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Published: May 8, 2011

Crystal Palace Exhibition

The first American industrial exhibition designed to display to Americans at all levels the world’s technical and scientific advances. An imitation of a similar exhibit that had been held two years earlier in London, England, the American Crystal Palace Exhibition was held in 1853 at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City, the current site of the New York Public Library. It brought together 5,000 exhibits, ranging from surgical instruments to military ordnance, from 23 countries. About 1.235 million visitors came to the exhibition and carried its “lessons,” in the form of promotional literature, to all parts of the United States. For the era, with its paucity of secondary school and higher education, industrial exhibits such as the Crystal Palace Exhibition served as valuable educative institutions for the general public. “They increase as well as diffuse knowledge,” explained William P. Blake, in his book Great International Expositions (1872). “By bringing together and comparing the results of human efforts, new germs of thought are planted, new ideas are awakened, and new inventions are born.”