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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Real Life in Books: Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition 1876 from Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

The backdrop for Beth Kephart's novel Dangerous Neighbors is the Centennial Exposition of 1876.  What was the exposition all about?  Lets find out, shall we?

Opening Day
The Centennial Exposition was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, essentially America's Birthday. In 1876 it was held in Fairmount Park with special buildings for different exhibits, and direct railroad lines to allow visitors easier access to the fairgrounds. One of the main attractions was Machinery Hall, where working models of steam engines were displayed.  The fairgrounds covered 450 acres and cost more than $11 million dollars to build.  Countries from around the world contributed to the exposition. This was a time of great change and growth throughout the world, so can you imagine what it must have been like to wonder the grounds and feast on sites most people would have never been able to see?

Machinery Hall

This link will take you to the main website of the Centennial Exhibition Digital Collection provided by the Free Library of Philadelphia:

This link is found under Tours and provides a click-able map of the fairgrounds, which will then display photos taken back then of various things and exhibits:
Memorial Hall
The sheer amount of buildings constructed for the fair was astounding.

Memorial Hall to the left is still standing today.  It was recently renovated and converted to hold the Please Touch Museum, a place where kids can explore and touch tons of things we see in everyday life.  You must have a child to enter.

There are so many links and sites out there on the exposition, but one I had to include was this one dedicated to Office Equipment and Supplies at the Exposition:
Cutting edge technology included the telephone and typewriters.  This picture below is from the website and I just love how America the Beautiful is depicted:

So this is where Wonder Woman got her inspiration :)

Since the Exposition was the backdrop for Dangerous Neighbors, I wanted to provide you with a little more information.  I hope you find these photos and facts as interesting as I did.  

For more information on the Exposition either check out the links above, or this excellent entry in Wikipedia.

And my review for Dangerous Neighbors will post later this week.


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Staci said...

Love the background info and photos. In fact, I just finished this one last night and it inspired me to add some photos to my review!

Blodeuedd said...

Lol, yup it does seem like wonderwoman got some inspiration from that last pic

Irene said...

wow this is very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history. I am outraged that I need a child to enter the Please Touch Museum! So unfair :)

Jenners said...

I live near Philadelphia and was there in 1976 for the Bicentennial but I never heard of this!!! I have been meaning to go to the new Please Touch Museum though. Now I'll have a little more appreciation for it!

Tales of Whimsy said...

How very cool. You taught me something.

Tales of Whimsy said...

BTW, Happy weekend darling!

stacey said...

You don't need to have a child to visit Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. As a GrownUp you can visit the museum for either a self-guided tour or a guided tour on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday at 2pm. You can learn more about the architecture, renovation AND history about the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. More info at

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