Book Club Travel

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Connecting the Dots

There’s no question about it.  There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to The Devil in the White City. I have set forth here a very rigorous weekend of book club travel. You could pull it off in a weekend, but I think it might work better if you tacked on an extra day.  That way you could take a breath and relax a little between activities.

Devil in the White City

 Sample Itinerary


Arrivals and Early Check In

Late Afternoon

Ride the Ferris wheel

Chicago Tribune Building

Dinner at Atwood’s


Devil in the White City Guided Tour (Includes many sites)

Art Institute (Bertha Palmer’s Impressionists)

Lunch at Berghoff’s

Rookery Building Visit

Dinner and book discussion at Palmer House Hotel


Cemetery Tour

                                               Back to Hotel for Lunch and check out

 Getting Around

The Devil in the White City weekend would probably be most successful and more relaxing if you did not have a car.  The car would become cumbersome.  And it’s very easy to get around on public transportation. You will notice that we put the L-Line or bus stops on each location.

Building the Excitement

Devil in the White City is rich with information.  That’s why it’s fun to start tackling it early and build excitement as the clock ticks toward the weekend by sending out email quiz questions.  You can start by asking the simplest questions to see who is reading the book and who isn’t.  Then you can move chronologically through the book and make up questions for subsequent quizzes.  A good way to motivate is to promise prizes for the winners.  Have the book club members send their responses to one person who then calculates points and sends out the tallies.

Sample Quiz:

In what city does Devil in the White City take place?

Which cities were competing to host the world’s fair?

What role did Paris play in the politics of the world’s fair?

What does Daniel Burnham do for a living?

This quiz will establish who is reading the book and who isn’t.  It will also establish how likely your members are to get into the fun of the contest.  Usually, a few members end up locked in a battle for first place early on and it continues as the quizzes get more complicated and dig deeper into the book.  When you craft the sequence of quizzes, keep in mind which areas of the book your members would like to focus on.

Talking it Over

Where to meet:

Here’s a chance to get creative and place you and your fellow travelers in beautiful and meaningful surroundings to talk about the book.

Palmer House Hotel

If you are staying at the Palmer House you might want to ask if you can take a section of the beautiful lobby for a meeting in the morning.  Or ask if there is a nice room where you can tuck away to talk about the book.  If there is a club or concierge level you might want to have the discussion there over breakfast.

Burnham Hotel 

The hotel might have a fabulous place to meet.  However the Atwood café definitely has a nice room.  You would need to check on price.

The Rookery Building 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could meet at the Rookery Building Library where Burnham met with his architects to talk about the fair.  Give them a call.


The restaurant has many rooms.  Maybe you could reserve one and be surrounded by photos from the fair.

Graceland Cemetery 

Here’s a wild idea.  If you decide to go to Graceland to see where everyone ended up, maybe the cemetery has a place for a meeting.


A great list of questions issued by the publisher can be found on this link:

 Literary Loot

Devil in the White City chronicles how the world’s fair brought so many products and inventions into the American way of life.  Those chronicles also offer book club weekend hostesses many jumping off points for gift bags, bed turn down gift, and prizes.

 In Devil in the White City:

“They sampled a new, oddly flavored gum called Juicy Fruit, and caramel-coated popcorn called Cracker Jack. A new cereal, Shredded Wheat, seemed unlikely to succeed- ‘shredded dormat,’ some called it- but a new beer did well, winning the exposition’s top beer award.  Forever afterward, its brewer called it Pabst Blue Ribbon.” p 247-248

What to do:

You could assemble a gift bag that contains food items that became famous at the fair.   You could copy these write ups and print them and attach them to the products with ribbon.

Juicy Fruit

In 1891 William Wrigley arrived in Chicago.  His father had been a soap manufacturer.  He started out trying to sell soap and he gave away baking soda as a gimmick. When that became more popular than the soap he started selling baking soda and offered gun as a gimmick.  When the gum became more popular he decided to manufacture and sell gum. Since he was a trained salesman he was a natural advertiser.  In 1893 he knew just where to go to unveil his new flavor, Juicy Fruit.  He unveiled at the world’s fair.  It, like only gum can, stuck.

