In 1876 Philadelphia was given the honor of hosting the Centennial International Exhibition; officially known as the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufacturers and Products of the Soil and Mine. This was the first official World's Fair ever held in the United States. The fair opened its doors on May 10 and lasted for several months, closing on November 10, 1876. The Centennial International Exhibition was held to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The celebration was held along the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park. Approximately 10,000,000 people visited the fair from May to November. At the time, 10 million people were equivalent to about 20% of the United States' population.
John L. Campbell came up with the idea of the exposition and Herman J. Schwarzmann brought the idea to life, designing the fairgrounds. Herman was responsible for strategically laying out space for more than 200 buildings that would be surrounded by nearly 3 miles worth of fencing. A design competition was held to help choose the architect for the job. Three rounds of competition later, a winner was chosen. Henry Pettit would be the architect on the job and Joseph M. Wilson would be the accompanying engineer.
The largest of the 200 buildings was the Main Building that enclosed over 20 acres of the park. The entire exposition took 18 months to complete and on opening day bells rang throughout Philadelphia. President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife attended the opening ceremony. The turning of the Corliss Steam Engine took place at the end of the ceremony. This steam engine powered most of the machines at the exposition and officially marked the start of the seven month long celebration.
On any given day (weather permitting) a hundred thousand people would visit the fair. On hot days the numbers would drop to 20 some odd thousand and on one particularly cool day in September nearly a quarter of a million people enjoyed receptions, speeches, shopping and fireworks.
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