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What visitors to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition learned in the official guide | Archive Dive

Tommy Rowan, Staff Writer

Updated: Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 7:13 AM

The Visitors Guide to the Centennial Exhibition offers a glimpse into the Philadelphia of a bygone era. A preserved copy was found in the former Inquirer and Daily News building.

The nearly 10 million visitors to Philadelphia in the summer of 1876, participating in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, could not learn the city’s layout through Google.

A stereograph image of the hand and torch of the Statue of Liberty on display in Philadelphia at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Historical Society of Pennsylvania collection of Centennial Exhibition records
"The Statue of 'The Freed Slave' in Memorial Hall." Engraving by Fernando Miranda in Illustrated Historical Register of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876 by Frank Henry Norton. New York: American News Co., 1879. Library Company of Philadelphia
Memorial Hall in the Exposition Model at the Please Touch Museum (in the real Memorial Hall.) The model is of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. ERIC MENCHER / Staff Photographer ERIC MENCHER / Staff Photographer
The Bell Liquid Transmitter, only one of seven made for the Philadelphia, 1876 Centennial Exhibition. A carving in the wood base reads Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. Next to it is a Princess rotary phone which was made from 1959-83. The Business History & Technology museum in Wilmington, DE. September 4, 2014. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
This cloth lady doll with painted hair and features was made by Annie Bradstreet Story a Cambridge, Mass., portraitist who exhibited it at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.
"The Statue of Liberty's torch goes on display at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. As a way to raise funds to build a pedestal for Lady Liberty, for a small donation visitors could climb a staircase inside the statue and get a bird's-eye view of the festivities. Shipped from France to the United States in 350 pieces, the statue was reassembled and finally dedicated in 1886. Library of Congress
Ohio House, Belmont & S. George's Hill, Fairmount Park. The famed Ohio House, one of two remaining buildings from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition is reopening as the Centennial Cafe, offering a taste of 1876 cuisine. GERALD S. WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
In 20ft by 30 ft model, (foreground ) shows visitors entering the Main Exhibition Hall with Memorial Hall in the background. This model of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition is in the basement of the Please Touch Museum. GERALD S. WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
In basement basement of the Please Touch Museum is a model of 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Memorial Hall and Ohio are only remaining buildings from that Centennial. GERALD S. WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
The Women's Pavilion.,among other buildings in the scale model of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition is located in the basement of Memorial Hall, now the Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. GERALD S. WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Matt Rader, Executive Director for the Fairmont Park Trust for Historic Preservation, is shown at Ohio House, one of the last remaining historic properties in Fairmont Park from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: Assortment of images from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition

Upon reaching the west bank of the Schuylkill for the fair, lauded at the time as the greatest international exposition ever assembled, visitors typically purchased a small, hardback booklet. The artifact, officially called The Visitors Guide to the Centennial Exhibition, offers a glimpse into the Philadelphia of a bygone era.

The 48-page booklet aimed to familiarize visitors from the around the world with the city’s customs, providing directions such as:

— Numbering streets: “Numerals are used for all streets running North and South. (Fourteenth Street is known as Broad Street.)”

Where we found it

A preserved copy from the event was found in the old Inquirer and Daily News building at 400 N. Broad St. when the newspapers moved in 2012 to their new location in the old Strawbridge & Clothier building at Eighth and Market Streets. It has been in the new combined newsroom since then.

Five things we learned

1. The exhibition spread over 236 acres of West Fairmount Park and had an average elevation of more than 100 feet above the Schuylkill.

2. It was the only guidebook sold on the exhibition grounds.

3. In 1876, the city was lined with about 3,000 miles of telegraph lines.

4. The book was published by J.B. Lippincott & Co., which was founded in Philadelphia. The company would go on to publish notable works by Jack London, Oscar Wilde, and Harper Lee.

5. It was customary for first-class hotels to have steam elevators and electric or other signal bells connecting the rooms and the hotel office, which guests could use without charge. Lower-class hotels typically did not have such amenities.

Archive Dive is a weekly feature that delves into the Inquirer and Daily News archives to uncover interesting stories from Philadelphia’s past. Search the archives for yourself, and subscribe for full access.

Tommy Rowan, Staff Writer

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