The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 10 to November 10, 1876, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Officially named the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, it was held in Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill River on fairgrounds designed by Herman J. Schwarzmann. Nearly 10 million visitors attended the exhibition and thirty-seven countries participated in it.
The Great Central Fair, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania held in 1864 (also known as The Great Sanitary Fair), one of the many sanitary fairs held during the Civil War, anticipated the combination of public, private, and commercial efforts that were necessary for the Centennial. The Great Central Fair, held on Logan Square, had a similar gothic appearance, the waving flags, the huge central hall, the "curiosities" and relics, handmade and industrial exhibits, and also a visit from the President and his family, provided a creative and communal means for ordinary citizens to promote the welfare of Union soldiers and dedicate themselves to the survival of the nation. They also made Philadelphia a vital center in the Union war effort.
The idea of the Centennial Exposition is credited to John L. Campbell, a professor of mathematics, natural philosophy and astronomy at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. In December 1866, Campbell suggested to Philadelphia Mayor Morton McMichael that the United States Centennial be celebrated with an exposition in Philadelphia. Detractors said the project would not be able to find funding, other nations might not attend, and U.S. exhibitions might compare poorly to foreign exhibits.
The Franklin Institute became an early supporter of the exposition and asked the Philadelphia City Council"> Philadelphia City Council for use of Fairmount Park. With reference to the numerous events of national importance that were held in the past and related to the City of Philadelphia, the City Council resolved in January 1870, to hold the Centennial Exposition in the city in 1876. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">
The Philadelphia City Council and the Pennsylvania General Assembly"> Pennsylvania General Assembly created a committee to study the project and seek support of the U.S. Congress. Congressman William D. Kelley spoke for the city and state and Daniel Johnson Morrell introduced a bill to create a United States Centennial Commission. The bill, which passed on March 3, 1871, provided that the U.S. government would not be liable for any expenses.
The United States Centennial Commission organized on March 3, 1872, with Joseph R. Hawley of Connecticut as president. The Centennial Commission's commissioners included one representative from each state and territory in the United States. On June 1, 1872, Congress created a Centennial Board of Finance to help raise money. The board's president was John Welsh, brother of philanthropist William Welsh, who had raised funds for The Great Sanitary Fair in 1864. The board was authorized to sell up to $10 million in stock via $10 shares. The board sold $1,784,320 ($36,449,692 today) worth of shares by February 22, 1873. Philadelphia contributed $1.5 million and Pennsylvania gave $1 million. On February 11, 1876, Congress appropriated $1.5 million in a loan. Originally, the board thought it was a subsidy, but after the Centennial ended, the federal government sued for the money back, and the United States Supreme Court ultimately forced repayment. John Welsh enlisted help from the women of Philadelphia who had helped him in The Great Sanitary Fair. A Women's Centennial Executive Committee was formed with Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, as president. In its first few months, the group raised $40,000. When the group learned the planning commission was not doing much to display the work of women, the group raised $30,000 for a women's exhibition building.
In 1873, the Centennial Commission named Alfred T. Goshorn as the director general of the Exposition. The Fairmount Park Commission set aside 450 acres (1.8 km2) of West Fairmount Park for the exposition, which was dedicated on July 4, 1873, by Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson. The Commission decided to classify the exhibits into seven departments: agriculture, art, education and science, horticulture, machinery, manufactures, and mining and metallurgy. Newspaper publisher John W. Forney agreed to head and pay for a Philadelphia commission sent to Europe to invite nations to exhibit at the exposition. Despite fears of a European boycott and high American tariffs making foreign goods not worthwhile, no European country declined the invitation.
To accommodate out-of-town visitors, temporary hotels were constructed near the Centennial's grounds. A Centennial Lodging-House Agency made a list of rooms in hotels, boarding houses and private homes and then sold tickets for the available rooms in cities promoting the Centennial or on trains heading for Philadelphia. Philadelphia streetcars"> Philadelphia streetcars increased service and the Pennsylvania Railroad"> Pennsylvania Railroad ran special trains from Philadelphia's Market Street, New York City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad ran special trains from the Center City part of Philadelphia. A small hospital was built on the Exposition's grounds by the Centennial's Medical Bureau, but despite a heat wave during the summer, no mass deaths or epidemics occurred.
Philadelphia passed an ordinance that authorized Mayor William S. Stokley to appoint five hundred men as centennial guards for the exposition. Among soldiers and local men hired by the city was Frank Geyer, best known for investigating one of America's first serial killers, H. H. Holmes. Centennial guards policed exhibits, kept the peace, reunited lost children, and received, recorded, and when possible, returned lost items, the most unusual of which were front hair pieces and false teeth. Guards were required to live onsite and were housed at 6 police stations strategically located throughout the Exposition. A magistrate's office and courtroom was located at the only two-story police station located on the grounds and was used to conduct prisoner hearings. Officers slept in cramped quarters, which posed health issues. Eight guards died while working the Exposition, six from typhoid fever, one from smallpox, and one from organic disease of the heart.
The Centennial National Bank was chartered on January 19, 1876, to be the "financial agent of the board at the Centennial Exhibition, receiving and accounting for daily receipts, changing foreign moneys into current funds, etc.," according to an article three days later in the Philadelphia Inquirer"> Philadelphia Inquirer. Its main branch, designed by Frank Furness, was opened that April on the southeast corner of Market Street and 32nd Street. A branch office operated during the Centennial on the fairgrounds. The Centennial Commission ran out of funds for printing and other expenses. Philadelphia city officials appropriated $50,000 to make up for the shortfall.
Herman J. Schwarzmann, an engineer for the Fairmount Park Commission, was assigned as the main designer of the exposition. Schwarzmann began working for the Fairmount Park Commission in 1869, which became the site of the 1876 Centennial Exposition. It is one of the great urban parks of America, its importance in landscape history exceeded only by Central Park. He was the chief architect for the Centennial Exposition, designing Memorial Hall, Horticultural Hall, other small buildings and landscape around them. The work done for the Centennial Exhibition was in reference to the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873, for which Schwarzmann visited the exhibition to analyse the buildings and the ground layout. Taking the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873 as a caution, the exhibition was planned in order to avoid the disastrous logistic planning that the Vienna exposition demonstrated.
In the Vienna Exposition, there was no convenient way for visitors to reach the fairgrounds, and exorbitant rates were charged by carriage drivers. With reference to these experiences, the Philadelphia expo was ready for its visitors, with direct rail road connections to service passenger trains for every 30 minutes, trolley lines, street cars, carriage routes and even docking facilities on the river.
More than 200 buildings were constructed within the Exposition's grounds, which were surrounded by a fence nearly three miles long. There were five main buildings in the exhibition. They were the Main Exhibition Building, Memorial Hall, Machinery Hall, Agricultural Hall, and Horticultural Hall. Apart from these buildings, there were separate buildings for state, federal, foreign, corporate, and public comfort buildings. This strategy of numerous buildings in one exposition, set it apart from the previous fairs around the world that relied exclusively on having one or a few large buildings.
The Centennial Commission sponsored a design competition for the principal buildings, conducted in two rounds; winners of the first round had to have details such as construction cost and time prepared for the runoff on September 20, 1873. After the ten design winners were chosen, it was determined that none of them allowed enough time for construction and limited finances. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">
The Architecture of the Exhibition mainly consisted of two ways of building, the traditional masonry monuments and building of structural framework of Iron and Steel.
The Centennial Commission turned to third-place winner's architect Henry Pettit and engineer Joseph M. Wilson for design and construction of the Main Exhibition Building. A temporary structure, the Main Building was the largest building in the world by area, enclosing 21.5 acres (8.7 ha). It measured 464 ft in width and 1,880 ft in length.
It was constructed using prefabricated parts, with a wood and iron frame resting on a substructure of 672 stone piers, the wrought iron roof trusses were supported by the columns of the superstructure.
