Yesterday’s World of Tomorrow: A Souvenir from the World’s Fair

This post was contributed by Rachel Blier, an intern for the American Art and Portrait Gallery Library from June to September 2012. One of my favorite parts of my time at the AA/PG library has been working with the rare books collection. Between the artists’ books, the unusual cartoons and caricatures in the Ray Smith collection, and the occasional doodle or signature from an artist, it’s a very exciting part of the library—and one that an ordinary visitor wouldn’t have the opportunity to see.

The Crystal Palace

Tomorrow, May 1st, marks the 161ist anniversary of the opening of the The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in London. The Great Exhibition was a display of arts, culture, and of course industry, from around the world and remained open until October of that year.  It was the first grand international exposition of the type that would later be called “world’s fairs”.

Happy Ferris Wheel Day!

Typically, February 14th is a day set aside for love, flowers and candy. For those in a less romantic spirit, we suggest celebrating Ferris Wheel Day instead! Ferris Wheel Day celebrates the birthday of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. and his most famous invention.  This image, from Hubert Howe Bancroft's The book of the fair : an historical and descriptive presentation of the world's science, art, and industry, as viewed through the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 (Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company, 1895), shows the very first Ferris Wheel at the Columbian Exposition's Midway Plaisance. Ferris build the attraction, sometimes know as the "Chicago Wheel", as a landmark for the Fair. After being dismantled and rebuilt multiple times all over the country, it was finally destroyed in 1906. Bancroft's work, featured here, is one of many titles on World's Fairs and Expositions in the Smithsonian Libraries collections. Both the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum branches have extensive holdings more »

Around the Libraries in 180 Days (Give or Take): An Intern Recaps Her Libraries Experience

It’s hard to believe that my time at the Libraries has come to an end! Since there was a post about me here when I began my internship back in January, I thought I’d give a summary of what I’ve done since then.

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

When one thinks of inventors, it's hard not to picture Thomas Edison, who is responsible for the title quote.   Frank Morton Todd, The Story of the Exposition, San Francisco. Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915. 1915. Thomas A. Edison Receiving the Exposition Medal, Volume 3, plate opposite page 150.   But I also found some other interesting quotes on the subject, perfect for National Inventor's Day (which is in honor of Mr. Edison.) “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success … Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”—Nikola Tesla “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist of creating out of void, but out of chaos”—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley “The greatest inventions were produced in the times of ignorance, as the use of the compass, gunpowder, and printing”—Jonathan Swift “Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the more »

International World’s Fairs and Expositions

Masterpieces of the Centennial International Exhibition illustrated . . . Earl Shinn, Walter Smith and Joseph M. Wilson. Imprint: Philadelphia: Gebbie & Barrie, [1876-1878], p. cxlvi (vol. 3) ("Main Building – Central Avenue looking West"). International World’s Fairs and Expositions have been popular cultural events since the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. The opportunity for visitors to see and experience new technologies, products, peoples, and ideas had a tremendous impact on the people who attended these world-wide events in Europe, North America, and Asia. These fairs are of particular interest to Smithsonian researchers and to scholars from outside the Institution. They use the Libraries' World’s Fairs collection of original print editions or microfilm copies that include official reports by contributing organizations and government agencies or exhibition guides and maps given to visitors, to understand their impact on the modern world. Many of these unique publications came to the Smithsonian from people who had attended particular fairs or who collected literature from the many fairs that were held in the 19th, 20th more »

International Friendship Month

February is International Friendship Month. What better way to illustrate friendship between nations than a depiction of Napoleon signing the Louisiana Purchase? the fact that this little slice of history comes from a World's Fair Louisiana Purchase Exposition Borden milk advertisement makes it all the more interesting! —Elizabeth Periale Borden Company, E pluribus unum: the story of an eagle, 1904

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