Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Traveling Tuesday: The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition

Traveling Tuesday: 
The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial

Pixabay/David Mark
Only twenty months had passed since the end of the American Civil War when Wabash College professor John Campbell approached Philadelphia Mayor Morton McMichael with the suggestion that his city host an exposition to celebrate the country’s one-hundredth birthday. Uncertain as to the feasibility, McMichael talked with city officials and local businessmen. Many felt an event of that size would not get the required funding. Others thought the U.S. couldn’t compete with the quality of European exhibits.

Three long years later, in January 1870, the Philadelphia City Council voted to hold the Centennial Exposition in 1876. They created a committee to study the project and seek support from the U.S. Congress. Finally, in March 1871 a bill to create a United States Centennial Commission. However, the bill also included the provision that the federal government would not be liable for any of the expenses.

The commission got to work, and somewhere along the line created a women’s committee that was responsible for fundraising. Headed by Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, great-great-granddaughter of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, the committee hit the streets, raising $1 million through the sale of stock shares. They also managed to collect 82,000 signatures and obtained letters from around the country that convinced Congress to loan $1.5 million to event organizers.

Cincinnati, Ohio businessman Alfred T. Goshorn was appointed Director General, the Fairmont Park
Photo: WikiImages
Commission set aside 450 acres to be used for the exposition. Exhibits were classified into seven departments: agriculture, art, education and science, horticulture, machinery, manufactures, and mining and metallurgy. Several men from the Philadelphia commission sailed to Europe to invite nations to participate. Not a single country declined.

Over 200 buildings were constructed, most of a temporary nature, including five main buildings: Main Hall, Memorial Hall, Machinery Hall, Agriculture Hall, and Horticulture Hall. A fence surrounded the property. Separate structures were built for state, federal, foreign, corporate and public comfort.

Temporary hotels were also constructed near the grounds, and the Centennial Lodging-House Agency created a list of rooms in hotels, boarding houses, and private homes, then sold tickets for available rooms. Streetcars increased service and the Pennsylvania Railroad ran special trains from New York City, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. An ordinance was passed that appointed 500 hundred men to the Centennial Guards who were tasked with keeping the peace, reunited lost children to parents, and received and returned lost items.

Photo: WikiImages

More than ten million visited the fair between May 10 and November 10, 1876, but the event was a financial failure for its investors. However, several sources state that the exposition impressed foreigners with the industrial and commercial growth of the U.S. resulting in an increase of exports.

I was fortunate to live near Knoxville, TN during the 1982 World’s Fair and visited numerous times. Have you ever attended a World’s Fair or large exposition of some type?


Maeve’s Pledge: Coming March 21, 2023

Pledges can’t be broken, can they?

Finally out from under her father’s tyrannical thumb, Maeve Wycliffe can live life on her terms. So what if everyone sees her as a spinster to be pitied. She’ll funnel her energies into what matters most: helping the less fortunate and getting women the right to vote. When she’s forced to team up with the local newspaper editor to further the cause, will her pledge to remain single get cropped?
Widower Gus Deighton sees no reason to tempt fate that he can find happiness a second time around. Well past his prime, who would want him anyway? He’ll continue to run his newspaper and cover Philadelphia’s upcoming centennial celebration. But when the local women’s suffrage group agrees that the wealthy, attractive, and very single Maeve Wycliffe act as their liaison, he finds it difficult to remain objective.

Pre-Order Link: https://amzn.to/3JnSxGX

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