Monday, August 3, 2009

First Review!

Below is our first review, from Dick Davidson's blog ReadWorthy Books:

"Trapped on the Wheel by John Glavin is a throwback to earlier times, both in the subject matter and in the graphics that decorate the book with the goal of making you want to give the book a permanent place on your library shelves. The reader faces the book's competing goals of historical re-creation of the Columbian Exposition of 1893, presentation of the social and ethical mores of the period, and engagement in the plot. The overall experience of reading this novel is a pleasant one, but the reader should plan on concentrating on the many details that are required to paint the historical panorama that is the backdrop for the story.

The plot is a coming of age story for two fraternal twins, Alessandra and Karla Aultman, who have just turned eighteen years of age. They have German/Irish background, and they live beyond their means in a row house with lots of servants. Their father, a real estate speculator, aspires to be in the top social echelon, but he is constantly on the brink of economic disaster. The story is a first person narrative from Alessandra's viewpoint, and she spends most of the book feeling insecure with regard to her relationships with her sister, her father, the servants, and her expected fiance.

John Glavin does a good job of capturing the slower pace of life among the elite during the 1890's. This contrasts well with the concurrent frenetic efforts to complete the structures and exhibits of the Columbian Exposition by any time close to the original schedule. As the story evolves, the action accelerates, evoking increased concern on the part of the reader for the heroine.

The first person narrative form allows the author to selectively reveal differences between what Alessandra perceives and what is actually happening around her. It suits this novel's plot."

ISBN 978-0-9822694-4-2
Reviewed by Richard Davidson, author of DECISION TIME! Better Decisions for a Better Life (self-help), author of Lead Us Not into Temptation (mystery novel).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fate of the Ferris Wheel

What was the fate of the Ferris Wheel after the World's Fair closed?

Well, sorting the false leads from the facts is fun, so here comes the skinny:

The fair closed officially on Oct. 28, 1893, early because of the assassination of Mayor Carter Harrison. However, the wheel proved to be a moneymaker so it continued to spin until April of '94. Dismemberment was finished on July 23. After being loaded aboard railroad cars the wheel was stored at the 61st Street siding of the Illinois Central Railroad in Woodlawn.

In early '95, the Ferris Wheel was reassembled on north Clark Street near Lincoln Park. However, two facts doomed its success: the national depression worsened and few patrons were willing to pay 50 cents, the same amount charged earlier at the fair. Also a lawsuit tried to cancel the building permit, and the city refused a liquor license so that plans for a roof garden nearby was canceled.

The following year the Ferris Wheel Company declared bankruptcy. Besides the woeful fate of his beloved wheel, his financial debts, his being forced out of his own company, George Ferris also had separated from his wife after a childless and failed marriage. To make matters worse, on November 22, 1896, at the age of 37 George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. died of typhoid fever.

A year after his premature death, his ashes were still held by the undertaker in Pittsburgh because of unpaid funeral bills.

In 1900, plans were made to dismantle the wheel a second time after losing $700,000. Bids were entertained by the Chicago Tribune. A deal to move it to Berlin fell through so the wheel revolved another three years. At that time a wrecking company tried to acquire the wheel for $1800 to reduce it to junk.

Three days later, another wrecking company outbid it for $5,150 and allowed it to function for the rest of the season through 1903. During that winter the wheel was again dismantled and placed on railroad cars for a trip to the St. Louis World's Fair. Upon its reconstruction Mr. Bennett the superintendent proclaimed, "from an engineering point of view the wheel is now in much better condition that before its removal. The rods and other members have been adjusted with such accuracy that the wheel runs with a variation of not more than 1/6 inch, diametrically." Go figure.

Whereupon, the wheel proceeded to do even more business than at the Chicago Fair which grossed almost $800,000. After the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition closed the salvage rights to the wheel were sold. Finally after filling 60 rail cars each day for weeks, dynamite (200 pounds) exploded its supports.

The giant Ferris Wheel slowly collapsed upon itself like a battered dinosaur.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ferris Wheel

How did Ferris get his idea for the giant wheel for the Chicago Exposition of 1893? Listen to his own words:

"It was at one of these dinners, down in a Chicago Chop House, that I hit on the idea. I remember remarking that I would build a wheel, a monster. I got some paper, and began to sketch it out. I fixed the size, determined the construction, the number of cars we would run, the number of people it would hold, what we would charge, the plan of stopping six times in the complete turn - in short, before the dinner was over I had sketched out almost the entire detail, and my plan has never varied an item from that day."

Ferris had a reputation of playing the press, so keep that in mind.

Personally I prefer the childhood account of young George by Katherine Gehms (Copley News Service).

"The rickety wooden structure, which spanned the stream, provided easy crossing for covered wagon traffic to California vs the Overland Trail. As an added convenience a revolving wheel close to the cradlebaugh bridge hoistered water for thirsty stock.

"Although Gale (in his youth, he may have been called by one of his middle names to avoid confusion since his father's name also was George) became interested in the construction of this haphazardly built overpass, the workings of the water wheel intrigued him even more. So, instead of helping on the ranch with the growing of hay, grain and vegetables as all youngsters were expected to do, the Ferris boy spent most of his time studying the water wheel down by the bridge.

"Of course, during this time, Gale's parents kept after him constantly to help more in the fields. Yet every day held spend hour after hour lying on the river bank all but hypnotized by the motion of the big wheel lifting water to the stock troughs.

"Finally, by the time Gale became a teenager, his parents were exasperated with his apparent idleness. They sent him to a California Military Academy to learn some discipline."

So, dear blogger, which do you prefer - the press release or the childhood vision?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Social Snubs

What was the worst social snub of the season during the Columbian Exposition of 1893? My vote would be the following:

The greatest formal event was the welcoming of the representative of the Queen of Spain, the sponsoring country of Columbus' voyage: the young lady called Infanta Eulalia.

