The Devil in The White City Summary – A Catastrophic Story

Author: Erik Larson

Short Summary
The Devil in the White City (2003) Summary describes the history of the third biggest city in the United States, i.e., Chicago, its architecture, and mainly Chicago World’s fair of 1893, which brought so much violence and destruction. Moreover, the book also shares the story of a serial killer named H.H. Holmes, who murdered a bunch of people at the time of the fair.
the devil in the white city summary

Detailed Summary

The Devil in the White City is a historical, non-fiction book by Erik Larson. The book tells us the history of Chicago and how it became famous for street violence.

The Devil in the White City Summary mainly focuses on the story of an architect named Daniel Burnham, who was responsible for the construction of the great Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Also known as The World’s Columbian Exposition, which was designed to commemorate the landing of Columbus in America.

The author relates the fascinating unreported narrative of the fair’s events. Larson weaves together the tales of the architect tasked with the massive task of constructing the fair in frantic Chicago and the world’s first known serial killer, who exploited the fair to lure innocent victims to their murders. As a result, a gripping true-crime thriller based on true events emerges.

The Devil in The White City Key Points

Do you want to learn the catastrophic history of Chicago city? The following is the detail of the massive devastation in Chicago from the beginning till the end.

History of Chicago

Today, Chicago has a reputation for many things. People from all over the world come to see the impressive architecture, go to museums, experience the nightlife, and try culinary specialties but let’s look at the history of Chicago.

Chicago was a violent and crime-ridden city as the turn of the century neared. It was not uncommon for people to die. Every day, two individuals are killed by trains. People died in fires all the time because the wooden shanty homes caught fire all the time, trapping people inside.

The water supply, which was riddled with viruses like typhus and cholera, was another murderer. Flies, rodents, and animal corpses swarmed the trash-strewn streets, and no organized groups were in charge of collecting them.

The fact that the city’s murder rates were among the highest in North America and that the police were understaffed and undertrained to deal with the city’s violence was maybe the scariest of all. On average, there were four murders every day in the city.

Despite the violence, Chicago was also undergoing much-needed societal reform. Women began to work, allowing young, unmarried women to start building their own lives for the first time. The industry was expanding, and Chicago was home to the country’s largest meatpacking district. Real estate was booming, and skyscrapers were springing up all over the place.

The story of Daniel Burnham

The book mainly focuses on the story of Daniel Burnham and how he struggled to build the fair. The story began in 1890 when Chicago awarded the 1893 World’s Fair bid. Daniel Burnham and his then-partner, John Root, are credited with designing the fair and, as a result, gaining a better international reputation for Chicago. Throughout the novel, Daniel Burnham faces numerous challenges that jeopardize the fair’s success at every level of construction.

After the unfortunate loss of his companion John Root, Burnham is left on his own early on. Burnham is then confronted with a slew of challenges, including late-arriving building draughts, severe worldwide economic slump, union strikes, construction accidents and deaths, and the discovery of an attraction much more incredible than the Eiffel Tower from the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. Despite these obstacles, Burnham persists.

They finally came up with a plan to outshine the Eiffel Tower: a Ferris wheel. Construction continued, and the fair opened in 1893, albeit in a half-finished state. Burnham still has to finish the Ferris wheel, increase fair attendance, and make the fair profitable in the middle of a struggling economy once the fair starts.

Burnham finishes construction and boosts fair attendance enough to pay debts and make a profit with grace, patience, and determination. Unfortunately, the fair’s conclusion is marred by tragedy, as Chicago’s mayor, Carter Henry Harrison, is assassinated.

The story of a Serial Killer

The fair was a big success, lasting six months and raking in millions of dollars, but at the same time, a serial killer named H.H Holmes came to Chicago in 1886. Holmes and his business partner Benjamin Pitezel managed a motel for fairgoers, and his charisma and handy location made it a popular spot.

The people who stayed here had no idea it was a deadly trap. Holmes installed gas lines in his visitors’ rooms to asphyxiate them and hung and suffocated them in his soundproof basement vault.

He dissected the victims after murdering them and removed their skin and organs. The skeletons were subsequently sold to universities and hospitals. It took ten years for authorities to apprehend Holmes, and it was for insurance fraud. Police knew they had uncovered a serial killer after accessing his residence and uncovering body parts.

According to authorities, Holmes was suspected of killing between 20 and 200 people. He was prosecuted and found guilty of murder in 1895, and the proceedings sparked a massive media frenzy.

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Who would I recommend The Devil in the White City Summary to?

The Devil in the White City summary recommends to those who love history and are interested in the history of Chicago. Moreover, people who are a fan of non-fiction should give it a read. It has a true story of a serial killer who used the fair to attract and kill women.

The Devil in The White City Summary - February 2022

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