Devil in the White City Book Summary
The Devil in the White City, written by Eric Larson, is a gripping novel of two polar opposite men during the building of the World’s Fair in Chicago. It surrounds two characters, both extremely talented at their ‘craft’ and perfectly depicts the rush for industrialization in this time. It follows the lives of Daniel H. Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, and Henry H. Holmes, a serial killer who built a hotel turned torture chamber complete with a dissection table, gas chamber, and crematorium. This story is so interesting because it details true life events and uses real life characters such as Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Meshing these two characters together enhances the intensity of the story and truly shows the effect of the building of the World’s Fair on Chicago in late 1880 and early 1890.
The book begins in 1890, when Chicago is a candidate to hold the World’s Fair, or the World’s Columbian Exposition, meant to commemorate Columus’ arriving in America. Daniel Burnham was responsible for building the White City. He overcame multiple crushing obstacles and personal tragedies to make the Fair the magical, awe-inspiring event that it was. He brought together some of the greatest architects of the Gilded Age such as Charles McKim, George Post, Richard Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, and others, and convinced them of the importance of the Fair. Burnham somehow got them to work together to achieve what many considered to be an impossible project in an astonishingly short amount of time. The result of their strenuous hard work ended in a beautiful even that brought almost 40 million people to the city of Chicago and transformed the shoreline of Chicago forever.
A few miles away, in the suburb of Englewood, a different kind of story was unfolding. Dr. H. H. Holmes had built a boarding house turned torture...
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