In 1871, Mrs. O'Leary's cow is said to have kicked over a lantern in Chicago and burned the city down. The most valuable parts of Chicago were completely destroyed, including the homes of an estimated one hundred thousand people. Municipal services such as the water system were wiped out. There were thousands and thousands of completely destitute and homeless people, and the business part of the city almost ceased to exist.
However, this was a time of vigor in American life. There was still a frontier out west, and perhaps the same drive that sent people there helped in the rebuilding of a new, stronger Chicago. By 1890 -- less than twenty years after the fire -- Chicago was again a great city. It was thought by its citizens to be the foremost in the country. A new town, a brash town, a rich town. It was the gateway to the rest of the United States.
And the citizens of Chicago wanted to celebrate their renewal. What better way than to hold a Fair for the whole world to attend? It would be the best World's Fair of all time. Nothing else has ever held a candle to it nor is apt to do so.
It needed a name and a reason, so they called it "The World's Columbian Exposition" in honor of the four hundredth year (plus one!) since Columbus sailed the ocean blue. We know it more frequently as the "Chicago World's Fair of 1893," differentiating it from a comparatively minor event also held in Chicago during 1933-24.
The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was America's first Disneyland. It was a matter of fantasy: an ephemeral thing that lasted only a few months. They built what they called "The Great White City" brand new just to hold it. One of the buildings, covering 42 acres, was said to be the largest on earth. Lakes were created, islands built for landscaping, swamps drained. Magnificent white statuary was everywhere -- scantily clad nymphs and goddesses holding allegorical sway over a gigantic celebration.
Foreign countries were invited to display their national cultures and products and they came, building their own lovely palaces to show their magnificence. Among the countries and states sending exhibits were the Argentine Republic, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, British Guiana, Bulgaria, Canada, Ceylon, Chile, Columbia, Korea, Costa Rica, Curacao, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lahore, Liberia, Mexico, Netherlands, New South Wales, Nicaragua, Norway, Orange Free State, Paraguay, Persia, Portugal, Russia, Siam, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad, Turkey, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Serving this mass of internationalism were 69,492 "exhibiters." Was this the first United Nations?
The United States Government was itself a major exhibitor, and most of the individual states of this country were handsomely represented by embassy-type buildings of their own. In those days something really spectacular could be built for $20,000.
Then there was the place known as the "Midway Plaisance." This was a part of the Fair presentation, but it was separate from the official displays of governmental units -- a magnificent sideshow to the main events of the Fair. Exhibits were contributed by individual proprietors from countries of the world, each out to make a buck according to the good old profit motive of that rough and ready time. The Midway Plaisance housed a massive display of exotica presented by a cast of literally thousands coming from all over the world. Some of this was for real. Some was hype. Like sideshows everywhere.
There was an Irish castle, a Viennese beer garden, a Japanese temple, a bunch of bare-bosomed "Amazons" from Africa. Of special interest to many was an extremely popular exhibit titled the "Street of Cairo." It was balanced by exhibitions from the Ottoman empire including a "Street of Constantinople" and extensive exhibits showing aspects of life in the Ottoman Empire. Included was a Bedouin encampment, complete with Arabian horses, sponsored by an organization we know as the "Hamidie Hippodrome Society."
The greatest feature on the Midway Plaisance was the Ferris Wheel. This was an enormous machine: still the largest Ferris wheel ever built. It was 264 feet in diameter and required a 2000 horse power engine to turn it. Fully loaded it held 2160 people. Eventually, it was shipped to St. Louis for the Fair of 1904, requiring 175 railroad flat cars to haul it.
The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was a great public event in America life. Every American who could get there must have gone. On October 9th -- the day held in celebration of Chicago, called "Chicago Day"-- there were 716,881 admissions. This was in a city with a population of 1,098,576 as of the 1890 census, so just about everybody must have been there.
Almost all the public figures of the time seem to have been in Chicago during the Fair, plus probably most of the honeymooners who got married that year. It was said that one couple got married on ponies riding the Ferris Wheel. One wonders if the roaring 20's was actually the playground era of the baby boomers resulting from the Chicago's World's Fair. There could have been enough of them. Total paid attendance at the Fair was 27,529,401.
