Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 85 
What has come to be known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was actually called the World’s Columbian Exposition, convened to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. Opening on May 1st, 1893, running until October 30th, and said to have attracted over 27,000,000 visitors, it was a monumental undertaking, involving the construction of numerous substantial buildings, clad in white (hence ‘White City’) and ultimately accredited with introducing a new mode of architecture.
Predictably, the Fair attracted the attention of entrepreneurs and opportunists world-wide. The craze for boxing kangaroos was at its peak so it shouldn’t surprise us to find that some hopeful Australian promoters became involved. A group of three kangaroos were sent to the U.S. on the steamer Monowai in April and May of the year, and a further group of three on the Alameda a few weeks later, via Samoa and Hawaii, accompanied, respectively, by Messrs McMahon and McKenna, their managers. The arrival of the first group in Hawaii on May 5th was described, with some marvellous exaggeration, the following day in The Hawaiian Star:
Two boxing kangaroos, clearly from this group of three (what had happened to the third?), performed in San Francisco on May 22nd, as announced by the Morning Call on May 15:
One of these kangaroos was ‘Jack’, the champion described by the Hawaiian Star. It seems he and his (one? two?) fellows were holed up in San Francisco for a while. The Morning Call carried this absorbing announcement on June 9th:
If I began to comment on this intriguing article this might become my longest post yet. Suffice to say that Gentleman Jack did eventually find himself, at (or near) the Chicago World’s Fair (in a ring built above an empty swimming pool at a Fleischmann’s Yeast restaurant) on the same bill as Jim Corbett, the World Heavyweight Champion (and the man who defeated John L. Sullivan), though there was no match between them.
But it wasn’t Jack, or Jim, who drew me into this post, or nominating, enigmatically, Chicago for the sixth in my eccentric Top Ten. McMahon and McKenna weren’t the only entrepreneurs hoping for a fortune at the World’s Fair through the unpaid services of enslaved kangaroos. On May 19th, too early for her to have been one of the McMahon/McKenna roos, a Kansas newspaper, The Kinsley Graphic, offered the following:
This one small detail, encountered while preparing my earlier post on boxing kangaroos, caught me and led me to write this one. A small, inexpressively sad story, lodged in a crack in another. Another victim of human greed, to whom, it seems, I’ve given the name Chicago.
Apparently the $5,000 of 1893 would be worth more than $125,000 today. A small satisfaction, to think that her ‘owners’ were so out of pocket.
Some of the raw material for this post can be found here.