George’s Big Chicago Adventure – The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

In August of 1933, my dad, George Boller – a 12-year old small-town Iowa kid – had a tremendous boyhood experience – traveling with family friends – Paul & Mildred Rainier – to Chicago for a whirlwind visit to the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair – A Century of Progress.

While I’m sure George was enthralled with the fair, this Our Boller Story page focuses more on the wonderful correspondence that occurred between Waldo, George’s dad, writing on Boller Furniture Company letterhead, and George, housed at Willard Hall on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois.

Click here to read more about Boller Furniture Company of Wayland.

(C-0102) This penny postcard was postmarked on August 22 – 9 PM, 1933 in Evanston, IL where George was staying while visiting the Fair. Interestingly enough, George and his Wayland friends had accommodations on the Northwestern University campus (Willard Hall), where Sandy, my wife, attended college and lived in Willard Hall for three school years (1969-1972). Small world, huh? NU obviously opened up their student dorms during the summer months to house out-of-towners coming to the big city for the World’s Fair.

Waldo received George’s postcard the following morning (August 23), and wrote his response letter later that day, sticking the letter in the mail early the next morning (6 AM) on Thursday, August 24th…

(C-0101) George’s grandfather, Daniel, and his father, Waldo, made a living running Boller Furniture Company in Wayland, Iowa, which as you can see from the stationary (above), sold Home Furnishings and Furniture Your Children Will Treasure.

We know from the postmark on the backside of the letter that Waldo’s letter arrived in Evanston at 4 AM the next day – Friday, August 25 and probably delivered to Willard Hall in the morning mail! What an amazing turn-around in delivery times! Today, this whole transaction could take up to a couple of weeks to get a postcard and a letter back and forth from Evanston, IL to Wayland, IA! In 1933, it took about 2.5 days – roughly 60 hours! Speedy delivery, indeed!

Wayland, located in Henry County, Iowa – just northwest of Mt. Pleasant – has never been a large community. In 1920, the population peaked at 637. Yet, despite its small size, the railroad kept the good people of Wayland connected with the outside world. As you can see from the map (below), in its heyday, the Iowa Central Railway ran through Wayland, with several trains coming through each day.

Not only did George and the Rainier family most likely travel into Chicago via the railroad, the U.S. mail was brought in and out as well. If you look at the schedule (above) you’ll find six stops per day – three going west and three going east. This helps explain how Waldo & George’s mail could travel so quickly between Evanston and Wayland.

(C-0103) In 1933, during the Great Depression, Chicago held the Century of Progress Exposition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its incorporation as a village. The fair was held on the lake-front & featured outstanding exhibits on the latest advancements in science and technology. It brought an enormous amount of business to the city and was a huge relief from the woes of the Great Depression.

(C-0104) Two of the main features on the Chicago Exposition grounds were meant to provide a contrast by which to measure the city’s progress. A restoration of Fort Dearborn, the original site of Chicago, which had twice been destroyed, stood in sight of the towering Federal Building, which dominated the grounds. These concrete symbols of Chicago’s progress were natural choices as stamp subjects.

(C-0206) (C-0105) September 30, 1933 – Iowa Day at the Fair. This special cover (above right) was postmarked on September 30, 1933 – which was Iowa Day at the Fair. This tradition of having a special day set aside for a specific state began with the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

(M-0013) Chicago World’s Fair  – The Century of Progress – Souvenir Coin. Originally, the fair was scheduled only to run from May 27, 1933 until November 12, but it was so successful that it was opened again to run from May 26 to October 31, 1934.

This short film offers a look at the fairgrounds and some of the expo’s attractions. The theme was “Century of Progress,” and as the name suggests, this fair was about looking into the future. Many of the buildings featured a colorful Art Deco aesthetic, meanwhile, the muscular Chrysler Motors Building was strikingly modern for the time.

All in all, a spectacular event for any 12-year-old boy from Wayland, Iowa to experience!

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

A look at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair in color, AJ LaTrace,, May 12, 2017

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