ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2012 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 58, No.3 - Fall 2012
Editor of this issue: Elizabeth Novickas

Negotiating Official Lithuanian Participation for Chicago’s Second World’s Fair


SALVATORE DE SANDO is a graduate student in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Salvatore studies Lithuanian community development in Chicago.

In the history of Lithuanian national cultural events for international audiences, critical analyses of these productions are lacking. Chicago’s second World’s Fair is the case study, and this project examined official Lithuanian participation in the A Century of Progress International Exposition to show how non-Lithuanians experienced and perceived collaboration with Lithuanian leaders. This project used the University of Illinois at Chicago’s collection of administrative records from A Century of Progress, with a primary focus on external and internal official correspondence. Ultimately, unreliable Fair representative leadership and frequently delayed Lithuanian correspondence unnecessarily extended the dialogue for commitment from the Government of Lithuania. Further, this research outlines early professional relationships between Lithuanian community leaders in Chicago and Lithuania.

An Overview of the Fair: A Brightly Lit Art Deco Affair

During the years 1933 and 1934, Chicago hosted its second World’s Fair. Known as the Century of Progress International Exposition, the Fair celebrated Chicago’s centennial in a spectacular display of diverse exhibits developing the theme of human progress. The fairgrounds spanned a section of Lake Michigan lakefront immediately south of the city’s downtown. Centrally located, the Fair attracted visitors from all over Chicago, the United States, and the world. A significant amount of foreign participation occurred, despite the ongoing worldwide economic depression. During both years of the Fair, a variety of Lithuanians participated, and they contributed to the Fair’s economic success while drawing attention to Lithuanian culture. This study analyzes why the government of Lithuania did not successfully organize an official Lithuanian building at the World’s Fair in 1933.

From 1928 until 1934, Lithuanian participation was negotiated locally, nationally, and internationally. During this process, multiple proposals for official Lithuanian participation were considered. These proposals included a Lithuanian house display in the European village, a separate Baltic village display (with Estonia, Finland, and Latvia), and an independent Lithuanian building. Ultimately, no permanent Lithuanian structure or pavilion was built, although two separate Lithuanian Days were hosted at the Fair.

Participation in a World’s Fair was not a trivial pursuit, as evidenced in the variety of enthusiastic international participants and their projects. At the Century of Progress, many European states sponsored the construction of buildings to showcase national culture. Belgium, England, France, and Switzerland built model villages in a large outdoor exhibit named Old Europe. Other nations built independent free-standing buildings, including the Czechoslovak, Italian, Polish, and Swedish pavilions. Other nations chose to construct restaurants in place of large and costly buildings. In the case of Lithuania, official national participation did not happen, but Lithuanians living in the United States did produce multiple ambitious Fair events. Documented elsewhere, successful international Lithuanian cultural events will be better understood after a review of previous failures like this case in Chicago.

Designating a Linchpin: Contacting Consul Kalvaitis

Given that the Lithuanian Consulate in Chicago was at 608 S. Dearborn Street, Consul Antanas Kalvaitis could not have been much more accessible, both figuratively and literally. Communications between World’s Fair planners and Kalvaitis began with a written request for a list of leading Lithuanian newspapers to contact for promoting the Fair.1 Within two weeks, Kalvaitis recommended Lietuvos Aidas, Rytas, Lietuvos Žinios, and Trimitas.2 In gratitude, the Fair’s planners sent Kalvaitis pamphlets related to the Fair and many subsequent mailings.3 4 Over a year later, Consul Kalvaitis brought up Lithuanian participation at a Lithuanian Economic Conference held in New York on June 9, 10, and 11, 1930.5 While collecting the Fair’s bulletins, the Consul still needed practical information about it. By May 20th, Fair representative Major Felix Streyckmans had failed to provide adequate information in regards to space, terms, and payments. Days after Kalvaitis met with Streyckmans to see model plans, Fair Manager Lenox R. Lohr sent a four-page summary of the Fair’s policies. Although the document was primarily informative, and despite Lohr misspelling Streyckmans’s surname in the letter’s opening sentence, Lohr’s response read like a carefully crafted sales pitch. Lohr’s letter presented multiple options for official Lithuanian participation in the form of hosting a building on the fairgrounds.

