WHITEWATER, Wis. (AP) – Carol March McLernon keeps her cherished antique doll on display in her living room.
More than 40 years ago, a distant relative gave her the doll, a souvenir from the Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as the World’s Fair.
This year, the doll with a sweet porcelain face and kid-leather body takes on special meaning.
McLernon has written a children’s book about the stunning exposition on its 125th anniversary, aptly named “Treasured Memories: Columbian Exposition of 1893,” The Janesville Gazette reported . In the book, she takes readers on a trip around the fair gathering souvenirs.
The Whitewater author hopes adults, too, will read the 28-page tome about a spectacular event in Chicago that became a defining moment in U.S. history.
Organized to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus in the New World, the exposition was a showcase for science, mechanics and industry.
Inventors from around the globe, including the legendary Nikola Tesla, flaunted an explosion of new ideas.
McLernon explains how the fair was wired for electricity, and visitors were dazzled by thousands of electric lights after dark. Displays by Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell in the Electricity Building also amazed the more than 27 million people who attended during the fair’s six-month run.
Among the most lasting memories tourists took away from the event were rides on the newly invented Ferris wheel.
Visitors often saw the wheel, which was six stories taller than Chicago’s tallest building, before they even entered the midway.
The builder of the 264-foot contraption with suspended carriages was George Washington Ferris Jr., a civil engineer who specialized in bridges and other structural-steel designs.
The wheel could take 2,160 passengers at a time, offering them a breathtaking view of the fairgrounds and Lake Michigan.
McLernon said riders paid 50 cents apiece for the experience. At the end, each got a certificate with the rider’s name printed alongside a picture of Ferris and a gold seal.
In addition to the doll, McLernon has a ticket from the fair and a thick book written by one of the fair’s developers.
McLernon was so fascinated with events of the exposition, she wrote a second book, “The 1,000-mile Horse Race: 1893.” The race began in Nebraska’s panhandle and ended outside the gate of the World’s Fair.
“I saw all those Western movies when I was a kid with my dad,” McLernon said, explaining her fascination with cowboys and their horses.
Inspired by history of all kinds, McLernon is the author of several self-published books relating to past events. She taught reading for many years in Lake Geneva and earned a master’s degree in reading education.
“I write for fourth-grade level,” she said. “But I like adults to read my books and to think about them as well. We all need to learn from history.”
Information from: The Janesville Gazette, http://www.gazetteextra.com
By ANNA MARIE LUX, The Janesville Gazette