Should the city of Chicago have to spent so much money on the fair The Devil in the White City?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Devil in the White City is the story of the World's Fair which took place in Chicago in the late 1800s.  The concept of world, of course, is that this event was to be shared by literally everyone, and thus the costs should be paid by literally everyone.  However, it's simply not realistic to expect each country to actually contribute financially to such a venture. Because the location of each World's Fair changes, though, the burden is shared, at least to some degree, by the world. That being said, it is reasonable in a country like America to expect that the country would contribute to an event which displays the best of what America has to offer.  One city should not have to bear the financial burden of the entire country.

On the other hand, it is the city of Chicago which inevitably benefited most from hosting the Fair.  From restaurants to construction workers to hoteliers to transportation sources to...well, you name it...the city took in millions of tourists and no doubt millions of dollars.  They spent the money, but they also accrued the benefit.

The best parallel I can think of is the Olympics.  Cities all over the world bid to have their city chosen as the site of an Olympic celebration.  They weigh their outlays (expenses) and hope to at least break even or possibly turn a profit when all is said and done.  In recent years, it seems, there has not been a huge financial gain; however, the prestige and recognition and pride which come from hosting the world continue to be enough for cities around the world to want to host the Olympic Games. 

Chicago certainly benefited from hosting the World's Fair, despite Holmes's horrific acts.  This city, considered wild and uncouth and untamed and corrupt before the Fair, gained a prestige which marked a turning point in the city's history.  Should they have paid?  Probably so.  Did the city get a fair return on its investment?  It seems to me, after reading this text, the answer is a resounding "yes!"


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