Siam: The Queen and The White City

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banners_2039d294dc0714cea9109712709f7784The Chicago History Museum celebrates the 120th anniversary of Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition with Siam: The Queen and the White City. The exhibition honors Queen Savang Vadhana and her contributions in organizing her country’s displays for the fair’s Woman’s Building.

Siam is the previous name for Thailand. Technically, it was the Siam Empire from 1856 – 1932 and the Siam Kingdom from 1932 – 1940 and 1945 – 1948. During WWII, it had been invaded by Japan.

Queen Savang Vadhana’s title was actually Queen Sri Savarindira, which meant that she was not rajini (queen) but the highest consort (wife of a reigning king). King Chulalongkorn had four consorts. In 1935, her grandson became king and she became known as Somdech Phra Vasa Ayyika Chao, the Queen Grandmother.

The presence at the Exposition was her attempt to introduce Siam to the world. Chicagoan Bertha Honore Palmer, as chair of the Board of Lady Managers, received an exquisite album from the Queen. It is now part of the museum’s exhibition that also features Siamese textiles, photographs, and other items.

To open The Queen and the White City, the Queen’s great-granddaughter Her Royal Highness Princess MahaChakriSirindhorn visited Chicago. The opening featured music and dance, including classical Thai khon dancers. The princess joined the festivities by playing ra-nad, a traditional Thai xylophone. She also received an honorary doctorate in humanities from Northern Illinois University.

There will be a members’ World’s Fair Revisited: Thai Dinner on October 10, 2013, at 6 pm at the Star of Siam restaurant. Chief historian Russell Lewis will be the presenter at this second installment of the members’ dining series. Membership is available at Dinner admission is available at,

Siam: the Queen and the White City opened on September 21 and runs through March 2, 2014. It has been developed in the Chicago History Museum with the Queen Savang Vadhana Foundation and the Royal Thai Government. Visit the museum at 1601 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL or

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