The Century of Progress International Exposition opened in Chicago on June 1, 1933, in celebration of the city's centennial. Much had changed in Chicago and the nation over the preceding 100 years, and the technological innovations achieved to date were celebrated as the theme of the exposition.
At the Exposition, visitors could tour the many fascinating buildings and exhibits. In the Travel and Transport Building, displays included a new Boeing 247 passenger plane, two Pullman coaches, and America's first automobile, the Duryea. Visitors could then watch an actual assembly line constructing automobiles at the General Motors building. The massive Graf Zeppelin airship visited from Germany, and the famous Burlington Zephyr streamlined train also arrived at the fair to great acclaim. The Sky Ride, an aerial tramway that allowed visitors to move from one side of the Fair to the other, was the signature attraction of the exposition. Yet, in spite of the many technological marvels on display that emphasized how distance had been conquered by a rapidly advancing civilization, there is no doubt that more than a few of the 48 million visitors to this 424-acre complex realized they were in dire orthopedic straights while engaging in that most pedestrian mode of locomotion: walking.
The Hagley Library is one of only two known repositories that hold the beautiful Nunn Bush Stock Styles, Spring/Summer 1933 catalog, which shrewdly evokes all the aspirations and the realities of the Century of Progress exposition while promoting the company's line of footwear for men. Wrapped in paper that is made to look and feel like leather, this catalog sports colorful images of the ankle-fashioned Oxfords sold by the company. The shoes are often superimposed over images of the prominent buildings and interiors of the fair.
The message is clear: to see all of the sights, comfort in footwear is essential. However, according to Nunn Bush, style is perhaps even more so. For those shoppers at retail locations across the country who only dreamed of going to the fair, why not purchase shoes that evoke that same sense of progress and confidence?
Nunn Bush priced most of the shoes in this catalog between $5 and $9, which the company claims led to a doubling of sales the previous year. Nunn Bush positioned itself as a manufacturer of affordable dress shoes ever since the company's founding in 1912. The brand exists to this day, as the Nunn Bush Shoe Company is a subsidiary of Weyco Group, Incorporated. They sell the brand for moderate prices and operate 47 Nunn Bush retail stores across the country.
The Hagley Library holds a significant collection of guidebooks and catalogs documenting the great international exhibitions in North America and Europe dating back to 1851. Please visit or contact us to explore our collection!
Rydell, Robert W. World of Fairs : The Century-Of-Progress Expositions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
For more information about the Hagley Library, visit www.hagley.org/library