A Celebration of Women Writers

"Higher Lessons of the World's Fair." by Mrs. Lucinda Hinsdale Stone (1814-1900).
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 446-449.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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"Because the soul is progressive," says Emerson, "it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a fairer whole."

We have here the very essence of Darwinian evolution, and yet these words are older by far than Darwin's enunciation of his discoveries, through which he dethroned the old gods of the six days' creation out of nothing. We have within the enclosure of Jackson park, the results of discoveries in science, made mostly since Darwin's time even, as much greater than the discoveries of Columbus which has created this wonderful fair, as the thoughts of men are wider than the field which those walls encompass. The unlimited possibilities of man, then, and the wonderful rapidity of his successive discoveries of these possibilities, is the first great lesson I read on entering its gates. Above them one might like to find an inscription befitting our times, similar to those apophthegms formerly inscribed above the doors of entrance to the old astrological towers of the days of Columbus.

Over one such tower, erected by Catherine de' Medici in the old city of Blois, in France, there still remains the inscription "Sacred to Urania," or wisdom which Urania (or the stars) could communicate. In a communication here made, as this queen interpreted it, the stars counseled the massacre of St. Bartholomew with all its horrors. Above our gates, marking the difference between that age and this, we would inscribe today: "Sacred to the highest truth, that man, by his own God-aided search, has discovered and made consecrate to the higher, broader education of every man and woman who may enter therein." This, I believe is the divine purpose, of this world's university, opened in this year 1893, and such in effect, I believe, it will prove. Significant and prophetic of this is the inscription over the peristyle, leading into the court from which all this architectural grandeur and beauty seem to radiate, as from the heart of the whole park: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Freedom through truth is, then, the purpose, the pulse, the heart-beat of this World's Fair. When I, for the first time, looked up, and almost under the shadowing arms of that magnificent figure, that wondrous creation of grace, beauty and majesty, the symbol of our republic, holding aloft the emblems of liberty and seeming to welcome the nations to her noble peace banquet, my heart responded to the inscription [Page 447]  and I could but voice what I felt: "Oh sing unto the Lord a new song, for he hath triumphed gloriously." And these are the triumphs of peace, not war; and when that magnificent band under the flooding radiance of the great search light, struck up the music to which is set that glorious hymn, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," written by a woman, my heart and soul sang as never before:

"Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord.
Our God is marching on."

"How far that little candle casts its beams!" Shakespeare makes Portia exclaim, when she sees the light of a candle, the only light for the palaces of kings in her day, gleam from the window of her home, which she is approaching. And, quick as thought and apt as it is beautiful is the suggestion that comes to her woman's soul, of the higher, the spiritual, reach of the same law, eliciting the instant exclamation: "So is a good deed in a naughty world."

What diviner sermon was ever preached than is preached from this text furnished by the poet, in those great searchlights mounted on the four corners of yonder Manufactures Building, in which, they tell us, that one little candle's light is, through the aid of discoveries, made in science and invention, increased in power to the light of two hundred million candles such as called forth the enthusiastic exclamation of Portia; and when we remember that this wonderful invention originated in the old city of Nuremburg, where the deepest dungeons, the darkest and foulest prisons, and the most terrible engines for human torture that man ever invented, yet remain to bear witness to what was yet called Christian in that age, is all the more striking and should raise our jubilee in this Fair to its fullest chorus, in which every voice should join. And a future, a future of which this invention and this whole Exposition is a suggestion–more, a promise–dazes the most advanced idealist. Truly, "what we shall be, doth not yet appear." But, thanks to another kind of searchlight that is illuminating the world–that indicated in the motto chosen by the women of this board of managers for their auxiliary congresses: "Not matter, but mind"–thanks to this spirit in the world which has created a World's Fair, this illuminator for a new era.

In the olden time men could have seen in the face of every stranger whom we welcome to our Midway Plaisance, an enemy to be met with an armed defense against himself, his customs, his thought, and above all against his religion. Now, thanks to the new spirit of our times, we see in him a human brother from whom, though we may differ, with whom we may yet agree in broad human sympathies, and who has the same claim to the fatherhood of God as we have. The noblest art of this Exposition even, and its mission to our age, will be better understood by men and women yet to come. This exposition is to be, I believe, the educator of a broader man than has yet been. Fair as is the infinitude of these parts, a fairer whole in a higher moral and spiritual sphere is to grow out of them.

I am reminded of Byron's first visit to St. Peter's church in Rome, and his famed apostrophe to it, which, mighty structure as it is, could yet be put in a corner, or form a bay window to our great Liberal Arts Building. "Enter," exclaims the poet.

"Its grandeur overwhelms thee not. And why? It is not lessened;
But thy mind, expanded by the genius of the spot, has grown colossal."

In this one word, expanded, or expansion, is best expressed the education which this World's Fair is destined to give the world. It is to be the starting point of new ideas.

It is a new revelation of man to himself that most astonishes. Who thought out this combination of such an infinitude of parts touching, especially in its auxiliary congresses, not only material things, but the mental and moral spheres of life? Those searchlights are not mounted to penetrate every nook and cranny of the fair grounds only, not every dark alley of the city of Chicago even, but they hint an illuminated [Page 448]  search into the dark alleys of the moral, ethical and religious world; into all the varied slums of human thought; they hint, in short, at a new civilization, a new man.

