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General Electric

Patrons entered a space with copper-lined walls, both inside and out. A glass protective screen separated the audience from the stage. And then five technicians, in a control room suspended above the hall, set forth.

The show was spectacular: the lights went down, an indicator lamp glowed, a horn sounded and then – in about twenty-seconds – a flash of lightning and a loud report startled the visitors to Steinmetz Hall.

Some people cowered in their seats after the first crash. Most grabbed for the rails before them. Others covered their ears and eyes. A few dashed for the exits. A white-uniformed nurse stood by for emergencies. In the first twenty-one days of the Fair, seventeen men lost their hats.

A boy scout unexpectedly ran from the hall, but, then decided it was his duty to return and face his fears. He saw the show three more times, each time giving the scout salute at the end of the performance.

The show exceeded all expectations. The managers of the pavilion added an additional show to the two already scheduled for every hour. Those standing in line to get in often inscribed their feelings on the blue walls of the waiting area: “In memory of ----- who died waiting to see this show.” The exhibitors intended for the visitors to stand during the show. However, its popularity forced them to install wood seats. Unfortunately, the workers hurried the completion of the job and the benches tilted forward.

Supreme Court Justice James Clark McReynolds ruled: “You people are in competition with the Lord.”

Helen Keller, with her companion, Polly Thompson, visited Steinmetz Hall. Miss Keller noted: “As I sat there, the lightning spoke to me! – nay, it sang all through my frame in billowing, organlike tones. However, these delights are now muted for me by the demon voices of another war. All that is beauty, wisdom and progress must, I fear, retreat.”