On June 7, Infanta Eulalia after graciously visiting the Spanish section of the fair and enduring 6,000 spectators who watched her every move, needed a break. The next day she dressed down and wandered incognito throughout the randy Midway. She loved to smoke cigars.

The next day, Mrs. Bertha Palmer (the social queen of Chicago) went the full nine yards to impress the royal personage with a top drawer reception banquet at her husband's Palmer House. All the hot dogs of the city turned out. Bertha even displayed a throne-like dais for her guest of honor.

Since the visitor resided at the Palmer House she noticed the identical names. Informed by her staff that the Hostess Bertha Palmer was Potter's wife she reportedly complained, she could not be received by "an inn-keeper's wife."

Well, now. Of course word of the putdown swept the banquet hall and the whole city. After she refused to attend the banquet, her red-faced diplomats pleaded with her to reconsider. Instead she went sight-seeing. However a downpour cut short her enjoyment of being a tourist. Deciding to return to the hotel she arrived late for the banquet held in her honor her soaked satin slippers matched her foul temper. She pouted throughout the reception. She also ignored Bertha Palmer, and left early.

Later, Bertha wrote a letter to Mr. Gresham, a state department official reporting on the incident. His response, no doubt, gratified her: "To be frank, I did not give you the real impressions as to the Infanta's character. I did not wish to prejudice you against her... She is not above playing small tricks...The Infanta treated you and the other Chicago people with gross impoliteness, and I feel indignant about it. You have done your whole duty and more, and have nothing to regret."

Infanta Eulalia was not invited to return.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Historical Novel Society

We attended the Historical Novel Society's 3rd Annual North American Conference the weekend of June 12th in Schaumburg, Illinois. Last year it was held in London, the year before in Albany, NY. Panel discussions concerned Breaking In and Staying In the Historical Fiction Game, Place as Character: Making Your Settings Come Alive, Does Size Matter? Publishing With Small Presses, Selling Historical Fiction (Editors), Talking the Talk: Historical Fiction Dialogue. If you would like blogs on any of these topics, let me know.

On a personal note, we met author Michelle Moran and thanked her for her book Heretic Queen which served as a model for our graphic designer because we chose it for reader accessibility and beauty. Michelle is also the author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter, the latter to be released in September.

All told, there were 20 panels, so much activity that yours truly found himself in the wrong room sitting in the first row between an English nurse and Australian farmer. Not wishing to embarrass, I stayed and discovered one of the panelists (Nancy Hull, teacher at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan) turned out to mention author Richard Peck. He writes young adult novels and has done so for 20 years. He is also a former friend and fellow teacher at Glenbrook North High School. I had been attempting unsuccessfully to send him an invitation to the Book Launch. He spoke at her school earlier this year so I asked for his email and she promised to check with her chair for me.

Sometimes my mistakes pay off better than my plans.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Computer Simulation of Columbian Exposition

Hi Bloggers! (I finally decided on that salutation.)

Our graphic designer and artist - Lillian Davenport-Partac - is currently in Milan, Italy. She is discussing a possible commission for a water museum being planned.

With travel and expenses paid for, Lillian is enjoying nine delicious days (and nights) in northern Italy while we are awaiting spring arriving at least in July in Chicago. We will share her experiences with you later.

Meanwhile, my wife Retta, my daughter Katherine, and I attended a computer simulation of the Columbian Exposition of 1893 created by professor Lisa Snyder, PhD at UCLA, part of the Urban Simulation Team at the Museum of Science and Industry. It was one of the original buildings at the fair. Because it held art works from around the world, the building was reinforced with cement and steel for insurance purposes. The other buildings used staff (hemp, plaster etc.) with a shelf life of only six months.

A virtual tour in a gondola through out it many canals guided an audience of several hundred on a movie-sized screen. Tim Samuelson longtime television reporter and cultural historian, City of Chicago provided the wise - cracking rule of tour guide.

After my own researching writing and rewriting Trapped on the Wheel for fourteen years, it was a dream come true. However, I felt guilty enjoying the experience because my wife and daughter were parking our car and battling the hordes of children on a free day. Later, they told me they missed only ten minutes of the hour and a half presentation.

Most of the White City was completed. The proessor's next step is the fun part: the Midway Plaissance. I wonder if she will provide an animated simulation of the belly dancers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Launch!

Hi Bloggers! Or is it Bloggies? This missive is my maiden voyage sallying forth into the ether of the cybernet universe. In other words, the author of Trapped on the Wheel: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893, is audacious enough to share with you his thoughts, emotions, experiences.

First off, we've sent thank you notes to the kind individuals who attended the Book Launch Party at Germania Place (North Ave. and Clark St.) on May 2nd. Hope you enjoyed the barbershop quartet, the professional pianist, the fancy french hors d'oeuvres (yes, I looked up the spelling), the poster-sized drawings, the valet parking, the beautifully restored Germania Place (where chapter one of the book occured) and the book signing.

From The Antique and Resale Shoppe we wore a bowler hat for me and a wide, black Victorian bonnet for my wife Retta. My daughter, Katherine, displayed a gorgeous green and white gown while the graphic artist, Lillian Davenport-Partac, continued the spirit with a caped outfit. It started at 4pm and ran until 8pm. Complimentary wine (red and white) flowed plentifully admist the happy chatter of the one hundred fifty attendees.

Sign-ins were in front of the largest stain glass window in private ownership. It was created in Heildeberg, Germany especially for the 1893 World's Fair...

It took fourteen years of research, writing and rewriting plus four months of sizzle with independently-publishing to give birth to the evening but it was worth the wait.

Videotapes and photos will soon be available for you to see on our website. Feast your eyes!