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The Centennial Exhibition in 1876 was a great time for divergent cultures, races, ethnicity as well as social classes globally to come together. The Americans started to pay close attention to traditions and heritage as the exhibition celebrated divergent things for example industrial power, technology and the USA taking its own unique place among the leading countries globally. This is a year that marked the anniversary of USA independence and it emphasized on national progress as well as national unity that hence defined the racial relations for generations to come. The African Americans also saw a need to come up and demonstrate their togetherness, contribution as well as speak. That Exhibition and fair gave vast numbers of the Americans exposure to European art and contributed to a period of vast American admiration with the European sculpture and paintings. It gave a deep impetus to the identity of Americans. It is therefore crucial to analyze some of the aspects of American History and culture the fair highlighted, how it portrayed the nation’s future, how it shaped the event, some of the events and displays that characterized the celebration and some of the narratives that were on display at the fair.
The world fairs were a major force as far as shaping the substance and form of the modern world was concerned. They served as the main vehicles in introducing new technologies, scientific discoveries, and portraying the pride of the country as far as culture was concerned. The fairs also gave the manufacturers access to the mass markets for their products and as proving grounds for marketing strategies as well as advertisements. The fairs also helped inspire the creation in museums and to the countries that hosted the expositions, the fair sites turned into public parks.
The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was the first as well as official World’s Fair in USAwhich was held in Philadelphiain celebration of the 100th anniversary in signing of declaration of independence. There was exhibition of products, manufacturers, mine and soil. There were approximately 10million visitors who attended (Gary, 2006, pp. 270). The exposition comprised of publications, poems and the centennial was also set up to show the entire world thatUSA had innovative as well as industrial prowess. Some of the technologies that were introduced in the fair were Pennsylvania Railroad, Corliss steam engine, screw making machineries and others (Popular mechanics, 1976, pp. 78). Some of the consumer products that were displayed were Remington typewriter, Heinz ketchup, Hires root beer, Alexander Graham telephone, and Wallace farmer electric Dynamo and Kudzu control erosion plant species.
The reconstruction of the colonial kitchen with a spinning wheel as well as costumed presenters symbolized the era during colonial revival in the American architecture as well as house furnishings. This fair examined the development of the American progress and its increased connection with the scientific racism that was seen in the anthropological and ethnographic displays that were put for both profit and education. It demonstrated racial superiority in the political, intellectual and economic spheres inAmerica.
The visitors to Memorial Hall at Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 got confronted by a vast marble sculpture which possessed some unique qualities of interpretation and inventiveness. Death of Cleopatra and the work was a creation of expatriate sculptor which was named Mary Edmonia Lewis which embodied the difficulties of intent as well as origin that immensely intertwined with her sense of culture and racial identity. It dispelled the myth that the blacks were devoid of creativity and imagination and was not just mere house servants and manual laborers. It also portrayed women of color as capable of ascending in the artistic relevance in a profession that was dominated by unsupportive, inflexible and skeptical white males.
The fair began with immense hope and fanfare. After all the years of tensions and war most of the Americans aimed at forgetting all the dark moments of the past and recall the accomplishments. The civil war which ended eleven years earlier had put the nation into great tremor and the wounds were still quite fresh. There were political scandals and the women were gravely fighting for equality. There was booming of manufactured products from all angles and all the country needed was celebrations. To most citizens, the exhibits revealed thatUSAwas basically a land of enterprise, innovation, progress and vigor.USAeven at 100 year was a nation that was still on the move and could boast of dazzling past as well as a promising future.
The exhibition was meant to canonize as well as disseminate the minted and fresh elements of the national mythology that comprised a doctrine of American exceptionalism as well as the beliefs on virtue of theUScitizens and their entire institutions. It was a mirror where by the Americans would gaze and observe nothing else but glory, progress and hope for the future.
The centennial acted as the main product of ten years of hard work and planning and there were astonishing results. There were 30,000 exhibits that filled more than 240 massive halls of exhibition which spread to more than 284 acres inPhiladelphiaFairmountPark(Ray & Lawrence, 2003, pp. 101). Almost each nation had exhibited at this fair. All the exhibits were classified under departments namely metallurgy, manufacturers, mining, science, education, art, agriculture as well as horticulture.
There was also women’s pavilion t which was an innovation exposition that exhibited some feminine products and showed the emancipation of women inAmerica.
The major impact of the exposition was on portraying the image of theUSApeople. Before 1876, continents like Europe had consideredUSAas just an up starting country and not yet eligible to join the high ranks of all the first class nations. However, the fair revealed otherwise as creativity, progressiveness and productivity was witnessed. It was hailed as a progressive country in the economic ladder and gave the Americans pride in their present as well as confidence in a better future. It was a great prospect and opportunity for the Americans to highlight their agricultural and industrial abilities as representatives from other nations had opportunity to see what they could purchase from the firms inAmerica.
Most of the exhibitions showed that American culture was longing for stability through practical dominance. It also showed that Americans had a sentimental fixation when it came to nature mostly when it came to horticultures. The exposition was a wonderful display of the global products as well as the changing perceptions. However one thing that was missing is the fact that little attention were given to the events and details of the revolutionary era. The historical importance ofUSAwas immensely present at the exhibition and fuelled nationalism and ignited the patriotic values and sentiments. There were orchestra and choirs that marked the American Revolution and traced the development ofUSAfrom a journey of nostalgia. The music was celebrating the flag, liberty but omitted the main strife to civil war. It was a fair that never portrayed severed relationship but one that was full of development and growth. The Centennial exhibition looked clearly at the history ofUSAthrough lens of development. It showed that the country had grown from infancy to a strong nation which looked forward for a far better future ahead.