Citing the benefits of official Fair participation as “advancing commerce, desire for travel and good will between the nations,” Lohr’s language appealed to Consul Kalvaitis by pointedly referring to the primary responsibilities of a Consul. While Fair planners failed to keep the Lithuanian Consul updated on concrete information, the correspondence often features gracious language and enticing hints at the benefits of participation. And yet, with less than three years left until the Fair’s opening, the government of Lithuania had not officially declared its intent to participate.

Official Lithuanian Participation “In Principle”: Organizing Local Lithuanians

As the executive chairman of the Committee on Co-Ordination of Nationalities, Major Felix Streyckmans was responsible for involving international participants in the fair. The purpose of the Nationalities Committee was to attract foreign participation through coordination with local representatives. An interesting and complex topic in itself, the Committee featured many subcommittee sections headed by local immigrant community leaders. The Lithuanian Section was headed by Chairman Joseph J. Elias, who served as an intermediary between the Fair and the Lithuanian government. Another Lithuanian Section member and the Secretary of the Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce of Chicago, Joseph Varkala, spent time in Lithuania seeking government interest in participation.6

The Lithuanian Section’s work yielded results. The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dovas Zaunius, wrote to Elias that the Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary of Lithuania to the United States, Bronius Kasimir Balutis, was “empowered to conduct all matters pertaining to the Fair in close contact with the Lithuanian Section of the Chicago World’s Fair Committee.”7 With official Lithuanian government endorsement of the Lithuanian Section, this meant that the Lithuanian government “agreed in principle to take part.”8 From this point forward, however, miscommunication hampered Lithuanian efforts.

The English translation of Zaunius’s letter was dated October 31, 1930. Although Elias was the first member of the Committee to receive an official appointment by his representative nation, Elias did not share knowledge of his appointment with Fair officials until months later, and Consul Kalvaitis would confirm it even later.9 On February 27, 1931, Elias mailed a translation of Zaunius’s letter to Streyckmans, and he requested a date to discuss exhibit options on behalf of the Lithuanian government.10 On March 6, during a lunch meeting at the Fair’s Administrative Building, Elias informed Fair officials that Lithuania accepted the invitation to participate and the officials cited him claiming that “probably half a million dollars will be spent.”11 Further, Elias was attributed as claiming that a Lithuanian farmhouse would be recreated in the Old Europe section of the Fair, and each farmhouse room would display arts, crafts, fabrics, amber and more.12 While waiting for further information from Consul Kalvaitis and Chairman Elias, Fair officials contacted diplomatic representatives in Lithuania.

Seeking Diplomatic Intervention in Lithuania: Working Around Local Lithuanians

Months earlier, during the end of December 1930 and early January 1931, World’s Fair officials contacted American diplomats in Lithuania. Chargé d’affaires ad interim Hugh S. Fullerton became the Fair’s primary American diplomatic contact. While acting on behalf of the Lithuanian Foreign Office, Chief of the Press Bureau Magdalena Avietėnaitė became the Fair’s primary Lithuanian government contact. In February, American Minister F. W. B. Coleman had informed the Fair that not only would the Lithuanian government be unable to fund an independent Lithuanian pavilion, but collaboration between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would not happen either. There was, however, a “supposition” that Lithuanians in Chicago would “collaborate with Mr. Balutis and the Foreign Office in whatever may be done.”13

By July, Streyckmans was concerned that the Lithuanian government had not formally contacted the Fair to officially declare their intent to participate.14 This concern was felt despite Kalvaitis’s plan to mention the issue of official Lithuanian participation upon his arrival in Lithuania. Streyckmans continued to lose faith in Kalvaitis.

By August, miscommunication between Consul Kalvaitis and Avietėnaitė worsened the situation. According to Avietėnaitė, Kalvaitis gave the impression that the Fair would host a Palace of Nations with free ground space for foreign governments. Up until August, Avietėnaitė planned to raise about $50,000 in Chicago and again in Lithuania.15 Finding her options more limited than she supposed from her information, Avietėnaitė continued to communicate with Estonia and Latvia, with the hope of including Finland as well. In Lithuania, she would promote savings clubs, and in the United States she secured 50 percent railway discounts for Fair attendees.16 Notably, she encouraged the Fair to consider granting Lithuania free space on the fairgrounds. In light of her favorable impression on Deputy General Adviser to the Fair, Major O. J. F. Keatinge, her request was genuinely considered.17

With less than eighteen months until the World’s Fair opened, the time available to produce a Lithuanian exhibit was running out. While Fair planners still sought Lithuanian participation, the Lithuanian government had still not made an official response.

