The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

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What historical reference appears on pages 373-4 of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson?

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On these pages of the book, Larson speaks about the fair's effect on the nation's culture, and these pages include several historical references. The author refers to Walt Disney's father, Elias, who helped design the fair, and he states that Disney World may have been a "descendant" of the fair. L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz, also visited the fair with his partner, and Baum's creation of Oz was informed by the fair. In addition, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Prarie style might have been influenced by the Japanese temple at the fair. The fair also prompted other American architects to conceive of cities in new ways and to create urban areas that were not only utilitarian but also beautiful. Finally, the fair led President Harrison to create the national holiday of Columbus Day on October 12. 

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On these pages, Larson is trying to show how the Columbian Exposition had an impact on American society and culture.  Therefore, the main historical references on these pages have to do with popular culture.

The two most important references to popular culture on these pages are to Walt Disney and L. Frank Baum.  Larson argues that both of these men’s careers might have been influenced by the fair.  Disney, of course, produced Mickey Mouse and other cartoons and eventually the Disney empire we know today.  Baum was the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which has become famous, mostly through the movie that was based on it.  There are also references to how Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by the fair, though Wright is not as much of a popular culture figure.

The references on these pages, then, are to the various impacts that Larson believes the Exposition had on American cultural history.

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