The Dust Storm of ’33

In all the talk about the 1893 World’s Fair, it’s easy to forget nowadays that we had ANOTHER one in 1933-34, the Century of Progress, which is remembered today mainly for its posters. But it was a HUGE success at the time.

One forgotten event is from closing night in 1933, when the city and suburbs were hit by a very rare occurrence – a dust storm. We have natural disasters in the city now and then – we’ve had three earthquakes in the last twenty years (though they didn’t feel any different than a truck driving by your apartment). But a dust storm is pretty strange indeed.

The storm rushed in from downstate and pretty well enveloped the city for a few hours. Fair patrons were covered in dust, and the lights of the fair – normally visible from miles and miles away, could hardly be seen from nearby Michigan Avenue.

One thing not known is how this affected the hit dancer of the Fair – Sally Rand, a “fan dancer” who danced on the midway, wearing nothing but a couple of very large feathers. I had a woman on the tour recently who remembered going to the fair as a little girl – her father got in BIG trouble for going to see Sally Rand. High winds and dust probably didn’t do her any favors.

Here’s a video of her performance, which would probably be too risque to put in a fair now:

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