City Beautiful Movement and the Chicago World's Fair

In the later half of the 19th century, Americans became increasingly conscious of the vast and unintended social effects of industrialization in American cities. The rapid growth of cities as people poured in from the countryside vastly outpaced any attempt at urban planning and soon, America found herself home to sprawling cities with squalid tenant buildings, and a lack of proper sewage disposal systems. In order to fix this problem, a group of architects and sculptors and businessmen worked together to further the goals of the American Renaissance through urban renewal. One of the leading architecture firms McKim, Meade, and White were all trained at the school de Beaux Arts, in Paris, and the schools' teachings of proportion and balance were highly influential in the thinking of the American Renaissance.

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was the first large-scale exhibition of their ideas. Constructed quickly, the fair featured pavilions representing countries from all over the world. The city itself was the embodiment of all their hopes for city improvement: wide boulevards, no crime, public parks and fountains. The city itself was only a model, and not built to last. People from all over the country came to the fair. Many different architects and sculptors collaborated on this project, and it did much to publicize what could be done in the cities.

In this period, professionals became increasingly conscious of the need for networking within their profession, so they began to establish professional societies to standardize practices and lobby for their rights. The National Society of Sculptors was founded in 1893, and played a vital role in the renewal of cities. Charles Aitken, who did the sculpture of George Rogers Clark, was a member of the society. "The society and its alliances with other professional groups broadened sculptors' base of support, occasionally involved them in decisoin making in municipal affairs, and facilitated their attempts to make sculpture an integral part of the New York cityscape." (Bogart, 5) The effects of this would be felt throughout the eastern seaboard through the efforts at city beautification.

The Modern Medicis

Industrialization made many people very wealthy, and many of them felt that it was their responsibility to give back to the community that made them wealthy in the first place. Generous donations from rich magnates like the Carnegies and the Rockefellers made the implementation of these ideas possible. Their keen interest in and patronage of the arts in this period has often been comparied to the patronage of the Medici family in Italy during the Italian Renaissance. In the North, Carnegie and Rockefeller gave large sums of money for public education, libraries, museums, and statues. The goal of much of this was to raise the consciousness of the general public and to educate the thousands of new immigrants in the American ideals of freedom and individualism. Statues such as the ones that McIntire had erected in Charlottesville were less common than statues reflecting abstract ideals. The City Beautiful gradually tapered off in the wake of the First World War, but its effects are still seen today.

Andrew Carnegie (left) with his cousin George N. Lauder and Thomas N. Miller, one of his first partners in the steel business. (Livesay, 59, 1975.)