The building took eighteen months to complete and cost $1,580,000. The building was surrounded by portals on all four sides, the east entrance of the building was used as an access way for carriages and the south entrance of the building served as a primary entrance to the building for street cars. The north side related the building to the Art Gallery and the west side served as a passageway to the Machinery and Agricultural Halls.
In the Main Exhibition Building, columns were placed at a uniform distance of 24 feet. The entire structure consisted of 672 columns, the shortest column 23 ft in length and the longest 125 ft in length. The construction included red and black brick-laid design with stained glass or painted glass decorations. The Interior walls were whitewashed and woodwork was decorated with shades of green, crimson, blue and gold. The flooring of the building was made of wooden planks that rested directly on the ground without any space underneath it.
The orientation of the building was East-West in direction making it well lit and Glass was used between the frames to let in light. Skylights were introduced within the structure, over the central aisles. The corridors of the building were separated by fountains, that were aesthetic and also served the purpose of cooling.
The structure of the building, the central avenue was a series of parallel sheds that were 120 ft (37 m) wide, 1,832 ft (558 m) long, and 75 ft (23 m) high. It was the longest nave ever introduced into an exhibition building. On either sides of the nave, were avenues of 100 feet in width and 1832 feet in length. Aisles of 48 ft wide were between the nave and the side avenues, and smaller aisles of 24 ft in width were on the outer sides of the building.
The exterior of the building consisted of 4 towers of 75 feet in height that stood at each of the building's corners. These towers served as small balconies or galleries of observation at different heights.
Within the building, Exhibits were arranged in a grid, in a dual arrangement of type and national origin. Exhibits from the United States were placed in the center of the building, and foreign exhibits were arranged around the center, based on the nation's distance from the United States. Exhibits inside the Main Exhibition Building dealt with mining, metallurgy, manufacturing, education and science. Offices for foreign commissioners were placed along the sides of the building, in the side aisles, in proximity to the products exhibited. The walkways leading to the exit doors were 10 feet in width.
After the Exposition, the building was turned into a permanent building for the International Exhibition. During the auction held on December 1, 1876 the building was bought for $250,000. It quickly ran into financial difficulty but continued to remain open through 1879, before being finally demolished in 1881.
The third largest structure at the Centennial was Agricultural Hall. Designed by James Windrim, Agricultural Hall was 820 ft (250 m) long and 540 ft (160 m) wide. Made of wood and glass, the building was designed to look like various barn structures pieced together. The building's exhibits included products and machines in agriculture and other related businesses.
Situated high atop a hill presiding over Fountain Avenue, Horticultural Hall epitomized floral achievement, which attracted professional and amateur gardeners. Unlike the other main buildings, it was meant to be permanent. Horticultural Hall had an iron and glass frame on a brick and marble foundation and was 383 ft (117 m) long, 193 ft (59 m) wide and 68 ft (21 m) tall. The building was styled after Moorish architecture and designed as a tribute to The Crystal Palace from London's Great Exhibition. Inside, nurserymen, florists and novice landscape exhibited a variety of tropical plants, garden equipments, and garden plans. In dramatic fashion, the Centennial introduced the general public to the notion of landscape design, as exemplified the building itself and the grounds surrounding it. In terms landscape around it, a long, sunken parterre leading from Horticultural Hall became the Centennial's Iconic floral feature, reproduced on countless postcards and other memorabilia, This low garden enabled visitors to best see the patterns and shapes of the beds from the raised walkways. The building's exhibits specialized in horticulture and after the Exposition it continued to exhibit plants until it was badly damaged by Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and was demolished. As a replacement, the Horticulture Center (Philadelphia)"> Fairmount Park Horticulture Center was built on the site in 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial exposition.
Machinery Hall, the second largest building in the exposition, located west of the Main Exhibition Building was designed by Joseph M. Wilson and Henry Pettit. This structure consisted of a main hall, 1,402 ft long and 360 ft wide, with a wing of 208 ft by 210 ft attached on the south side of the building. The building occupied 558,440 square feet, had 1,900 exhibitors in the Hall and took six months to construct. Much like its name, the exhibits displayed at Machinery Hall focused on machines and evolving industries.
