Randy Hoyt

The Viking Ship At The 1893 World’s Fair

I wrote this post for an update for backers on my World’s Fair 1893 Kickstarter campaign:

Today, based on archaeological research from the 1960s, scholars believe that Vikings came to America 500 years before Christopher Columbus did. But that wasn’t the case in 1893. Many people doubted that Vikings could have reached North America, until an exhibit from Norway at the fair removed those doubts.

The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America in 1492. (The fair started the following year, 1893, to allow for an additional year of preparations.) The official name of the fair was the “World’s Columbian Exposition” in honor of Columbus. Columbus was represented in many ways, including a large statue in front of the Administration building. (You can see this statue very small on the front of the box.)

Administration Building, East Entrance

Administration Building, East Entrance

In 1880, a 9th-century Viking ship was discovered in a burial mound in Norway. For display at the fair, Norwegian shipowners built an exact replica of the ship in Norway. A crew of 11 sailed the ship from Norway to Chicago. They arrived on July 12, 1893 (two months after the opening of the fair) after a four-week journey. The replica ship was a popular exhibit for the rest of the fair.

The Viking by Charles Graham. The Chicago Tribune Art Supplements, 1893.

The Viking by Charles Graham. The Chicago Tribune Art Supplements, 1893.

You can see the original ship (the one excavated in 1880) on display at The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway. The replica ship remained in the United States, and today you can visit it in Geneva, Illinois. (It is only available on very limited days and times, so check the schedule before you go: Visit The Viking Ship. The first date of this year, April 16, is coming up.)

Apr 07