Centuries of Progress: American World's Fairs, 1853-1982
Nov 18, 2010 - Feb 6, 2011
What do the telephone, the Ferris Wheel, nylon stockings and a 28,000-pound typewriter have in common? They were just a few of the thousands of products, curiosities and inventions that made their debut at one of 17 international festivals on American soil.
The exhibition Centuries of Progress: American World’s Fairs, 1853-1982, opening Thursday, November 18, presents a remarkable overview of more than a century of World’s Fairs in America. Visitors will enjoy more than 125 objects, photographs and ephemera that detail progress, promotion and public response.
Beginning with the 1853 Crystal Palace exhibition in New York through the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, World’s Fairs have emphasized the technological, cultural and political advances that form the American society we enjoy today.
History of the fairs is related through six thematic categories:
- Progress as a Way of Life introduces the rationale for the creation of World’s Fairs
- Marketplace of Ideas demonstrates the immense opportunity manufacturers had to market new technologies
- Consumerism depicts fair-goers as an eager audience for innovative goods, such as Juicy Fruit, Wonder Bread and Dr. Pepper
- Art, Architecture, and Music and Popular Amusements illustrate the vast entertainment options available to fair-goers, from colossal buildings and sculptures to carnival rides and exhibitions of “exotic” lands and cultures
- Remembering the Fair includes souvenirs and commemorative items. After all, who could go home empty-handed after experiencing the wonders of a World’s Fair?
The exhibition is organized by the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, and is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States.