The building was composed of a superstructure made of wood and glass, and rested on a foundation of massive masonry. The building was painted light blue and had 8 different entrances. The length of the building was 18 times its height. Machinery Hall was the show case for the state of the art industrial technology that was being produced at the time. The United States of America alone took up two-thirds of the exhibit space in the building.
One of the major attractions on display in the building was the Corliss Centennial Steam Engine that ran power to all the machinery in the building as well as other parts of the world's fair. The engine was 45 feet tall, produced 1,400 horsepower and weighed 650 tons. It had 1 mile of overhead line belts that connected to the machinery in the building. It symbolized the power of technology that was transforming the United States into an industrial nation.
Amenities available to the visitors within the hall were rolling chairs, telegraph offices and dinner for fifty cents. Machinery Hall had 8,000 operating machines and was filled with a wide assortment of hand tools, machine tools, material handling equipment and the latest fastener technology.
Designed by Herman J. Schwarzmann, the Art Gallery building (now known as Memorial Hall) is made of brick, glass, iron and granite. Memorial Hall, the only large exhibit building to survive on the Centennial site, was designed in the beaux-arts style and housed the art exhibits. It was the largest art hall in the country when it opened, with a massive 1.5-acre footprint and a 150-foot dome sitting atop a 59-foot-high structure with a 150-foot dome sitting on top. It provided 75,000 square feet of wall surface for paintings and 20,000 square feet of floor space for sculptures.The Centennial received so many art contributions that a separate annex was built to house them all. Another building was built for the display of photography. Schwarzmann based his design for Memorial Hall on Nicholas Felix Escaliers project for the Prix de Rome published in 1867–69. Constructed of granite, brick, glass and iron, Memorial Hall consisted of a central domed area surrounded by four pavilions on the corners with open arcades east and west of the main entrance. During the exhibition, the building along with the Art Gallery Extension directly to its rear displayed the art of many nations.20. Memorial Hall became the prototype, both from a stylistic and organizational standpoint, for other museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago (1892–1893), Milwaukee Public Museum (1893–1897), Brooklyn Museum (1893–1924), and Detroit Institute of Art (1920–1927). Libraries like the Library of Congress, New York Public Library and Free Library of Philadelphia also emulated its form.
After the Exposition, Memorial Hall reopened in 1877 as the Pennsylvania Museum of Art and included the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. In 1928 the museum moved to Fairmount at the head of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and in 1938 was renamed the Philadelphia Museum of Art"> Philadelphia Museum of Art. Memorial Hall continued to house the school, and afterward was taken over by the Fairmount Park Commission in 1958. The museum school is now the University of the Arts. The building was later used as a police station and has now been renovated to house the Please Touch Museum. The Please Touch Museum exhibits a beautiful 20 by 30 foot model of the Centennial Grounds and 200 buildings.
The Women's Pavilion, a project of the Women's Centennial Executive Committee, was appointed in 1873 by the United States Centennial Board of Finance. They hoped the Women's Pavilion would generate greater enthusiasm in the celebration of the fair by increasing subscriptions to Centennial stock. Much of the pavilion was devoted to what would be classified as woman's domestic production.
