The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, also called the Chicago World’s Fair, celebrated the 400th anniversary of the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World. The fair’s dedication ceremonies were held in October, 1892, though the fairgrounds didn’t open to the public until May 1, 1893 and it closed October 30, 1893.
Visitors wanting to take home a souvenir of their World’s Fair experiences were offered many choices—directories, pictures, programs, ash trays, ceramics, toys, posters, and all sorts of textile goods, from handkerchiefs and aprons to flags and banners. And they are all popular with collectors today.
This printed cloth sample was woven at a fabric mill in Lowell, Mass., in honor of the exposition. It includes an artist’s picture of Columbus’ 1492 landing, as well as pictures of the busts of Columbus and George Washington and the U.S. Capitol Building surrounded by wreaths, stars with the names of the 44 states, and shields honoring the discovery of America and the fair, with the dates 1492 and 1892. Fabric like this was used for decorative bunting or drapery. A sample of this cloth sold at a 1993 auction for $660. A similar reproduction fabric is available today.