Note: The Devil in the White City has two distinct plot lines running through the novel — one for each Burnham and Holmes. The characters in this list are organized by which plot line they belong to.
Daniel Burnham, the protagonist, is a talented Chicago architect who, along with his partner John Root, is given the task of building the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the World's Columbian Exposition. Although a skilled architect himself, Burnham is really the businessman and public relations expert of the pair. Despite being haunted by a lack of formal education, Burnham, motivated by his pride and a sense of determination, tackles and accomplishes the daunting task of creating a monumental world's fair that will improve the global reputation of the city of Chicago.