In a correspondence between Major Keatinge and American Chargé d’affaires Hugh S. Fullerton, Keatinge wrote:

[i]n any case, a definite reply to President Hoover’s invitation is entirely unnecessary at this stage, but merely an implication of the government’s intentions, official or unofficial.18

Fullerton cautiously advised Fair planners that “[t]he economic depression is very severe in the Baltic States … but Lithuania is in a more favorable position than the other Baltic States …” and he added:

I think there is a distinct sentiment in favor of some kind of participation in the Exposition and that the enthusiasm on this score with Lithuanians in America will not be overlooked.19

Only two days after Fullerton’s initial response, the Chargé d’affaires’ previous optimism had faded. After an interview with Avietėnaitė, Fullerton revealed “…that the Lithuanian Government is seriously considering abstaining for financial reasons,” and he added:

[t]his attitude is a source of personal disappointment to members of the Government, but a policy of rigid economy in anticipation of possible economic depression in Lithuania is possible. 20

Without further explanation, Fullerton observed that:

[i]t seems that the attitude assumed by Estonia and Latvia has influenced this country considerably, and that also very little support is anticipated in a financial way from Lithuanian residents in the United States.21

Citing a conversation with Avietėnaitė, Fullerton commented that in terms of available finances:

...the limit which the Government at present felt it could go would be a very few thousands of dollars – which would have to be employed, I assume, for exhibits and their transportation.22

While Fullerton could not officially speak for the government of Lithuania, his personal insights and his carefully chosen statements were revealing. At that time, it appeared that Lithuanian participation would be limited to an unspecified low-cost display of national culture, if any representation were to officially occur at all. Also, Fullerton referenced Estonian and Latvian official participation as a determining factor in the Lithuanian government’s decision. Perhaps most striking is that the Smetona government may have been willing to contribute a substantial sum of money, “a very few thousands,” wrote Fullerton, although the sum of money was far short of Joseph Elias’s claim. However, no correspondence further illuminates any of these observations.

An Abeyance Request Made in Vain: Streyckmans’s Failed Trip to Kaunas

By February 11, 1932, coinciding with Major Streyckmans’s arrival for a European tour and a full fifteen days later, Keatinge responded to Fullerton asking:

…to request the Lithuanian government to defer any final decision until they have given Streyckmans an opportunity of explaining the excellent facilities which are offered by the Exhibition to foreign governments participating there.23

Keatinge’s response does not mention the limitation of the Lithuanian Government’s finances, and his delayed response undermines his urgency.

Major Keatinge’s office was in London, and while it is difficult to approximate the speed of European mail delivery, it can be suggested that Keatinge’s correspondences were sent at a slower rate than letters from Fullerton. Given the dates on each letter, the initial exchange from Keatinge to Fullerton took six days. However, between Fullerton’s last letter and Keatinge’s response there is a two-week lag. For the already limited Lithuanian effort, Keatinge’s slower correspondences cost planners more time. Keatinge’s slow response, combined with his request to Fullerton to seek deferment of an official Lithuanian Governmental rejection of participation, seems counterproductive. Essentially, Keatinge asked a favor from Fullerton, while not prioritizing correspondence with the American diplomat. It seems that Lithuanian participation was desired, but was not a high priority for Fair planners. This lack of priority meant slower communication, and this wasted yet more of the planners time.

In a comparatively fast response of six days, Fullerton confirmed his intervention. As he wrote:

…upon behalf of the Minister, that this Legation is urging upon the Lithuanian Foreign Office the deferral of any definite action with respect to Lithuania’s participation in the Chicago Exposition until the arrival very shortly of Major Streyckmans…”24

Keatinge’s response was slower to arrive, and it brought more unfortunate news: Streyckmans would not arrive after all. Citing “urgent private business,” Keatinge informed Fullerton that Streyckmans was returning to the United States. Surprisingly, Keatinge cites Streyckmans’s claim that “…he has reasons for hoping that some financial support will be forthcoming from persons of Lithuanian origin.”25 No further information is provided. Again, Keatinge had asked Fullerton to urge the Lithuanian government to leave their decision in regard to participation in “abeyance until the situation is cleared up.”26