The president of the Women's Centennial Committee was Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, great grand daughter of Benjamin Franklin. Gillespie led the Women's centennial executive committee in raising money to create the first Women's pavilion in exposition history. With the help of Gillespie, the women's centennial committee reached their goal of 82,000 signatures in 2 days to raise money for the pavilion, she also helped convince Congress to give the committee more money. Female organizers of the event drew upon deeply rooted traditions of separatism and sorority, as they planned, funded and managed their own pavilion and devoted it entirely to the artistic and industrial pursuits of their gender. Their overall goal was to increase female confidence and choices, win woman's social, economic, and legal advancement, abolish unfair restrictions discriminating against their gender, encourage sexual harmony, and gain influence, leverage, and freedom for all women in and outside of the home. They had to build their own building because they lost their spot in one of the larger pavilions (Main Building) due to a large increase in foreign interest. It only took them 4 months to raise the needed funds to build the pavilion. Their goal was to only use women to build their pavilion, even to power their own building. To which they did except for one aspect which was the design of the building. The building was designed by Hermann J. Schwarzmann. The Centennial Women not only showed domestic production but they also employed a popular means for justifying female autonomy outside of the home as well. They did this by demonstrating to visitors what ways women were making a profitable living. When entering the building visitors found exhibits that demonstrated positive achievements and influence such as; industrial and fine arts: wood-carvings, furniture-making, and ceramics; fancy articles: clothing, and woven goods, philanthropy: philosophy, science, and medicine; education; literature; and inventions. The pavilion also exhibited over eighty patented inventions for example: a reliance stove, a hand attachment for a sewing machine, a dish-washer, a fountain griddle- greaser, a heating iron with removable handle, a frame for stretching and drying lace curtains, and a stocking and glove darner.
Mexico participated in the pavilion's exhibits, indicating the growth of a sector of elite women during the Porfirio Díaz regime of the late nineteenth century, with many individual women sending examples of woven textiles and embroidery.
The British buildings were extensive and among other things showed to America the evolved bicycle with Tension Spokes and a large front wheel. Two English manufacturers displayed their high wheel bikes (called "Ordinary bikes" or slang "penny farthings") at the Exposition: Bayless Thomas and Rudge. It was these displays that caused Col. A. Pope to decide to begin making high wheel bikes in the USA. He started the Columbia Bike Company and within a few years was publishing a journal "LAW Bulletin and Good Roads". This was the beginning of the Good Roads Movement. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">
Eleven nations beside the U.S. had their own exhibition buildings, along with 26 of the 37 U.S. states, though only the Ohio House survives. The United States government had a cross-shaped building that held exhibits from various government departments. The Women's Pavilion was the first structure at an international exposition devoted to showing off the work of women. The exhibits in this building were created and operated by women. Domestic labor saving devices invented by women were also displayed. The items that were exhibited included a dishwasher, a reliance stove, a stocking and glove darner, etc. The goals of the exhibit was to promote labor saving household gadgets that would provide women relief from household work so that they can focus on other leisurely activities of interest. The rest of the structures at the Centennial were corporate exhibitions, administration buildings, restaurants, and other buildings designed for public comfort.
The formal name of the Exposition was the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and products of the Soil and Mine, but the official theme was the celebration of the United States Centennial. This was reinforced by promotional tie-ins, such as the publication of Kate Harrington's Centennial, and Other Poems, which commemorated the Exposition and the centennial. At the same time, the Exposition was designed to show the world the United States' industrial and innovative prowess. The Centennial was originally set to begin in April for the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, but construction delays caused the date to be pushed ahead to May 10. Bells rang all over Philadelphia to signal the Centennial's opening. The opening ceremony was attended by U.S. President Ulysses Grant and his wife and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil and his wife. The opening ceremony ended in Machinery Hall with Grant and Pedro II turning on the Corliss Steam Engine which powered most of the other machines at the Exposition. The official number of first day attendees was 186,272 people with 110,000 entering with free passes.
In the days following the opening ceremony, attendance dropped dramatically, with only 12,720 people visiting the Exposition. The average daily attendance for May was 36,000 and 39,000 for June. A deadly heat wave began in mid-June and continued into July hurting attendance. The average temperature was 81 °F (27 °C), and ten times during the heat wave, the temperatures reached 100 °F (38 °C). The average daily attendance for July was 35,000, but it rose in August to 42,000 despite the return of high temperatures at the end of the month.