Not all went smoothly on the Midway Plaisance. Like most big American events, there were elements of wishful thinking. Space for exhibitors was not ready at the opening of the Fair, with the result that some exhibits such as the British Horse Guards (also called Tattersall's Military Tournament) and the Hamidie Society could not initially open within its grounds at the start of the Fair. Even though admitted later, these exhibits lost major opportunity for income from Fairgoers.
The Ferris Wheel was a magnificent concept, but it was not completed at the beginning of the Fair, and for some time its various unassembled parts cluttered the main Midway area, reducing traffic of customers, until its final readiness on June 21st. Trade was further reduced by insistence of the Blue Law segment of the nation that the Sabbath be honored, which meant that Sundays, when working people could attend, did not contribute to income. Federal funding was tied to Sunday closure, but the Fair Directors resisted closing for a few weekends. However the righteous ultimately drove out temptation and the Fair remained closed on Sunday for most of its run.
The impact of such problems on the individual proprietors sponsoring exhibits at the Midway Plaisance must have been considerable. Robert Levy, head of the "Street of Constantinople," speaker of 11 languages and an experienced campaigner in world expositions, formed a Midway Plaisance Concessionaire's Club to funnel complaints to the Fair Board. Concessionaires had been required to pay many fees in advance. Yet when the Fair opened electricity was not available to run the exhibits. The concessionaires threatened to strike in June, after the Director of Works suddenly gave orders to turn off the lights at 7 p.m. The Midway had been staying open all night, doing its share to honor the wild and wooly reputation of Chicago.
The whole event was played against a national background of financial distress. The United States was then in the midst of its worst depression since 1837. Railroads, trusts and corporations failed. There was massive poverty and unemployment. Farmers were displaced. The national debate between tight and loose money was intense.
The Fair itself was far in the financial hole during its first months of operation. "The panic grew apace, and the attendance at the Exposition increased very slowly. Heavy obligations for construction work matured, but there were no funds with which to meet them. The heavy liquidation and the severe contraction of credit throughout the country made the demand for money everywhere very depressing, and it was not easy to withstand the just demands of creditors greatly in need of moneys due them. Little or nothing could be done... The concessionaires shared in the general distress. Most of them had grievances against the Exposition for incomplete roads, for inadequate electric light service, and for various other causes. They were doing little business and saw ruin stare them in the face." Forty-five thousand of the foreign exhibitors found themselves in a financial hole and some went bankrupt. Among these were two horse groups, the British Horse Guards and the Hamidie Hippodrome Society.
The Ferris wheel concession was the symbol of American inventiveness by which the Fair is most remembered. Even with gross receipts of over $700,000, at the end of the Fair it ended up with a balance due to the management of the Fair of a little over $84,000.
But financial success was not the public's concern. Like all American audiences, it loved a show. Bankrupt or thriving; that didn't matter.
The Fair started May 1 1893. It ended six months later, October 31st. Afterwards most of the buildings burned or were torn down, and the grounds reverted to park.
Memories remain. We are concerned with those that pertain to the establishment of the Arabian horse in America.
The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 appears to have been the first place in the United States where Arabian horses were exhibited against each other in competition. Only four horses were exhibited, a two-year-old stallion, Mirzah Saafy and three mares, Aga, Hasfoura, and Kohey I (probably a misprint of the name "Koheyl"). They were exhibited by Jacob Heyl of Milwaukee. Unfortunately, these horses were never registered and left no descendants in current Arabian breeding. They were of bloodlines from the stud of Weil of the royal family of Wurtemburg, which eventually became incorporated into the Marbach stud farm. It was and remains one of the best-thought-of studs of Europe, but the bloodlines from its greatest period now exist only as traces throughout the breed.
The judge of this exhibit was Rev. F. F. Vidal from England. In his written commentary on the horses, he said "though they are beautiful animals, they are not altogether perfect specimens. They all, more or less, are defective in a point which pure Arabs are generally super excellent, namely, their shoulders."