At this time, it seems that Lithuanian participation was further limited by the speed of mail delivery and the speed of correspondence writing. As seen in the case of Keatinge’s communications with Fullerton, the speed of return letters was unpredictable. Even worse, in the case of the Fair planners’ allegations regarding correspondence with Avietėnaitė, a letter (however late it was sent) might not be successfully delivered.27

With less than eighteen months before the Exhibition’s scheduled opening, Keatinge wrote to Fullerton:

[a]t the time that I saw Miss Avietenaite in August last, she was most enthusiastic about participation in the Exhibition and when I returned I wrote her a letter dated 23rd September giving her further details which she required. I have never had an acknowledgement to this letter, and I am therefore now writing to ask if you would be so kind as to have enquiries made as to the possibility of Lithuania’s participation at Chicago.28

The extent of Keatinge’s concern about Lithuanian participation is unclear, but his concern that his letter should have been answered is clear.

Final Fair Proposals: Multiple Offers and Multiple Recipients

In April of 1932, World’s Fair planners tried other avenues to attract official Lithuanian participation. The Fair’s Director of Exhibits Colonel John Stephen Sewell wrote to Fullerton to inform him that:

National Governments participating are free to charge admission and to let concessions in areas assigned to them without giving the Exposition a share of receipts.29

This meant that if the Lithuanian government erected a building on the fairgrounds, the operators could charge an admission fee to recoup the construction and maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, W. S. McHenry of the Fair’s Department of Concessions wrote to Consul Kalvaitis to suggest that Lithuanian planners should consider participating in a planned “Bazaar of European merchants, in which [the Fair] offer[s] small but attractive shops at very low prices for the sale of merchandise and light foods characteristic of their country.”30 Notably, “[e]ach shop will have one or more workmen in costume, actually making the articles which are offered for sale.”31 Without directly addressing the Lithuanian government’s concern about funding, the Fair’s planners tactfully suggested options for generating revenue on the fairgrounds. Still, the problem of start-up capital for official Lithuanian participation was unaddressed by the planners.

By September 1932, official Lithuanian participation did not look promising. Still, Fair planners continued to solicit an official response from the Lithuanian government. As a representative from the Fair’s Foreign Participation Division, Charles H. Thurman wrote to Consul Kalvaitis informing him that not only could the Lithuanian government charge additional fees, but “the space within that building will be at the disposal of the Government or its appointed representative.”32 This meant that the Lithuanian government could rent building space for “its various departments, theatrical entertainments, or for the display of handicraft and domestic arts,” and should not neglect the consideration that:

any revenue resulting therefrom [would] accrue to the Government. The Exposition would receive no revenue whatever from such participation beyond the additional visitors such features might bring.33

However, this would not be enough for the Fair’s planners to secure Lithuanian governmental participation in the final months leading to the opening of the Fair.


The Chicago World’s Fair opened on May 27, 1933 with no official Lithuanian building, village, or exhibit at the Century of Progress Exhibition. Part of the problem was that the Fair’s planners were unable to resolve the funding issues facing the Lithuanian planners. On multiple occasions, the Fair’s planners failed to resolve the Lithuanian government’s concern regarding start-up capital for a building. Yet, the planners continued to suggest to different Lithuanian representatives that there were options for making money through charging admission or renting space. Worse, Lithuanian representatives were seemingly bombarded with requests and advice from multiple Fair planners. In April 1932, Sewell’s letter to Fullerton and McHenry’s letter to Kalvaitis sent mixed messages. Sewell attempted to secure a Lithuanian building proposal through an American diplomat, while McHenry attempted to secure a Lithuanian exhibit proposal through the Lithuanian Consul in Chicago. Also, the Fair’s planners continued to request that the Lithuanian government abstain from officially declining participation, while simultaneously proposing insufficient means for funding a Lithuanian building. While it had earlier seemed possible that local Lithuanian investors would contribute, by 1932 this no longer seemed feasible.

