Philadelphia was naturally chosen as the seat of the Exposition. Here the nation was born, a fact of which much remained to testify. Among the ancient buildings were the "Old Swedes'" Church, built in 1700, Christ Church, begun only twenty-seven years later, still in perfect preservation, St. Peter's, built in 1758-1761, and the sequestered Friends' Meeting-house, built in 1808. The Penn Treaty Monument, unimpressive in appearance, marked the site of the elm under which Penn made his famous treaty with the Indians. Carpenters' Hall, still owned by the Carpenters' Company which built it, had been made to resume the appearance it bore when, in 1774, the first Continental Congress assembled under its roof. In the center of a line of antique edifices known as State-house Row, stood Independence Hall, erected 1732-1735. The name specifically applied to the large first-floor east room, in which the second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. In 1824 Lafayette held a great reception here, and six years later it was consecrated to the past. Revolutionary portraits and relics were placed in it, and the building restored to its original conditions. In 1854 the old Liberty Bell was taken down from the tower into the hall, and the walls enriched by a large number of portraits from the Peale Gallery. A keeper was then appointed and the hall opened to visitors.
In Fairmount Park, beyond the Schuylkill, a level plat of over 200 acres was enclosed, and appropriate buildings erected. Five enormous structures, the Main Buildings, with Machinery, Agricultural, Horticultural, and Memorial Halls, towered above all the rest. Several foreign governments built structures of their own. Twentysix States did the same. Thirty or more buildings were put up by private enterprise in order the better to present industrial processes and products. In all more than two hundred edifices stood within the enclosure.
The Exposition opened an May 10th, with public exercises, a hundred thousand people being present. Wagner had composed a march for the occasion. Whittier's Centennial Hymn, a noble piece, was sung by a chorus of one thousand voices.
The restored South chanted the praises of the Union in the words of Sidney Lanier, the Georgia poet. President Grant then declared the Exposition open. Further simple but impressive ceremonies were held on July 4th, in the public square at the rear of Independence Hall. On temporary platforms sat 5,000 distinguished guests, and a chorus of 1,000 singers. The square and the neighboring streets were filled with a dense throng. Richard Henry Lee, grandson of the mover of the Declaration of Independence, came to the front with the original document in his hands. At sight of that yellow and wrinkled paper the vast throng burst into prolonged cheering. Mr. Lee read the declaration, Bayard Taylor recited an ode, and Hon. William M. Evarts delivered an oration.
In the Main Building, erected in a year, at a cost of $1,700,000, manufactures were exhibited, also products of the mine, along with innumerable other evidences of scientific and educational progress. More than a third of the space was reserved for the United States, the rest being divided among foreign countries. The products of all climates, tribes, and times were here. Great Britain, France, and Germany exhibited the work of their myriad roaring looms side by side with the wares of the Hawaiian Islands and the little Orange Free State. Here were the furs of Russia, with other articles from the frozen North; there the flashing diamonds of Brazil, and the rich shawls and waving plumes of India. At a step one passed from old Egypt to the latest born South American republic. Chinese conservatism and Yankee enterprize confronted each other across the aisle.
From the novelty of the foreign display the American visitor turned proudly to the handiwork of his own hand. Textiles, arms, tools, musical instruments, watches, carriages, cutlery, books, furniturea bewildering display of all things useful and ornamental, made him realize as never before the wealth, intelligence, and enterprise of his native country, and the proud station to which she had risen among the nations of the earth. Three-fourths of the space in Machinery Hall was taken up with American machinery.
Memorial Hall, a beautiful permanent building of granite, erected by Pennsylvania and Philadelphia at a cost of $1,500,000, was given up to art. This was the poorest feature of the Exposition, tho the collection was the largest and most notable ever till then seen this side the Atlantic. America had few art works of the first order to show, while foreign nations, with the exception of England, which contributed a noble lot of paintings, including works by Gainsborough and Reynolds, feared to send their choicest products across the sea. All through the summer and early autumn, spite of the unusual heat that year, thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the country and the word filled the fair grounds and the city. Amid the crowds of visitors Philadelphians became strangers in their own streets. On September 28, Pennsylvania day, 275,000 persons passed the gates. During October the visitors numbered over two and a half millions. From May 10th to November 10th, the closing day, the total admissions were 9,900,000. The aggregate attendance was larger than at any previous international exhibition, except that of Paris in 1867. The admissions there reached 10,200,000, but the gates were open fifty-one days longer.
1 From Andrews's "History of the Last Quarter-Century of the United States," 1870-1895. By permission of the publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons.Copyright, 1895, 1896.