A couple of classes with only a few entries was not a very glamorous beginning for the Arabian horse show industry in America, but at least it was a start. Rev. Vidal's talents as a judge were more extensively tested at the classes for Americo-Arabs, which were defined as horses having one eighth or more of "pure Arab strain." There appear to have been sixteen entries in this category with Mr. Heyl's stallion Hassan winning the sweepstakes and his mare Adelina taking the second prize.
In the category of "Russia-Arab" and with a different judge, two horses were exhibited for His I. H. Grand Duke Dimitry of Russia. These were *Gouneiad and Gudrun, with *Gouneiad preferred by the judge.
Apparently the Russian Arabians and other Arabians did not compete against each other. (In fact, the Russian horses did not compete with any other horses at all, regardless of breed.) At this removal in time, the reason for this is not apparent. It may have been felt that the Russian horses were from a different tradition in Arabian breeding than the others. Davenport comments on a pedigree difficulty with *Gouneiad who was of rather typical continental European breeding of the time.
Rev. Vidal, judge for the other Arabian horses, may have been touching indirectly on this subject in his official comments on the horses which he judged. His first point in making his commentary was that he considered the horses to be purebred Arabians because they were from the Weil Stud, the only other continental European stud in his opinion to have purebred Arabians being the Hungarian stud, i.e., Babolna. 
Any debate about continental Arabian breeding has been pretty well resolved by time. In the world of today's competition, the Russian horses would not be differentiated from bloodlines of other sources, and *Gouneiad and Gudrun would probably be recognized as good old-fashioned Arabians.
Neither Russian horse appears in modern Arabian pedigrees, although *Gouneiad 21 was registered and sired some pure Arab foals for the Huntington stud.  *Gouneiad was described by M. W. Dunham, who judged him, as being *15 1/8 hands high; very fine head; fair length of neck; high withers, very thick at top of shoulders; top line exceedingly good; stout, round body and wide thighs, broad stifle; hind legs clean and well set; fore legs slightly inclined backward at the knee."  *Gouneiad's skull is preserved at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It is unusually wide between the jaws. It is of normal size and has a slight dish. Its ratio of width across the forehead to total length was such that in life *Gouneiad probably did not appear to be wide across the forehead.
The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 is mainly remembered by current Arabian horse breeders in America because of the Hamidie Society exhibit of native Arabian horses. To understand this show and the horses exhibited in it, one has to consider that it was part of an overall context of exhibits of the Ottoman Empire at the Chicago World's Fair. At the time of the Fair, the Ottoman Empire was known in diplomatic circles as "The Sick Man of Europe." It had been a great empire for hundreds of years, including at one time much of the Balkans, Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, and North Africa, including Egypt.
By 1893, however, it had been in decline for several hundred years, and was fighting to make a place for itself among "modern" nations. Its Balkan presence was in jeopardy. It had a hostile border with Russia. It had lost effective control in Egypt. The Arabian peninsula was restive under influence of Arab nationalism. There was widespread and extremely negative international publicity because of government persecution of its Armenian minority citizens.
In bleak circumstances like this, nations turn to public relations to make up the difference. That is probably a main reason why Turkey, which was the central part of the Ottoman Empire, made the effort to be strongly represented at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.
The major Turkish exhibit of official government sponsorship was the Ottoman Pavilion. This was a building eighty by one hundred feet in size, said to be in imitation of the Hunkhar Casque or Fountain of Sultan Ahmed III in Constantinople. It had a dome in the center and smaller domes at each corner. It had an outreaching roof and outside walls of wooden panels which had been thickly carved in Turkey with Arabic texts and designs. There was also a smaller pavilion of the same sort with a luxurious reception chamber, and exhibits in other areas of the Fair. There were twelve categories of exhibits of the Ottoman empire, including textile fabrics, gold, silver, and other minerals, munitions of war, electrical appliances, antiquities, natural agriculture products, silks, dye-stuffs, and other items.
