America’s Centennial

Americas Centennial

Creating a Democracy from scratch was an incredible feat by the founders. As the United States went through its difficulties, including internal wars, it tried to continue to move forward. When 1876 was on the horizon, it became a time for America to have a centennial celebration.

It was also the timed perfectly for a World’s Fair, and everyone planned for the first World’s Fair in the United States, naming it the “International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine.” This would be a moment to praise American ingenuity and progress, and it was held at the Fairmount Park, which was near the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

  • The 100thanniversary of America expected attendance of 10 million visitors, with thirty-seven countries taking part. It was to be held from May 10th through November 10th, 1876. The fair was divided up into multiple areas with Logan Square in Philadelphia hosting the “Great Central Fair,” also called the Great Sanitary Fair. The area was home to representations of the communal ways that the average citizen could support Union soldier welfare. The Great Central Fair was a moment for Philadelphia to show how much of a vital center role that they played in the Union war. It took ten years to plan this exposition.
  • The fair required investments from private, public, and commercial entities. The plan was to have an appearance that was neo-Gothic, with exhibits that had handmade items, relics, and “curiosities.” The promotion was to encourage a sense of patriotism and would include a presidential visit along with his family. Attention was given that this fair had to compete with those accomplished in foreign nations.
  • One of the first supporters of the exposition was The Franklin Institute, which remains a steadfast part of the historic community today. Various project committees were established, and bills passed to ensure that the U.S. government would not be responsible for any of the expenses. To help to finance the exposition, stock certificates were sold by the Centennial Board of Finance. Philanthropists stepped forward to help raise funds, and the City of Philadelphia, and the state of Pennsylvania, donated a combined total of $2.5 million. It wasn’t easy to accomplish gaining all the millions needed, but it was finally done with a little help with a shortfall.
  • Various structures were built for the exposition, including the Agricultural Hall, which was the third-largest. The design was to appear like pieces of a barn that were pieced together. The exhibits presented in the Agricultural Hall included machines and products that relate to the agricultural industry like other businesses that are related to the business.
  • One of the loveliest structures was the Horticultural Hall. It was built on a hill that overlooked Fountain Avenue and represented the ultimate achievements and creativity of both amateur and professional gardeners. Unlike the other buildings, this one was designed as a permanent structure, and it was made from iron, glass, brick, and marble. The interior was a rainbow of floral color with representations from local landscape artists, florists, and nursery people. It had sunken gardens and raised walkways and an array of flower beds.
  • Machinery Hall was the second largest building, and it was built on the Main Exhibition Buildings west side. Made from glass and wood, it took six months to build, had eight entrances, and 1,900 exhibitors. The theme of the exhibits was for machines and new industries, including state of the art technology of the time. The U.S. exhibits took up 2/3 of the space. The biggest attraction was the Corliss Centennial Steam Engine.
  • Memorial Hall is the only exhibition building that continues to stand. Originally called The Art Gallery Building, it is constructed of iron, glass, brick, and granite. It is 95,000 square feet for paintings and sculptures and has a 150-foot dome over a height of 59 feet.
  • The Women’s Pavilion was the first building in any exposition that focused on the work of women. The exhibits were operated and created by women, and those involved included many works by women that were artistic and industrial. The goal was to hire only women for the building, and they succeeded with everyone but the male designer.
  • There were a number of other outlying buildings that included the British buildings focused on featuring the latest bicycle inventions. Besides the U.S. buildings, a total of eleven nations had their own buildings. Twenty-six out of the then 37 U.S. states also had constructed buildings as part of the expo.


How many years did it take to plan the Centennial exposition?

How many U.S. states built their own buildings in the Centennial celebration?

What was considered to be one of the prettiest structures of the Centennial celebration?
Horticultural Hall

What was the official name of the Centennial celebration?
International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine

Why was the celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?
That’s where the Declaration of Independence was signed

What organization was one of the first supporters of the Centennial exposition?
The Franklin Institute