United States History and Public History
My dissertation research focuses on the 1933-34 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition—a world’s fair held at the height of the Great Depression. I am looking at historic documents and other sources to better understand how Depression-era Americans used visions of the past to help understand their present world. Millions of Americans visited the Century of Progress Exposition, and it was widely considered important for revitalizing the local economy as well as encouraging optimism for a better future. This research will contribute to the field of history by helping us better understand how Americans have relied on their understandings of the past to sustain them during times of crisis. Understanding how Americans saw the past can help explain how Americans perceived themselves. Depictions of the past at the world’s fair were imbued with values and anxieties about the present. Each of the Century of Progress exhibits with a historic theme reveal different aspects of Depression-era American culture. Historic newspaper databases have become a vital part of my dissertation research due to the comprehensive coverage of the Century of Progress Exposition as a local event, as well as the availability of digitized newspapers, especially during the ongoing pandemic, where access to other archival sources has been severely limited. My research mentee would work with me to explore local historical events through the Chicago Tribune and the African-American paper, the Chicago Defender. Fortunately, the Loyola University Libraries have access to digitized versions of these papers, meaning my mentee could work remotely. We will be focusing on how these newspapers recounted stories about the presence of international governments at the world’s fair and the various themed concessions known as the “foreign villages.”
My mentee will learn how to look for historic information and how to analyze patterns in reporting: skills useful for anyone in the humanities, as well as all responsible consumers of information. I would like my mentee to comb all newspaper articles from 1933-34 that mention the “foreign villages” section of the fair, as well as do some research into the visiting governments and dignitaries.