Monday, March 7, 2011

America's 100th Birthday: Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition 1876

The Centennial Exhibition, was the first major "World's fair" to be held in the United States. The  Philadelphia Centennial opened on May 10th 1876 on a 285 acre tract of Fairmount park overlooking the Schuylkill River. The expansive Fairgrounds were designed by a 27 year old German immigrant Hermann J. Schwarzmann. The exhibition was host to 37 nations and numerous international exhibits housed in over 250 individual pavilions.
 Ohio house

Naturally the states at the time were well represented and Ohio was no different. Amazingly the Ohio House is the only state building left from the Centennial Exposition! The building was empty for years before its careful restoration by the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust. The exterior stone work features 21 different Ohio sandstones with inscriptions indicating the quarries from which they came.
I'll take 10 of everything! Imagine the availability!

For those of us into Victorian design, it would have been an incredible opportunity to have a time machine. Imagine be able to see booth after booth of everything Victorian such as this incredible display of register grates by one manufacturer.
Look closely and you might see some familiar tile designs from Dayton street mansions
Even legendary manufacturers like Minton were on display. One must wonder if wealthy Cincinnatians from Dayton Street perused the Minton booth for the latest "update' for their mansions.

As far as furniture was concerned Renaissance Revival was king of the show and American manufacturers displayed their finest wares. It is also interesting to note that we see the first examples of what would later become the Arts and crafts movement first exhibited here too.

Americas up close exposure to exotic lands seen at this show started a number of revival crazes including Egyptian Revival, Moorish Revival and  the Japanesque styles. If you were around during the bi centennial in 1976 you no doubt saw just about everything in a 'bicentennial edition" the centennial was no different, there were books and magazines and illustration put out about the exhibition. many of the wealthy commissioned special sets of parlor furniture, sideboards sprouted patriotic themes like flags and eagles. The 'fad' was short lived so few examples remain.
Walnut renaissance furniture was in its heyday during the Centennial but you won't find eagle crested chairs in your typical antique mall these days.

Of course we have ways to get the rare of the rare, including this rare pair of carved eagle crested parlor chairs. We haven't been able to 'attribute' this piece, its is similar in size and style to Jelliff and Herter Bros but it could also be one of  the several fine east coast furniture designers.
The carvers art is apparent in the detail shot.

The typical Female figural form that one might expect on a piece like this is replaced with the eagle head carving, Obviously not a high production piece of furniture and one might expect to see this as part of a larger formal parlor set which if intact would be VERY valuable.

This might also be found in the Gentleman's Parlor as well. The price on this rare pair of chairs is 950.00 for the set and you are not likely to run across another pair. If you are interested please contact us at if you'd like to own this rare pair of renaissance 'centennial' chairs.

No comments: