The subtitle of Larson's book is "Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America." This could be a clue to one of the themes, or messages, that he is trying to communicate in his historical novel. The 1893 Chicago World's Fair - properly known as the World's Columbian Exposition in honor of Christopher Columbus's arrival 400 years earlier - was a turning point in American history. America was built upon determination, and America was an underdog. Despite the odds, the American colonies were the first of the British Empire to successfully revolt, overthrow British rule, and establish a stable government of their own. The Chicago Fair was also an underdog; Americans were determined to show up the French and their World's Fair of 1889. Europeans had been leading the field in these types of world exhibitions - the only one America had tried, in Philadelphia, had been a financial failure. The planning of the Chicago Fair was enormous in scope, so large that no one believed it could be pulled off. However, the genius, dedication, and innovation of the planners made it all possible, and this fair broke the world record for attendance. The innovations of the fair - from Wrigley's gum to the Ferris wheel - would put America on the cultural map. We entered the twentieth century a much larger world presence than we had been, and it was American determination that got us there.