Turkish women were also represented. The Woman's Building contained a case of "embroideries of exquisite workmanship and design, and unequaled by anything ever before shown in this country... Among the more noticeable specimens shown are doylies that look like frost work, some being in solid gold, embroidery on drawn threads, closely resembling the repousee, and gold-basket work of Russian goldsmiths...The finest linen scarfs for table centers have the oriental finish of a wrought bordering, with tiny spangles and penduloques...One design is copied from the enamels of the 'green mosque,' a marvelous piece of architecture in Broussa. Altogether the exhibit is one of the finest in the building."
The affairs of the Turkish commission were operated by a staff under H.E. Ibrahim Hakky Bey, who had the title of "Commissioner-General of the Ottoman Empire to the World's Columbian Exposition." The members of his commission consisted of nine men, of whom five have names which sound like they might have been Turkish. We also see the names "Pushman," Sweeney," "Thompson," and "Asdikian." The last of these is listed in the Official Catalogue of the World's Columbian Exposition as "acting for Agriculture."
Asdikian is also listed in an internal memo of the office of the appointment clerk, USDA, "as appointed special agent at $1200 per annum in the Bureau of Animal Industry, removed Mar. 15 - 1893."  It appears, therefore, that he was a U.S. Government employee whose job was terminated so that he could assume duties on the Turkish commission at the Columbian Exposition. Possibly he was considered especially apt for this post because he was natively from Armenia. More about Asdikian later.
As fascinating as were the various commercial products of the Ottoman Empire, the average American visitor at the Columbian Exposition was probably more impressed and entertained by Turkish exhibits at the Midway Plaisance, which had more of the romance and color of the Orient.
Turkish exhibits at the Midway Plaisance appear to have been in at least two divisions. There was a Turkish village, operated by Robert Levy, a caterer from Constantinople, as Concessionaire. Levy had previously handled a successful Turkish concession at the Paris World's Fair of 1889. His concession at Chicago, which was the first of all the exhibits on Midway Plaisance to be ready for customers, appears to have included a Turkish theatre, a refreshment pavilion, a tent said to have belonged to the Shah of Persia, a "Grand Bazaar," a Bedouin encampment in which Bedouin daily life was shown, cottages illustrating Turkish village industry, a replica of Cleopatra's Needle, a replica of a bronze Greek monument, and a mosque.
There was also music: When President Grover Cleveland officially opened the Fair on May 1, he was serenaded. The Turkish band played for the President and his party as they were paraded through the grounds. The Chicago Tribune (5/2/93) reported: "...when the smiling face of the President was seen well down the line, the man who occupies the proud position of drum major swung his little short baton, and there was the wildest and most confusing escape of unmelodious sounds that have greeted the President's ear since he left Washington. Then all the men smiled and bowed, though they carefully retained their red fezzes while the President took off his silk hat and made a profound bow."
The Turkish exhibit at the Midway Plaisance additionally offered theatrical entertainment, mock sword fighting, and an interesting display typical of the Middle East carried on by young ladies in ethnic costume performing what was described in some places as an educational demonstration of athletic muscle control. Elsewhere, it was said to be disgusting to people of sensitivity. This was the "Danse du Ventre," in today's terminology, the "belly dance." It was also performed by young ladies of other middle-eastern exhibitions as those of Egypt and Algeria. Participants seem to have been fully clothed, but this dancing may have been a little more than would have been favored by our recent President's Commission on Pornography. It was described as "a dance of young women, wherein Western people might see how the head of St. John Baptist was lost to Herodias."
After the great Fair, many of the exhibits adjourned to San Francisco, where they resumed business as The Midwinter Fair. The Danse du Ventre attracted attention there, too. A newspaper reports that "The Pacific Society for the Prevention of Vice has had the Turkish dancing girls, who were a feature on the Midway in Chicago and who were to appear at the Midwinter Fair, arrested, and a determined effort will be made to prevent them from dancing..." It is hard to imagine what they did that would have shocked anyone in San Francisco of that era, or now.