Great art is moral and religious in its teachings and has ever been. Beethoven said: "All genuine invention is a moral progress." What we acquire through art is from God, a divine suggestion that sets up a goal for human capacities which the spirit attains. He said also: "We do not know what grants us our knowledge. The firmly enclosed seed needs the moist, warm, electric soil to grow, think, express itself." Why, my friends, it is an education to walk through these grounds, among these columns, to pass under these domes, an education which we cannot estimate. It imposes a quietude, a courtesy, a gentle awe of which we do not know the meaning. We feel it, that is all. We bear away a new sense of humanity, of the brotherhood of man, that we never felt before. These grounds are the birthplace of a new democracy, of a deeper, more spiritual understanding of the first principles of our declaration of independence, I believe, than anything that has gone before has given us. The "self evident truth that all men are created free and equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" here takes on a new meaning, assumes a farther reach. Caste, cannot live here.

My friends, in looking over this wondrous Exposition, the marvelous achievements of the arts and inventiveness of man, a new light has seemed to come upon this lesson of the old Sphinx, as good for our day as it was for the pre-Adamites; as good in science as in art, and the same in both as in morals and religion. There is but one law.

Was there ever such a pæan, such a divine symphony of art and science, intoning through ten thousand times ten thousand voices, this inspired psalm of the old Sphinx as this World's Fair? "There shall never be one lost good or one lost truth." Never have I felt such exultation as here–that a new heaven and a new earth await us, when the knowledge that has been grasped by science shall be realized as a whole, related to that which is within us as to that which is external to us–that there is but one law. Surely the philosopher's stone is found here? The lesson comes to us like the sound of many waters in the buzz and hum and roar from Machinery Hall, the Electrical and Manufactures Building, revealing to us that human possibilities undreamed of, until within the last quarter, or the last decade of our century, are in us all, and forces of nature, hitherto undreamed of, are subject to man's knowledge and in his control, impressing upon us as nothing else ever did, that, "verily the Highest dwells in us" and "that we are gods but in the germ." As I read the lessons of this Fair which has brought all nations together as never before; there has never in the world's history been taken a more important step toward effecting this, or bringing about this time, than was taken in the organization of this World's Fair with its Auxiliary Congresses. Truly in this, men have builded better than they knew.

Again, what a lesson of the universality of law, written as on a Bible page before us, in all these facts of applied science. Law, sacred, inviolable but with incalculable harm to the violator, be it man or thing–law governing everything, from the infinitesimal atoms, millions of which are massed in a single dewdrop, to the invisible electric bolt that glides harmless and noiseless along its law-abiding path to its destined end, but transcending its limitations by the millionth part of one of the scintillating atoms in the dewdrop, it might in the thousandth part of a second, shatter to atoms the fairest structure in this city of the sciences and art.

These Auxiliary Congresses, taking for their motto "Not matter but mind," suggest that there are suitable forces analagous to those already discovered, but greater than those of which we yet know, which will be sought out through suggestions here made to the great discoverers of our age in realms of mind, morals, spirit, beyond those yet explored. Says the greatest seer of our age: "We do not yet half possess ourselves." But he also adds; "By every throe of growth the man expands there where he works." This is the key to growth. If we had learned nothing else than this, that through work is growth, this World's Fair would have been a rewardful out- [Page 449]  lay. We have taken for our motto "Not matter but mind;" avowed ourselves as no longer limited by the restrictions of matter. Who shall prescribe limitations to the soul? This to me, is what all this wonderful Exposition with its crowning congresses, is sublimely, religiously teaching. It is the turning of swords into plowshares, of spears into pruning hooks, until the Eden of past story shall lie before us in the attainable, not a lost good. Has the beautiful, odorous white lily, and the gentain of cerulean blue, in our horticultural show, blossoming over fetid mud, no lessons of evolution that have been seized upon and applied in art, in the creation of some of the wonders of this Fair? Has this Fair no suggestions that shall reappear in higher spheres of life and thought like the light of Portia's little candle, suggesting "good deeds in a naughty world?"

There is one more lesson which has greatly impressed me, and which I can not forbear to note. It is the spirit of oneness through which ten thousand men and women have wrought, as to one end, in creating the wonders of this Fair. I do not believe we begin to comprehend the miracles here displayed, which have been wrought by this new gospel of oneness; and yet, altruism, the spirit of which is beginning to pervade the world as never before–it is by this divine instrumentality that these miracles have been wrought. Artisan working together with artist, the so-called working men with both, different nationalities commingling, men and women working together without jealously or selfish competition, all have been working together with God in a sense never before realized in the world's history, and the result is a miracle of harmonious achievement, such as has been frequently observed, but was never before attained.

"There is no stoppage," says a great poet recently departed, "and never can be stoppages. If you and I and all the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces, were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would not avail in the long run; we should surely bring up again to where we now are, and as surely go on as much farther, and then farther and farther."

Eternity has no limits, and we are in it; the infinite has no bounds, and we are a part of it.

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Mrs. Lucinda H. Stone is a native of Hinesburgh, Vt. She was born September 30, 1814. Her parents were Aaron Hinsdale and Lucinda Mitchell Hinsdale. She was educated at Hinesburgh Academy and in the Female Seminaries of Middlebury and Burlington, Vt. She has traveled extensively in Europe and in Egypt and some parts of Asia. She married Rev. James A. B. Stone, for twenty years president of Kalamazoo College. Mrs. Stone has been for twenty years principal of the ladies department of Kalamazoo College, and she is also a journalist of note. Has published many letters from Europe and Egypt and Palestine. She was the first American woman to take young ladies abroad for educational travel, and was one of the pioneer organizers of literary clubs. Her postoffice address is Kalamazoo, Mich.

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* The article here appearing consists of extracts from an address under the title "Some of the Lessons of the World's Fair."


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom