Skip to Content
United States Centennial International Exhibition: Philadelphia - 10 May to 10 November 1876

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution, an international exposition was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city where the Declaration of Independence was written. This first world’s fair held in the United States opened after ten years of planning and at a cost of more than $11 million. A march composed by Richard Wagner and an address by President Ulysses Grant celebrated the occasion. The views presented here are from a small fan-folded souvenir booklet of fifteen tritone chromolithographs.

1 of 18

CoverThe cover of this tiny souvenir book, made of tooled red leather, measures 2 1/2 by 4 inches

2 of 18


The contents page of the souvenir album includes twelve exhibition buildings, Sawyer’s Tower,
and the Total Abstinence Fountain. The Centennial Park encompassed more than 200 buildings.

3 of 18

Panorama of the United States Centennial International Exhibition

The fairgrounds of Fairmount Park were developed by Hermann J. Schwarzmann, who had also designed the park and the zoo. He devised a plan of five main exhibition buildings with numerous smaller pavilions interspersed in an orderly landscape. The encircling railway line, built to facilitate transportation, is an exposition design concept that has been followed ever since.

4 of 18

Centennial Grounds and Exhibition Buildings

This map of Fairmount Park shows the exhibition buildings and the transportation circuit.
While 450 acres of the park were made available to the fair committee, only 285 were
actually developed as fairgrounds, as seen here.

Select a building on the map for a full-screen view.

5 of 18

Main Building

Henry Pettit and Joseph M. Wilson, architects

The enormous Main Building, made of cast iron and brick, had a display floor of 20 acres
dedicated to exhibits of both foreign and domestic manufactured goods.

6 of 18

Machinery Hall

Henry Pettit and Joseph M. Wilson, architects

The fourteen-acre Machinery Hall displayed mechanical creations of cutting-edge technology,
including the telegraph, the telephone, typewriters, magic lanterns, and steam engines.

7 of 18

Memorial Hall

Hermann J. Schwarzmann, architect

Built of granite, with a statue of Columbia topping its central dome, the Memorial Hall housed the first major international art exhibition ever held in the United States. Twenty countries sent paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, and applied arts. The building itself became a prototype for many museums and galleries, and still stands in Fairmount Park. Memorial Hall is now the headquarters of the Fairmont Park Commission, where a model of the Centennial Exposition is on display.

8 of 18

Agricultural Hall

James H. Windrim, architect

This Gothic barn housed nine acres of displays of produce, farm machinery,
agricultural innovations, and, outside, livestock.

9 of 18

Horticultural Hall

Hermann J. Schwarzmann, architect

This Moorish glass palace displayed rare and exotic plants as well as native species.
The building was intended to be permanent but was demolished in 1955.

Hermann J. Schwarzmann, architect

This Moorish glass palace displayed rare and exotic plants as well as native species.
The building was intended to be permanent but was demolished in 1955.

10 of 18

British Buildings

Thomas Harris, architect

Nine countries constructed pavilions at the Centennial, and a total of fifty-six countries
or colonies participated. The British Buildings, constructed in a half-timbered
English Renaissance style, were occupied by the British Commissioners to the fair.

11 of 18

Japanese Building

Matsuo-Ehe, architect

The Japanese Building was designed to illustrate Japanese exterior and interior
architectural work. Japanese wares were on display and for sale.

12 of 18

United States Government Building

James H. Windrim, architect

This structure housed objects pertaining to the history and resources of the United States. The selection and installation of these exhibits was supervised by the Smithsonian Institution. At the close of the Centennial, donations from United States and international exhibitors were shipped to Washington, DC, to become the core of the Smithsonian’s National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, where objects from the Centennial Exhibition are still on display.

13 of 18

New Jersey State Building

Carl Pfeiffer, architect

The New Jersey State Building was one of twenty-four state pavilions. Most southern states were unable to afford the construction costs for pavilions, as they were still recovering from the Civil War.

14 of 18

Judges Pavilion

Hermann J. Schwarzmann, architect

At this fair, unlike previous ones, all exhibitors were given bronze medals
(more than 13,000 were awarded) for participation without ranking by value or importance.

15 of 18

Women's Pavilion

Hermann J. Schwarzmann, architect

Also called the Ladies' Building, it focused on the art and industry of women,
and was an early statement for women's rights and the suffrage movement.

16 of 18

Shoe and Leather Building

Alexander B. Bary, architect

This was one of the many small pavilions highlighting particular manufacturing achievements. This building displayed "shoe and leather materials with machinery in operation, illustrating various processes of manufacture."


17 of 18

Total Abstinence Fountain

Herman Kirn, designer

This fountain was funded by the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America. It portrays Moses (the central figure), early prominent Catholic-Americans Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Archbishop John Carroll, Irish temperance proponent Father Theobold Mathew, and Commodore John Barry, "Father of the American Navy." The fountain still stands in West Fairmount Park.

18 of 18