The mosque was apparently a beauty, with a gilded dome 60 feet high and a 135-foot minaret. The call of the faithful to worship from its towers must have added a religious touch to the atmosphere of the presentation. The Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid II, felt so strongly that Moslems attending the World's Fair should have a place to worship that he personally subscribed part of the money necessary to build it.
A fascinating switch of emphasis occurred at Yom Kippur, when the mosque was temporarily converted to a synagogue and much of the Turkish Village was shut down as Jewish performers attended the service of their faith.
The Midway Plaisance exhibit of greatest interest to the Arabian horse public was a concession for the exhibition of desertbred Arabian horses. This is described in our stud books as the "Hamidie Hippodrome Society." In official correspondence at the time of the Fair, it was referred to as the "Ottoman Hippodrome,": but it was better known as "The Wild East Show," and wild it was and of the East it was.
So much so that no one has ever been able to totally separate from it what was truth and what was fiction, but this interesting event provided a context which helped start Arabian horse breeding in America, then in its infancy, with only a handful of Arabian horses in American ownership.
The scope of the exhibition was not modest. Its departure from the Ottoman Empire was reported in The Levant Herald and Eastern Express of March 27, 1893.
"Razi Sekali has obtained an imperial irade authorizing him to open at Chicago a show of Bedouin life with horses, camels, gazelles, greyhounds, camping materials, tent equipment and all the adjuncts necessary to produce a faithful representation of the existence of the nomadic Ishmaelites of the Syrian desert. Mr. Sursock, a rich banker of Beyrout, has promoted this undertaking and has been energetically assisted by Mr. Allan Ramsay of the Imperial Ottoman Bank... A large steamer has been chartered to convey the men, the livestock, and in short all the materials which compose the exhibition, across the Atlantic, and the vessel sails today for America from Beyrout. The exhibition will be installed on the grounds of the baseball Club, where Mr. Ramsay has secured space which will contain 25,000 spectators..."
Of the 274 passengers on the SS Cynthiana, most were young with ages between 20 and 35. Except for a few, they were listed as "performers." Most had one to three items of baggage. Only thirty-one were women. The official country of citizen ship was given as Turkey, but these people actually came from places like Beirut, Haifa, Mt. Lebanon, Damascus, Nazareth, Tripoli, Baalbek, Jaffa, and Antioch. For many of them, the names of these towns may have been used to indicate general areas of origin, according to the responsibilities of the local Ottoman governors.
Probably the administrators of the Hamidie Hippodrome Society and personnel of other aspects of the Turkish presentation at the Fair came by other routes of transport. In all, 477 exhibitors were reported as participating in the Hamidie Hippodrome Society and other Turkish exhibits is not clear.
According to official declaration at Customs, the actual numbers of animals imported by the Hamidie Society was a little different than given in the newspaper account reporting their arrival. Horses remained at forty head. There were twelve camels and seven donkeys.  In subsequent official correspondence, the number of donkeys changed somewhat from letter to letter, but the number of horses held constant at 40.
Another interesting feature of early correspondence between representatives of the Hamidie Hippodrome Society and the Secretary of the Treasury is repeated reference to two horses being furnished from the private stables of the Sultan of Turkey. The Collector of Customs, Port of Chicago, wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury: "They state that they have the highest official support in their enterprise, that the Sultan of Turkey has sent two horses from his private stables, as part of their equipment, with the view of illustrating to the Western World the quality of stock they raise."  Horses of the Sultan are referenced in a follow-up telegram of a few days later: "Referring to my letter seventeenth instant regarding Ottoman Hippodrome Consisting of Sultans horses and appurtenances..." In a memorandum apparently from the office of the Secretary of the Treasury to Collector of Customs, Port of Chicago, notice is taken of the statement that "they are accompanied by two horses from the private stables of the Sultan of Turkey."
Horses of the Sultan are not specifically identified. None of the published American writers on the subject of the Hamidie Society mentions them. One wonders a bit as to how well-informed such writers were on the actual details of the importation. Surely horses from the Sultan would have been newsworthy as items of romantic origin and as indicating the official regard with which the exhibition was held by the ruler of its originating country.
