How a Father Influenced His Son

Walt Disney’s father, Elias, worked as a contractor on the World’s Columbian Exposition after moving his young family to Chicago in the early-1890s. Later, he would build the home on Tripp Avenue where Walt was born in 1901. Prior to that Roy was born there and then later, their sister, Ruth. This home would serve as a model for others that he would build in the same neighborhood.

Elias’ construction projects included the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair inspired some of the shops on Disney’s Main Street, like the Crystal Arts and the 2nd-story window tribute to Elias Disney which lists his profession as Contractor.

There were also construction projects that Elias worked that would impact Walt’s life. Elias was a spiritual man and when the local church was ready to build a new building, Elias stepped in and helped build St. Paul’s Congregational Church in October 1900. Flora Disney (Walt’s mother) would play the organ for services and Elias would occasionally take the pulpit to preach. The Disney family would attend every Sunday and often during the week.

Through the years, Elias would recall stories of working on the fair and shared those stories with young Walt. Walt would always remember the stories of the bigness of the fair but also some details that stayed with him the rest of his life. The Exposition was divided into 2 sections. One featured pavilions showcasing new technology. Another section featured international pavilions where visitors could get as sense of different cultures from around the globe. It was designed for families. Together they could have fun and learn something at the same time. That influence and those stories became part of Walt and would impact how he would dream the rest of his life.

Now history is clear that Elias was a tough man and his relationship with Walt was not always one you could describe as “warm and fuzzy” but the influence of his father, the willingness to work, and the struggle to survive and provide for his family were not lost on the impressionable Walt. The lessons that Elias shared from the Chicago World’s Fair were lessons that shaped Walt’s thinking and created within him ideas and hopes that one day would become something no one had ever seen before.

Fathers, never underestimate the influence you have on your children. You may not realize it, but your life, what you do, and the stories you tell, can shape and change the lives of others forever.

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