Centennial Exposition scrapbook

Biographical and Historical Notes

The Centennial International Exhibition was the first World's Fair held in the United States. Commemorating the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosted the Centennial Exhibition from May 10 to October 10, 1876. Although its formal name was the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine, the official theme of the exposition was the United States centennial celebration. Boasting 250 separate pavilions, the Centennial Exposition attracted approximately nine million visitors and showcased the United States' scientific and technological innovations, achievements in art and culture, and advancements in trade and industry accomplished during its short history.


Jackson, Anna. Expo: International Expositions, 1851-2010. London: V&A Publishing, 2008.

Scope and Content Note

This scrapbook of advertisements, trade cards, and collectible ephemera from the 1876 Centennial Exposition was created by Richard W. Davids. Very little is known about Davids, though one advertisement for an R.W. Davids, a Philadelphia printer, does appear in the scrapbook; thus, a conclusion could be made there was some relation.

The volume features advertisements and collectible ephemera collected by Davids during one or more visits to the Centennial Exposition. The pieces advertise a variety of products, including household appliances and furniture, agricultural tools and machinery, clothing and accessories, and food and beverages. Stylistically, many of the advertisements feature tableaus of domestic and vocational activities and international and domestic political relations and represent examples of rich nineteenth-century color lithography. One highlight of the advertisements is the depiction of African-Americans and nineteenth-century race relations. Since the exposition was held in Philadelphia, many local Philadelphia businesses such as Wanamaker & Brown are represented. The majority of the advertisements are for products and businesses based in the United States; however, several international products and businesses are also included.

Although the bulk of the scrapbook consists of advertisements, other pieces of ephemera are included, such as souvenirs from the exhibition buildings and a menu from a café located on the fairgrounds.

Further materials related to world fairs and expositions are cataloged with imprints in Special Collections and can be found by searching DELCAT.