World’s Columbian Exposition, Bureau of Music, Official Report

Dates: 1892-1895
Size: 2 linear feet (oversize album – 2 copies)
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Special Collections, 400 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60605
Collection Number: f00147
Provenance: Copy 1 was presented to Chicago Public Library by the Director General of the Exposition in 1895. Copy 2 was found in the collection.
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: World’s Columbian Exposition, Bureau of Music, Official Report, [Page #], Special Collections, Chicago Public Library

Historical Note

In 1890, Chicago was chosen as the host city for the World’s Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair), a celebration to mark the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America. For the event, over 686 acres along the city’s south lakefront, part of which is now Jackson Park, were transformed into a landscape of canals, lagoons and around 200 new (but deliberately temporary) buildings to showcase exhibits. The Exposition opened May 1, 1893 and ran for six months. During that time, it drew more than 27 million people from around the world.

In 1891, Exposition planners approved the organization of a Bureau of Music who would be charged with organizing artistic performances from composers, orchestras, choirs and military bands from around the world and assembling an exhibit of musical instruments. Theodore Thomas was named the Exposition’s Music Director and William L. Tomlins was named the Choral Director. Both men were part of the Chicago Orchestra founded in 1891 that would become today’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Bureau’s Secretary, George H. Wilson, compiled the report and created the albums for their presentation.

The Bureau of Music was charged with the creation of orchestral, choral and band performance plans and an exhibit of musical instruments at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Among the Bureau’s recommendations to the Committee on Liberal Arts, was the creation of a standing Exposition Orchestra that would continue afterwards as permanent orchestra in Chicago. The documents make reference to the Sousa Military Band; composer, George W. Chadwick; choral societies of Eastern and Western Divisions and renowned Polish musician, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, whose pianoforte preference led to a dispute and a call by some Exposition officials for Thomas’s resignation. Additionally, the Bureau was charged with securing the composition of original music for dedication ceremonies.

The Bureau of Music was forced to cancel international and American performances by August 1, 1893, due to a discontinuation of support by Exposition officials. Before resigning, Thomas suggested that the bands and orchestras could be divided into smaller units for the continuing amusement of fairgoers. After briefly disbanding, many members of the Exposition Orchestra accepted a new offer and new terms with the Exposition.

Scope and Content

The Official Report of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Bureau of Music consists of an oversize album with typed narratives, copies of letters, photographs and clippings about the Bureau’s founding; its initial orchestral, choral and band performance plans; its artistic principles; considerations for Festival Hall (Choral Hall or Choral Building) and Music Hall and the creation of a permanent orchestra for the Exposition. The 53-page album was created in 1895 by Bureau of Music Secretary, George H. Wilson. The Library holds two copies. Copy 1 (Poole number 2508) includes a letter to Chicago Public Library Commissioner, F.W. Hild, that accompanied the album’s donation.


Two bound volumes of music programs were also part of the donation to the Library from the Bureau of Music. Please request these volumes by their title and catalog number:
Official Programme of Exposition Concerts, Chicago, May-Oct, 1893
ML38.C5 W77 1


The contents are listed in the order they appear in the album. Copies 1 and 2 contain the same documents with the exception of the order of pages 9 and 10.

Authority and Subject Headings

  • Chadwick, G. W. (George Whitefield), 1854-1931
  • Ellsworth, James W. (James William), 1849-1925
  • Orchestral Association (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Paderewski, Ignace Jan, 1860-1941
  • Thomas, Theodore Christian Friedrich (1835-1905)
  • Tomlins, Wm. L. (William Lawrence), 1844-1930
  • Wilson, G. H. (George Henry), 1854-1908
  • World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.). Bureau of Music

