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The Devil in the White City

Erik Larson

Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapter 15 - The Gauntlet Dropped


Despite the cold winter, construction of the fair continues to progress. Throughout the country, unions are striking and making gains for their workers, the murder rate has risen exponentially from the prior year's rate, and the economy is still slipping. Burnham directs his leaders in the building of the fair to make cuts and even fires workers, despite having a reputation for treating his workers well and providing quite amenable working conditions.

During this time, Burnham meets with a group of engineers at a luncheon, hoping to inspire them to create a rival to the Eiffel Tower. Little does Burnham know that his inspirational speech sparks interest in one Pittsburgh man, later revealed to be George Ferris, creator of the Ferris wheel. Later on, Burnham encounters disagreement with the National Committee director as the Exposition Company has asked for more money from the government to help build the fair, and as a result, has placed fair expenditures under investigation. On a more positive note, Bloom's creation of the midway is underway, and the exposition seeks out his talents to promote the fair.


The structure of Chapter 15 helps to create mood as it quickly moves from scene to scene. In this sense, the style reflects the main character as it mimics Daniel Burnham's thoughts and feelings.

This chapter opens with an allusion to Elias Disney, Walt Disney's father. The chapter ends with Bloom vowing to make the fair fun because he knows that's what people want. Both the beginning and the end of the chapter establish an amusing and playful mood, and give hope that the fair will be a success for Burnham and all those involved.