Categories: Business and Industry, Emergence of Modern America, Everyday Life, Popular Culture

Take Me to the Fair: Connecticut Exhibits at the International Expositions

Exterior of the Connecticut State Building
Exterior of the Connecticut State Building. Stereo view by the Centennial Photographic Co., 1876. Stereo views were a popular form of home entertainment. Seen through a viewer, they provided the illusion of 3-D – Connecticut Historical Society

By Karen DePauw for Your Public Media

Trivia Question: In which state, besides Connecticut, does a verified grandchild of the Charter Oak tree grow?

Answer: Missouri.

On May 3, 1904, during the Dedication Ceremony of the Connecticut State Building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, a seedling from the grounds of Mr. James Holcombe was planted in front of the State Building. That grandchild of the Charter Oak is one piece of evidence that symbolizes Connecticut’s participation in World’s Fairs from the late 19th century through the early 20th century.

Connecticut took part, in both small and large ways, in many of the great World’s Fairs, especially those held in North America. In 1876, the Connecticut State Building at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was modeled after a modest Colonial cottage. At Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Connecticut drew inspiration from the grander houses occupied by her founding families. The 1904 building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was a direct copy of the Charles and Lydia Sigourney home in Hartford. And the Colonel Talmage home in Litchfield served as inspiration for the building erected in 1907 at the Jamestown Exposition at Jamestown.

Interior of the Connecticut State Building

Interior of the Connecticut State Building. Stereo view by the Centennial Photographic Co., 1876. Views like these were sold as souvenirs at the Fair – Connecticut Historical Society

Each Connecticut State Building housed collections of antiques loaned by the citizens of Connecticut. The building was meant to give a sense of Connecticut’s rich history and contributions to America.

In addition to its state building, Connecticut also contributed displays to exhibition halls; these featured everything from agriculture and horticulture, to manufacture and industry, to education and liberal arts. Some displays were entirely by one Connecticut company, such as the Underwood Typewriter Co., or the Birdseye and Somers Corset Co. Others were comprehensive exhibits of things such as Connecticut tobacco or shell-fish.

Connecticut’s people have always taken pride in their state, and that pride is evident in the ways that they chose to evoke memories of the Colonial past while celebrating the achievements of the industrial present in their displays at the great World’s Fairs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Karen DePauw is a Research and Collections Associate at The Connecticut Historical Society.

© Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network and Connecticut Historical Society. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on Your Public Media.

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“Connecticut Historical Society,” 2017. Link.

Books

Connecticut Board of World’s Fair Managers. Connecticut at the World’s Fair. Report of the Commissioners from Connecticut of the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 at Chicago. Also Report of the Work of the Board of Lady Managers of Connecticut. Hartford,  CT: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1898. Link.
Connecticut Commission Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Connecticut at the World’s Fair. Report of the Commissioners from Connecticut to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Held at St. Louis, 1904. Hartford, CT: The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1906. Link.
Connecticut, and Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission. Connecticut at the World’s Fair. Report of the Commissioners from Connecticut to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Held at St. Louis, 1904. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1906. Link.
Curtis, George D. Souvenir of the Centennial Exhibition: Or, Connecticut’s Representation at Philadelphia, 1876. Hartford, CT: George D. Curtis, 1877. Link.
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