A further indication of official regard was that the Sultan sent three representatives to keep track of things, of which two were officials. The third, who was overall head of the Turkish World's Fair Commission, was said by A. G. Asdikian to have been Abdul Hamid's favorite private secretary. Official oversight no doubt concerned much more of the Ottoman presence than the Hamidie Society alone, but, like horse owners everywhere, the Sultan probably kept track of his own horses.
The origin of Hamidie Society horses not donated by the Sultan is, of course, a matter of special interest. In Homer Davenport's 1906-7 catalog of the World's Fair horses in his possession at that time, he writes:
"...on the ship from Constantinople to Beirut, en route to the desert, I was fortunate to meet Mr. Bistany, a Syrian merchant, of Buffalo, New York, who informed us that he had lost upwards of $80,000 in financing the company known as "The Hamid Hippodrome Company," that came to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, he having paid the money for the purchase of the horses and mares, and he remarked that in our entire travels over the desert we would not find the equal of the gray mare Nedjma that was included in that importation, and he said that she was a Kehilet Ajuz, one of the finest specimens of that family... I asked him of the breeding of the other horses, and from whence they had come... He told me that there were several of the prized blood known as Hamdani Simri, several Abeyan Sherraks, and others of the best strain; that they came from the plains, near Damascus... He talked for an hour on the rarity of blood of the gray mare... and told of the trouble they had in getting her from the Anazeh."
If $80,000 or any substantial part of that sum was actually paid for these horses, they were an expensive collection indeed, costing about $2,000 each. Most of them were young stallions. That was a category of horse that was a very frequent sale item from desert tribes. A few years later the Davenport importation to the U.S. from the same area was made at an approximate cost of $1000 per head on arrival in this country. 
A letter from this same K. A. Bistany to H. K. Bush-Brown, initial secretary of the new Arabian Horse Club, bears on the subject:
"...It takes me very long time to explain you the breeding of said horses which took us about a year to select from many different Tribes of the desert. Price was no object to us when we were able to secure of every tribe the purest blood horse they had from Anazeh, and the surrounding. They were most of them, Seglawi Jedran, Abeyan, Jilfa, Kahilan Ajuz & so forth. Nejdma was a star of the 40 horses and not only that, I do not think that any better horse ever been imported to this country... and it is hard to find at present time in the desert of Arabia as pretty as Nejdma." 
In an additional letter Mr. Bistany wrote: "We had to gather these horses of many parts of the country, Damascus, Aleppo, and the Desert of Arabia... Most of the horses had the pedigrees, but very few of them which have been in the cities had no certificates, as their names and breed known to us, and after the company failed; books and papers have been lost or destroyed. I am sure I do not know what became of them." 
Years later in 1929, K. A. Bistany wrote to the Arabian Horse Club in reference to the mare *Saada 721, a Jilfah Sitam-al Bulad which he had imported from Baalbek, Syria. Mr. Bistany's letter refers to earlier historic Arabian horse events: "In the year of 1893 the Hamidie Society Company of which I was a stockholder imported forty-two Arabian Horses for the Chicago World's Fair. Nejme, one of the best of this importation was my particular Mare...In 1906 while I was crossing from Constantinople to Syria, I met the late Mr. Homer Davenport who informed me that he owned two colts from the mare Nejme. Later in Syria I helped him secure the Arabian Horses he imported that year to this country." 
A Turkish language newspaper, The Chicago Fair Illustrated of June 1, 1893, lists "S. K. Bistany, Proprietor, private office Turkish Village, World's Fair, Chicago." An "S. K. Bistany" is also listed as the concessionaire for the "Bedouin Camp" in the official report of the president of the World's Columbian Exposition. The similarity of name seems to at least indicate a family involvement with the World's Fair business. The passenger list of the SS Cynthiana, upon which Hamidie Hippodrome Society personnel arrived in the U.S., includes two men and two women having the Bistany name, one man described as "K. Bistany," aged 33, which corresponds roughly with the New York Times obituary age of Khalil A. Bistany, there connected with the Bedouin village exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair.
