson. Oblong folio (35 x 46 cm), original roan covers, gilt lettered on upper cover, bevelled edges. Expertly rebacked retaining original spine, roan somewhat cracked on upper cover and with a bit of overall scuffing, edges slightly chipped. Interior fine. Very rare. OCLC locates only two copies (University of Wisconsin and the University Library, Hannover). No copies at auction in the past thirty-five years. This is a companion volume to the English-language production, The White City, published the same year and with the same images.

     First edition in German (originally issued in 20 parts), limitation not stated, but first page is stamped in red ink “254.” Many of the views are signed in print by Jackson in the image. White City was the Court of Honor area of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and was named that because of the extensive use of white stucco and electrical lighting. The entire fair, which covered 600 acres, and White City itself were designed by some of America’s leading architects and builders and had a profound, far-reaching effect on U.S. city planning and architecture. After the fair most of the buildings were dismantled or moved. Many of them were in fact temporary structures not meant to last and were derided in certain quarters. Only two of the White City buildings are still in their original sites, making Jackson’s photos of the area invaluable records of a significant architectural effort to express American Exceptionalism. The fair was visited by over 25,000,000 people.

     Jackson was commissioned by Fair Director of Works Daniel Burnham to take the photographs in this work. In some ways, Jackson’s photographs were slightly atypical. In most instances he took his images when the fair was closed or otherwise sparsely attended. One does not, therefore, generally get any real sense of how crowded the grounds actually were, although the lack of clutter makes the structures stand out prominently. Two views, however, do in fact show milling hundreds of people. Jackson also took numerous photographs at night, some of which are famous, such as “The White City at Midnight,” the last image in the book. He also used elevation to great advantage to make photographs that produce perspectives that could not been seen from ground level. Finally, he was fascinated by the electrical lighting system, and many of the images emphasize that feature of the fair.

     Jackson (1843-1942) was the greatest photographer of the West of his time and revealed the wonders of the area to the rest of the world for the first time. When he died at nearly 100, he was recognized as one of the oldest survivors of the Civil War. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Sold. Hammer: $150.00; Price Realized: $183.75.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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