Cooling temperatures, news reports and word of mouth began increasing attendance in the final three months of the Exposition, with many of the visitors coming from farther distances. In September the average daily attendance rose to 94,000 and to 102,000 in October. The highest attendance date of the entire Exposition was September 28. The day, which saw about a quarter of a million people attend, was Pennsylvania Day. Pennsylvania Day celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776"> Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 and Exposition events included speeches, receptions and fireworks. The final month of the Exposition, November, had an average daily attendance of 115,000. By the time the Exposition ended on November 10, a total of 10,164,489 had visited the fair. Among the attendees who were duly impressed by the exposition were Princeton University sophomore Woodrow Wilson and his minister father, Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, visiting from North Carolina.
Although not financially successful for investors, the Centennial Exposition impressed foreigners in that the country grew industrially and commercially. The number of exports increased, the number of imports decreased, and the balance grew in favor of America.
Mass-produced products and new inventions were on display at the 1876 World Fair, many found within the walls of Machinery hall. Some of the main inventions on display included sewing machines, typewriters, stoves, lanterns and guns, plus horse-drawn wagons, carriages and agricultural equipment.
Some of the most well-known present day features on display at the Centennial Exposition, was a section of the Statue of Liberty (her arm and torch) and the debut of the world's first monorail system[contradictory] which featured a steam locomotive and passenger car which straddled a single elevated iron rail that rested several feet off the ground.
The exposition also featured many well-known items of today such as; Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone which was set up on opposite ends of Machinery Hall to demonstrate the transfer of human voice through wires, the Automatic telegraph system and electric pen by Thomas Edison, screw-cutting machines that drastically improved the production of screws and bolts from 8,000 to 100,000 a day, and a universal grinding machine by Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Co.
A new technology on display were air-powered tools along with the mechanical calculator by George B. Grant. John A. Roebling's Sons & Co. also displayed their 5 ¾ inch diameter slice of cable that was going to be used for the Brooklyn Bridge. Besides machinery, visitors could also find new foods such as bananas, popcorn and Heinz ketchup.
Technologies introduced at the fair include the Corliss Steam Engine. Pennsylvania Railroad"> Pennsylvania Railroad displayed the John Bull steam locomotive that was originally built in 1831. Watch Company">Waltham Watch Company displayed the first automatic screw making machinery and won the Gold Medal in the first international watch precision competition. Until the start of 2004, many of the fair's exhibits were in the Smithsonian Institution"> Smithsonian Institution's Arts and Industries Building in Washington, DC, adjacent to the Castle building.
Consumer products first displayed to the public include:
A reconstruction of a "colonial kitchen" replete with spinning wheel and costumed presenters sparked an era of "Colonial Revival" in American architecture and house furnishings. The Swedish Cottage, representing a rural Swedish schoolhouse of traditional style, was re-erected after the Exposition closed, in Central Park, New York. It is now the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.
The New Jersey official State Pavilion was a reconstruction of the Ford Mansion, which served as General George Washington's Headquarters during the winter of 1779–80 in Morristown, New Jersey. The reconstruction had a working "colonial kitchen" featuring a polemical narrative of "old-fashioned domesticity." This quaint hearth and home view of the colonial past was juxtaposed against the theme of progress, the overarching theme of the exhibition serving to reinforce a view of American progress evolving from a small hearty colonial stock and not from a continual influx of multi-ethnic waves of immigration.
The right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty were showcased at the Exposition. For a fee of 50 cents, visitors could climb the ladder to the balcony, and the money raised this way was used to fund the pedestal for the statue.
For Mexico, which was emerging from a long period of internal disorder and foreign invasions, the exposition was an opportunity for the Liberal regime of President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada to garner international recognition of his regime and to counter anti-Mexican public opinion in the United States. Prominent Mexican painters including José María Velasco, José Obregón, and Santiago Rebull exhibited there. Velasco's work was greatly admired, gaining him international recognition and enhancing his standing in Mexico.
Also displayed was the exquisite Gothic-style high altar that Edward Sorin (founder of University of Notre Dame) commissioned from the studios of Froc-Robert in Paris. After the exhibit, the altar was installed at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame's campus where it remains to this day.
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