Concerning the name "Bistany" in connection with the Hamidie Society, A. G. Asdikian, who had personal contact with the Society at the Fair, wrote "I do not personally remember the 'Mr. Bistany of Buffalo"... but know this much that several people by that name were leading stockholders in the 'show' and if my memory serves me right, a Mr. Bistany was the president of the Hamidieh Company, and as there were several younger men connected with the show by that name, would not doubt but this gentleman is one of them." 
Troubles began for the Hamidie Hippodrome Society immediately upon arrival in America. It turned out that they were required to pay $1446 duty owed for livestock  and $541.56 as duty on 893 packages of food which they had brought along for both their livestock and the little army of people in the entourage.  The total required of them was therefore about $2,000. This was not an inconsiderable sum in 1893, when you could build a fine house for that amount of money. It appears to have created a financial bind right at the beginning for an organization which had come to this country in the expectation of minimal cash outlay.
In the words of the manager of the Hamidie Hippodrome Society, Khalil Sarkis, "When the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago extended invitations to the various nations of the earth to exhibit, our country also received an invitation..." That country and Syria had also in 1891 been visited by Commissioners of the Fair soliciting participation. In March 1891, W. A. Brown of a custom house brokerage company had written to the Secretary of Treasury asking whether animals imported for the Columbian exposition to be exhibited as a part of an Arab village would be admitted duty free.
It appears from subsequent correspondence that assurance was given that no duty would be charged, on the apparent basis that payment of duty was not required for exhibits located actually on the grounds of the Exposition, and which were not imported directly for resale. Turkish advance plans therefore seem to have been made without the expectation of payment of duty, and, in fact, their letter appealing the duty requirement says "In view of the invitation extended to us as before stated, we did not come prepared with the necessary funds to pay duty on our importation, relying entirely upon the information which we had received that all exhibits for the World's Fair would be admitted free, under special regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury."
Under the law and according to advance publicity, duty would not have been charged on the horses if the Society had been able to take up immediate residence within the grounds of the Columbian Exposition. Apparently they had trouble in making arrangements to do so and had to locate temporarily outside the grounds.
The reason for the difficulty in accommodations seems to have been that the great World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in addition to being a glorious extravaganza, was also a typical American snafu. The report by the Department of Collections for the Fair casts some light on the situation:
"A very few weeks before the opening of the Exposition concessionaires began to attempt to secure space inside the buildings and booths outside. It seemed to be impossible to have assignments of space made them which would be permanent and reliable. The matter was in the joint charge of the Department of Works and of the director-general. If one of these departments approved a space, the other was more than apt to veto it. No spaces apparently had been especially reserved for this purpose in the general plan of apportionment in the buildings. The spaces had to be gotten where they could be found...It finally became necessary for the department to cover the entire grounds with its employees, find stations actually located, and either doing business or preparing to do so, take a memorandum of the location, find out what concession had possession of the space, making up its records of stations in this way." 
Eventually, the Hamidie Society was able to relocate within the Fairgrounds, but it had gotten off to a bad start in the "Land of the Free," which was unexpectedly costly in cash requirements for duty and in terms of loss of revenue because of inadequate opportunity to exhibit.
The payment of duty was protested by appeal directly to the Secretary of Treasury. It was pointed out that a similar organization of equine performers, the British Horse Guards, had also not located within the World's Fair enclosure but had been excused payment of duty. Furthermore, as an extenuating circumstance, mention was made that immediately upon payment of duty, there had been a fire in which seven of the horses and three camels had been destroyed.  In the same fire, according to A.G.Asdikian, valuable equipment and pedigrees for many of the horses had also been lost. 
From a memorandum of June 1893, apparently from the Department of Treasury to the Collector of Customs of Chicago, it appears there may have been reimbursement of duty paid on livestock, but not for what was paid on food-stuffs. For a company in a financial squeeze, a delay in return of funds must have been poor help.
Continue to the second part of the article.