Centennial Exhibition

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CENTENNIAL EXHIBITION, a grand world's fair, was held in Philadelphia in 1876 to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and was authorized by Congress as "an International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine." Fifty-six countries and colonies participated, and close to 10 million visitors attended between 10 May and 10 November. As the first major international exhibition in the United States, the Centennial gave center stage to American achievements, especially in industrial technology. J. H. Schwarzmann designed the 284-acre fairground on which the exhibition's 249 buildings were located. The forty-foot-high Corliss Engine in Machinery Hall attracted marveling crowds. Less noted at the time, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new invention, the telephone.

The Centennial celebration embodied the contours of American society. The fairground included a Woman's Building, organized by women for woman exhibitors, but Susan B. Anthony called attention to women's political grievances by reading "Declaration of Rights for Women" on 4 July at Independence Hall. The exhibition represented Native Americans as a declining culture, but News in early July of the Battle of Little Bighorn (25 June) contradicted

the image. Progress and its limitations were both on display as Americans took measure of their nation's first century.


Post, Robert C., ed. 1876: A Centennial Exhibition: A Treatise upon Selected Aspects of the International Exhibition. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1976.

Rydell, Robert W. All the World's a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876–1916. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.


See alsoWorld's Fairs .

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Centennial Exhibition