 Shredded Wheat

In the early 1990’s in a Nebraska hotel, Henry D. Perky, who suffered from heartburn, met a man, who also suffered from heartburn.  He was eating boiled wheat with cream.  Perky became interested in the concept and brought it to his friend William Ford in New York.  Ford was a machinist.  They developed a machine to make what they called shredded wheat mattresses. They boiled the wheat, dried it and then pressed the wheat into thin shreds. They took that machine to the world’s fair to try and sell them. Instead the shredded wheat took off and Perky started a cereal company and became fabulously wealthy.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Frederick Pabst a German immigrant to Milwaukee met a beer brewer named Henry Best who owned a small brewery.  In 1864, Pabst married Best’s daughter and bought half of the business. His goal was to increase sales and production.  When he won a blue ribbon at the world’s fair he decided to launch a blue ribbon label.  The label, as you might have noticed is still around today.

Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix

Chris L. Rutt and Charles G. Underwood bought the Pearl milling company in 1889 with the plan to make pancake mix in a box.  They named the mix Aunt Jemima which Rutt is said to have come up with while listening to a vaudeville radio show.  The two went bankrupt in a year and sold the idea to the R.T Davis Milling Company. Davis found a Chicago cook, Nancy Green to be Aunt Jemima. She became known as the pancake queen at the fair.  She represented the company for the rest of her life and she is still seen on the boxes today.

Cracker Jacks

F.W. Ruckheim and his brother Louis introduced an unusual combination of caramel coated popcorn and peanuts at the world’s fair. It was not until 1896, though, that Louis figured out how to make the candy NOT stick together.  When he showed his invention to his brother he said “That’s crackerjack,” thus the name.

San Antonio Chili

The state of Texas set up a booth at the world’s fair with a sign that read:  San Antonio Chili.  That booth put chili on the map. Some accounts say chili had been sold by what is called Chili Queens at the Military Plaza in San Antonia for 200 years, others say decades. Whatever the case, they carted their chili into the plaza to sell it all night long.  After the fair William Gephart, a German immigrant to Texas made up a chili powder that is still popular to this day.

H.J. Heinz Company’s Sour Spiced Gherkins

Henry John Heinz was making a name for himself with ketchup. But at the world’s fair he unveiled his sour spiced gherkin.  Those pickles became a big hit. He was a master at advertising and he always said “It’s not so much what you say but how, when and where.”  He figured out that the world’s fair was his place to sell that pickle.  He went on, of course to manage a food empire.


What to do:

These are some cookbooks that came out about the world’s fair. You could offer one of these as a prize.  Or you could put some the dry ingredients together, for instance, for corn pone, (cornbread) so your members could take it home and make it themselves.  If you have access to a kitchen you could prepare some of these foods on your traveling book club weekend. Or you could bake some of the items in the cook books and wrap them and include them in the party bag.

Favorite Dishes, a Columbian Autograph Souvenir Cook Book, by Carrie Shuman is a collection of recipes from the World’s Columbian Exposition. You can download a copy and inside you will find autographed recipes from the celebrities of the Exposition

The Home Queen World’s Fair Souvenir Cookbook:  This book seems to be a collector’s item.  This webpage offers a discussion about the book and some recipes:

Mexican Cooking by Gebhardt Chili Powder Company is a collection of recipes for Mexican food that was published in 1908.  It’s said that this book defined Mexican cooking for generations.

 City of Chicago gifts:

There are some nice gift bags on these websites:

Great Chicago Gifts


Chicago by the Doobie Brothers

Chicago, That Toddlin Town by Frank Sinatra

Chicago, My kind of Town by Frank Sinatra’

Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins

Chicago, We Can Change the World by Crosby Stills and Nash

Mack the Knife by Frank Sinatra

Psycho Killer by the Talking Head

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright by Simon and Garfunkel

Green, Green Grass of Home by Merle Haggard

Sing Me Back Home by Merle Haggard

After the Ball (Hit song of the day)   Page 315

Friend of the Devil by Grateful Dead

           Literary Links

Chicago World’s Fair

This site offers a virtual tour of the fair.

This site offers thousands of illustrations of the fair:

This site offers nice pictures of the fair:

This webpage offers an interesting and comprehensive article on food at the fair:  Click on 1893.

This website offers real historical collectables for sale.  You could buy some and give them away as prizes.

Dr. H.H. Holmes

To order a film about Dr. Holmes and his murders see this website:

This website has information about an upcoming movie about Dr. Holmes starring Leonardo Di Caprio!

This website offers an interesting article about Holmes:

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