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Children's Books and the Centennial Exhibition

The Free Library of Philadelphia has an interesting group of children's books that were written in 1876 about the Centennial. That means these books are over 120 years old. To us today, they do not much seem like children's books. They do not have color pictures. Many of them are quite long. They have lots and lots of words. They usually try to teach lessons, rather than tell stories. Comparing them to current children's books is another way of seeing how much life has changed since 1876.

One book in our collection, Something for the Children, is interesting as an artifact. Not only was the book printed at the Centennial International Exhibit. The paper the book was printed on was actually milled by machinery at the Centennial. A visitor to the Centennial could see the entire process. [You can see a photograph of the Campbell Printing Press Building here.] So this book would have been a very special souvenir to take home. The illustrations of the Centennial buildings would be like having a photo album to pore over and remember your visit. We've digitized the book here so you can get an idea of what a children's book for 1876 is like.

    Children's Books from 1876, with call numbers:

  • Carleton, Will. Young folks' centennial rhymes. New York, Harper & Bros., 1876. RBD CB 1876 C193Y
  • The centennial frog and other stories. Philadelphia, Claxton, Remsen, & Haffelfinger, 1877. RBD CB 1877 C333F
  • Dale, John Thomas, 1841- ... What Ben Beverly [pseud.] saw at the great exposition, including the world treasures of the main hall, Uncle Sam's government building ... Chicago, Centennial Publishing Co., 1876. 606 P53D
  • McKeever, Harriet B. Young America at the Centennial. Philadelphia, Campbell Printing Press, 1876. RBD CB 1876 M194Y
  • Something for the children; or Uncle John's story of his first visit to the Centennial. Philadelphia, Campell Printing Press, 1876. RBD CB 1876 SO54F

Another interesting artifact is a diary kept by Frank L. Thomas when he visited the Centennial. He was seventeen years old. The diary is handwritten in pencil.

  • Thomas, Frank L. My trip to Philadelphia in 1876. [Manuscript.]

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