How did the Centennial Exposition represent American Identity

What narratives of American history were on display at the Fair?


In 1876, Americans celebrated 100 years of nationhood. Throughout the United States, there were celebrations and expositions to commemorate this occasion. The largest of these celebrations was the American Centennial Exposition, held in Philadelphia in 1876. It was the first official World’s Fair in the United States and it attracted ten million visitors.

For this paper, I will give you a selection of approximately ten primary sources related to this event. These will include images, a guide to the exhibition, speeches, and other documents. You must examine these sources and then write a 4-5 page paper that answers the following: How did the Centennial Exposition represent American Identity? What narratives of American history were on display at the Fair?

Some things that you might want to consider:

What aspects of American culture and history did the fair highlight? What aspects did it leave out?

How did the fair portray the nation’s future? What narratives did it promote about the U.S.’s past?

How might the historical context of the fair (mid-1870s) have shaped the event?

Who did the fair portray as American?

What kinds of displays and events characterized the Centennial Celebration?

What can each primary source tell us about the fair?

Are there any additional primary sources that you wish you had?


4-5 pages, double-spaced

Analysis of AT LEAST 3 Primary Sources in your paper

Clear Thesis stated on first page

Clear topic sentences and structure

Proper Grammar, punctuation, etc.

Works Cited page if you use outside sources





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