Fortunately, Lithuanians in the United States did collaborate to organize two separate nationality days at the Fair. In 1933 and 1934, like many other national groups without official buildings on the fairgrounds, Lithuanians hosted special two “Lithuania Days.” Funded by local Lithuanian organizations, these national culture events were not without planning problems of their own. However, these performances at least did occur, and some Chicago newspapers reported attendance figures in the thousands.34 35


1 Streyckmans to Kalvaitis. January 25, 1929.
2 Kalvaitis to Streyckmans. February 6, 1929.
3 Lohr to Kalvaitis. January 28, 1930.
4 Streyckmans to Kalvaitis. February 19, 1929.
5 K K alvaitis to Streyckmans. May 20, 1930.
6 “Lithuania.” No Date.
7 Zaunius to Elias. Kaunas, October 31, 1930.
8 Ibid.
9 Streyckmans to Sewell. March 2, 1931.
10 Elias to Streyckmans. February 27, 1931.
11 “Lithuania.” 3/18/31.
12 It is possible that this proposal owes its origin to a Lithuanian exhibit at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. (See: Kriaučiūnas, “Lithuania at the Paris World’s Fair.” )
13 Coleman to Sewell. February 10, 1931.
14 Streyckmans to London Office. July 8, 1931.
15 London Office to Director of Exhibits. Inter Office Correspondence. August 13, 1931.
16 Ibid.
17 K K eatinge to Streyckmans. Inter-Office Correspondence. 17th August, 1931.
18 Keatinge to Fullerton. 19th January 1932.
19 Fullerton to Keatinge. January 25th, 1932.
20 Fullerton to Keatinge. January 27th, 1932.
21 Ibid.
22 Ibid.
23 Keatinge to Fullerton. 11th February 1932.
24 Fullerton to Keatinge. February 17th, 1932.
25 Keating to Fullerton. April 7th, 1932.
26 Ibid.
27 Keatinge to Fullerton. 19th January 1932.
28 Ibid.
29 Sewell to Fullerton. April 21st, 1932.
30 McHenry to Kalvaitis. September 6, 1932.
31 Ibid.
32 Thurman to Kalvaitis. September 8, 1932.
33 Ibid.
34 “Lithuania to Have Its Day at Fair.”
35 “Lithuanians Plan Fete for 50,000.”


Coleman, F. W. B. to Colonel John Stephen Sewell. February 10, 1931. A Century of Progress Records. Series II : Government Correspondence. Box 64 . Folder 2-1128. (hereafter cited as: A Century of Progress Records.)

Elias, Joseph J. to Major Felix J. Streyckmans. February 27, 1931. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Major O. J. F. Keatinge. January 25th, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Major O. J. F. Keatinge. January 27th, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Major O. J. F. Keatinge. February 17th, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.
Kalvaitis, Antanas to Felix Streyckmans. February 6, 1929. A Century of Progress Records..

______ to Mr. Felix J. Streyckmans. May 20, 1930. A Century of Progress Records.

Keatinge, Major to Major Streyckmans. Inter-Office Correspondence. 17th August, 1931. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Hugh S. Fullerton. 19th January 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Hugh S. Fullerton. 11th February 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Hugh S. Fullerton, April 7th, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Hugh S. Fullerton. 19th January 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

Kriaučiūnas, Juozas. “Lithuania at the Paris World’s Fair.” Lituanus. Vol. 28, No. 4.

“Lithuania.” No Date. A Century of Progress Records.

“Lithuania.” 3/18/31. A Century of Progress Records.

“Lithuanians Plan Fete for 50,000.” Chicago American, August 2, 1934.

“Lithuania to Have Its Day at Fair.” Chicago American, July 14, 1933.

Lohr, L. R. to The Honorable Antanas Kalvaitis. January 28, 1930. A Century of Progress Records.

London Office to Director of Exhibits. Inter Office Correspondence. August 13, 1931. A Century of Progress Records.

McHenry, W. S. to The Hon. Antanas Kalvaitis. September 6, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

Sewell, Colonel John Stephen to Hugh S. Fullerton, Esq. April 21st, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

Streyckmans, Felix J. to The Honorable Antanas Kalvaitis. January 25, 1929. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to A. Kalvaitis. February 19, 1929. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to Colonel Sewell. March 2, 1931. A Century of Progress Records.

______ to London Office. July 8, 1931. A Century of Progress Records.

Thurman, Charles H. to The Honorable Antanas Kalvaitis. September 8, 1932. A Century of Progress Records.

Zaunius, Dr. D[ovas] to His Honor Mr. J. J. Elias. Kaunas, October 31, 1930. A Century of Progress Records. Series II : Government Correspondence. Box 64. Folder 2-1129.