Centennial Celebration 1876


| November/December 1975



Opening day at Centennial

Opening day at Centennial - taken from Harper's Magazine 1876. Courtesy of Bill Lenox, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania 17022

Bill Lenox

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania 17022

On May 10, 1876 in Philadelphia, the President of the United States and the Emperor of Brazil mounted the platform of the giant Corliss Engine. Each turned a valve lever, setting in motion the great International Centennial Exhibition as miles of shafting and hundreds of machines began to operate.

As the United States today moves toward its bicentennial celebration it may be of interest to take a look at how the nation's 100th birthday was observed.

Congress, on March 3, 1871 authorized the president to appoint two commissioners from each state to a centennial commission. In 1872, an act incorporated a Centennial Board of Finance and provided for the issuance of $10,000,000 worth of stock. On April 1, 1873, a board of directors was organized.

These preliminaries culminated on May 10, 1876 in the opening of the Centennial Exhibition in Fair-mount Park, Philadelphia. The grounds covered 236 acres, with five buildings being constructed at a cost of $4,500,000. The Main Building, holding scientific, educational, mining and manufacturing exhibits, covered 20 acres. It was 1,880 feet long, 464 feet wide and had 'wings' 416 and 216 feet long. The 70-foot high roof was supported by trusses resting on 672 wrought-iron columns, with an elevated square in the center and towers at the corners.

The Women's Pavilion, with 15 nations represented, was on an acre of ground and was the first display of that nature ever attempted.