27 May: Fan-Dancing, Dwarfism and Microwaves at Chicago World’s Fair

Microwave cookery was first demonstrated by Ross Kilgore of Westinghouse at the Chicago World’s Fair, which opened on 27th May, 1933. But the event was deemed to be a side-show of little scientific significance, and was forgotten until microwaves were ‘discovered’ two decades later.

Incredibly also on display at the Chicago World’s Fair were incubated premature babies; people with dwarfism paraded in ‘midget’s village’; and, most attention-grabbingly of all, a provocative fan dancer called Sally Rand. Different times.

In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca compare the Fair’s SkyRide to its ‘coal mine’; question the purpose of a cigar-smoking robot; and explain why amoebic dysentery made an unwelcome souvenir for many… 

Further Reading:

• America’s Best History looks back at the ‘Century of Progress’ exhibition: 


• Wilding Pictures captures Technicolor footage of the Fair in 1934:

• The ‘Coal Mine’ exhibit, preserved at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry: