The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was America's chance to eclipse the 1889 Exposition Universelle held in Paris that had wounded the pride of our nation. With the entire world watching, endless opportunities were available to engage the impossible. One man used the opportunity the World's Fair presented to build a city that could make America proud. Another used it's eminence to help him become one of the most feared serial-killers of the time. These two men, "their fates were linked by a single, magical event" (xi). They represent Chicago as a black and white city; a clash between good and evil. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson captures the story of these two very different men in a profound and interesting way. .
The Exposition held in Paris a few years prior unveiled the Eiffel Tower, possibly the most remarkable landmark of the time. In order to prove itself, America had to create a fair that would at least equal this engineering marvel. The first of the two men was Daniel Burnham, a gifted architect and the Fair's chief builder and organizer. He represents the American idealism that you can achieve the impossible, as was done at the Fair. The "White City" as the exposition became known as "revealed to its early visitors a vision of what a city could and ought to be" (247). The Fair not only secured America's place as a prevailing nation but it gave people hope in a time of economic uncertainty. Many people saw the White City as an escape from their everyday lives that seemed to be filled with darkness.
Herman Mudgett, better known as Dr. H. H. Holmes, is one of the first urban serial killers in America. The Columbian Exposition presented an opportunity for him as well. His claim of being the devil is seen when he uses the Fair to lure his victims. The highlight of his gruesome exploits was his hotel that he used for his unsettling murders.