Related Collections

Container List

Page i Letter to F.W. Hild, Chicago Public Library, 1895 April 18
Page 1 Bureau of Music directors and Letter to H.N. Higinbotham, 1894 March 31
Page 2 Bureau of Music, report on organization and initial plans, circa 1895
Pages 3-4 Memo to the Committee on Liberal Arts, 1891 December 21
Page 5-6 Announcement, 1892 June 30
Page 6-7 Special Commissioner to Europe in the Interest of the Bureau of Music of the Exposition, report, 1892 May 31
Page 8 Music for the Dedication of the Exposition Buildings, 1892
Page 9 Dedication ceremony, photograph and news clippings of John K. Paine and his Columbus March, 1892 [Copy 2: pages 9 and 10 are reversed]
Page 10 Dedication chorus, report and clipping, circa 1895
Page 11 George W. Chadwick, portrait, news clipping and selection of score, 1892
Pages 12-13 Bureau of Music, plans, 1892 September 24
Page 14 Choral festival, Eastern Societies, plan, 1892 September 28
Page 15 News clipping, music programs, 1892
Pages15-16 Choral festival, Eastern Societies, supplemental plan, 1892 December 24
Page 17 Choral festival, Eastern Societies, final part of the report, circa 1895
Pages 17-18 Executive Committee, report on funding and Opening Day, circa 1895
Pages 18-20 Exposition, report, circa 1895
Pages 20 Letter to James W. Ellsworth regarding funding from Theodore Thomas, 1893 August 1
Page 21 Theodore Thomas, employment report, circa 1895
Pages 21-22 Letter to Theodore Thomas from the Executive Committee regarding employment, 1893 August 29
Pages 22-23 Exposition Orchestra, report on the disbanding, circa 1895
Pages 23-24 Exposition music halls, report, circa 1895
Page 25 Music Hall, photograph by C.D. Arnold, 1893
Page 26 Music Hall, illustration and sectional view, circa 1893
Pages 27-28 Music Hall, description by Charles B. Atwood, interior plan and report, circa 1893
Pages 28-29 Festival Hall, description by Francis M. Whitehouse and photograph, circa 1893
Page 30 Festival Hall, interior plan, sectional view and report, circa 1895
Page 31 Exposition Symphony Orchestra, report and photographs (3), circa 1893 and 1895
Page 32 Exposition Symphony Orchestra, list of musicians, circa 1893
Page 32 Other orchestras, report, circa 1895
Page 33 Choral music, report, circa 1895
Page 34 International concerts, report, circa 1895
Page 34 Letter to James W. Ellsworth regarding the funding of international concerts, 1892 May 31
Page 35 International concerts, funding report, circa 1895
Page 35 Letter from Giuseppe Verdi regarding performance invitation, 1892 September 14
Page 36 Letter from Joseph Joachim regarding performance invitation, 1892 August 10
Page 36 Letter from Johannes Brahms regarding performance invitation, 1892 August 24
Page 37 Letter from Joseph Joachim regarding performance invitation, 1892 August 26
Page 37 Letter from Hans Richter regarding performance invitation, 1893 June
Page 38 Letter from Arthur Sullivan regarding performance invitation, 1892 November 24
Page 38 Letter from Camille Saint-Saens regarding performance invitation, 1892 August 28
Page 39 Letter from Alexander Campbell Mackenzie regarding performance invitation, 1892 August 30
Page 39 Letter from Jules Massenet regarding performance invitation, 1892 October
Pages 40-41 Women’s music, report and news clipping on Mrs. Lena Burton Clarke, circa 1895
Pages 42-44 Organ, report, specifications and illustrations, circa 1895
Pages 44-45 Organ recitals, report, circa 1895
Page 46 Band music, report, circa 1895
Page 46 Band stand, photograph, circa 1893
Page 47 Miscellaneous entertainments, report and news clipping, circa 1895
Page 47 American music, report and news clipping, circa 1895
Pages 48-49 American music, report, circa 1895
Pages 49-51 Financial report, circa 1895
Page 52 Letter to W.K. Ackerman from James W. Ellsworth, 1893 October 10
Page 52 Letter to Theodore Thomas from James W. Ellsworth, 1893 October 10
Page 53 Theodore Thomas, biographical sketch and photograph, circa 1893
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