Centennial Exhibition main page  
Exhibition Facts
Tour the grounds
Centennial Schoolhouse
Search the Collection
Centennial Timeline
Exhibition Facts  

Foreign Countries

Many Centennial organizers feared that foreign nations headed by hereditary monarchs and emperors would decline to participate in the celebration of what was in fact the anniversary of a republican revolution. Moreover, many Europeans were beginning to complain of the rapid succession of fairs being held in London, Paris, and Vienna. But when the Secretary of State sent out his invitation on July 5, 1873, 37 countries accepted. Participation varied widely; eleven nations erected fifteen freestanding structures, from the Elizabethan half-timbered St. George's House erected by Great Britain, to the unusual Japanese Dwelling, which created a sensation among Americans and served as a stark and novel contrast to the Victorian structures surrounding it. Most nations, however, chose to exhibit in designated areas of the larger exhibition halls. The Egyptian section in the Main Exhibition Building included a reconstructed temple with the inscription:


The products and manufactures on display by foreign nations impressed Americans, although foreign visitors who had seen the European exhibitions noted repeatedly that Europe was not sending its best in either art or industry. Still there was an impressive selection: coffee from Liberia, weapons and chemical products from Germany, a log house from Canada, Bedouin tents from Tunis, cotton cloth from Egypt, ivory work from China, a four thousand pound block of silver from Mexico, Inca relics from Peru.

The Centennial served to bring Americans into contact with foreigners as never before. One veteran observer noted:

I have watched the faces of [American] country people as they here -- undoubtedly for the first time in their lives -- look upon Japanese, Turks, Greeks or Moors; and I have not yet discovered the slightest expression of repulsion or instinctive prejudice of race. On the contrary, it is easy to detect an agreeable surprise, in most cases, -- as if the spectator had found an unexpected likeness to his own stock, and recognized, if unconsciously to himself, that the ends of the earth are not so very far apart, after all.

The eleven nations who erected buildings were: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Tunis, and Turkey. Other nations who participated: Austria, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Norway, Egypt, Denmark, Switzerland, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Chile, Peru, Argentine Confederation, Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], China, Australia, Greece, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Colombia, Liberia, Ecuador, Orange Free State, Guatemala, Honduras.


Organization | Timeline | Foreign Countries | Music
Significance | Period Testimony | Further Reading


2001 Free Library of Philadelphia