1. Begin the lesson with some background on World’s Fairs. The first two websites (below) will be of some help, as will the books listed below. Include in the discussion the fact that many things that are commonplace today made their first appearances at World’s Fairs. Interesting examples (if not perhaps the most important ones!) are ice cream cones and iced tea.
2. Divide the class in half, and direct each half to study either the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 (Chicago World’s Fair), at which iced tea was introduced, or the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition of 1904 (St. Louis World’s Fair), at which ice cream cones were introduced. Using print and web resources below, students can divide up the research in any way they wish, but the following categories need to be attended to:
- Site of the Fair
- Important people responsible for the Fair
- Major buildings at the Fair
- New inventions at the Fair
- New products at the Fair
- New foods at the Fair
- Notable attractions at the Fair
- Famous “Firsts” at the Fair
3. When the research has been completed, students can demonstrate their findings in any of several ways: PowerPoint presentations, oral reports, essays, “newspaper” accounts, scrapbooks, models, or any other agreed-upon way.
4. After students share their findings, a whole class discussion should be conducted on the relative merits of the 1893 and 1904 Fairs. Students should put forward arguments for each one, and a vote should be taken.
Allwood, John. The Great Exhibitions. New York: Studio Vista, 1978.
Badger, Reid. The Great American Fair: The World's Columbia Exposition and American Culture. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1979.
Findling, John E. Chicago's Great World's Fairs. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1994.
Harrison, Helen. Dawn of a New Day: The New York World's Fair, 1939/40. New York: New York University Press, 1980.
History of World’s Fairs
The Columbian Exhibition of 1893 (Chicago World’s Fair)
The Louisiana Purchase Exhibition of 1904 (St. Louis World’s Fair)
History of Tea
History of Iced Tea
History of Ice Cream
History of the Ice Cream Cone
This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.