BETHLEHEM, PA. – Attendees will have a chance to step back in time at the National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH) in Bethlehem, PA on Saturday, June 10th and Sunday, June 11th to experience 1876 World’s Fair Weekend. An exploration of engineering, industry, and culture, the event pays tribute to the first World’s Fair hosted on U.S. soil.
147 years ago, in 1876, Philadelphia hosted the Centennial International Exhibition. Visitors from 37 countries traveled to the site, located on a sprawling 450-acre campus, with nearly 10 million visitors taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes across the span of six months. The Exhibition’s Machinery Hall, the second largest building on the grounds, played an important role in the country’s industrial history and is prominently showcased in the Museum’s exhibits. Everything from massive steam engines to intricate woodworking machinery were on display in 1876, introducing America’s industrial might on the world’s stage.
The event will include live demonstrations, music, food, pop-up exhibits and youth activities. From seeing a 115-ton steam engine like the one that powered the fair’s Machinery Hall in action to playing Victorian parlor games, to meeting “President Ulysses S. Grant” and enjoying a reenactment of the fair opening ceremony, there will be something for visitors of all ages.
Visiting exhibitors will include Bethlehem Public Library, South Bethlehem Historical Society, Sigal Museum, Moravian Historical Society, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites (Sat. Only), and Rough & Tumble Engineers Historical Association (Sat. Only). Food will be for available for purchase from Lu Taqueria food truck.
All activities are included in the museum’s regular admission. Children age 12 and under receive free admission on Sunday. World’s Fair Weekend takes place June 10th and 11th from 10am to 3pm. NMIH is located at 602 East Second Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. More information, including detailed schedule and directions can be found at https://www.nmih.org/event/1876worldsfairweekend/.
New programming for this year includes:
LECTURE: 1876: The Inventors Republic, lecture by Dr. John Smith.
At the time of the Centennial our American patent system was one of the few institutions not limited to white men, which prompted a number of black and women inventors to apply for patents. Dr. John Smith, Associate professor emeritus at Lehigh University, initially went to school for engineering. His technological background has provided him a unique perspective on the history of technology and industry.
Replica 1870s Velocipede Railroad Handcar Demo
Bill McCarthy will demonstrate his replica hand and foot powered rail car, known as a Velocipede, on a short section of temporary track. These vehicles were developed in the 1870s and remained popular until the internal combustion engine made them largely obsolete. This particular machine was inspired by a three-wheel design built by the Sheffield Velocipede Car Company. Bill McCarthy has been an operator and restorer of historic machinery for over four decades, doing business as Restoration Millwork in Riegelsville, PA. He has built everything from bar counters to fully functioning marine steam engines.
Operating Replica of an 1876 Gas Engine Demo
On Saturday, June 10th, only, an operating replica of a Schleicher Bros. Otto & Langen atmospheric gas engine, very similar to the type exhibited and operated at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, will be running at NMIH. This will be the first time the engine has been shown outside of Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Kinzers, PA. The primitive design does not use a crank, but instead relies on atmospheric pressure, gravity, and the vacuum created within the cylinder, after the fuel has been consumed, to turn a rack and pinion drive via a piston moving in a vertical cylinder. A one way clutch turns the flywheel, producing 1/2 of a horsepower. There are no spark plugs, no gas tank, and no muffler. It utilizes an open flame ignition that visitors can observe at the base of the engine. A modern approximation of illuminating (town) gas, not gasoline, is held in a gas bladder before being piped to the engine. The noisy and soon inefficient design was superceded by the Otto Silent Gas Engine. The successor design, utilizing the same four cycle principle of modern internal combustion engines, is exemplified within the Centennial Gallery at NMIH by the display of the oldest surviving American built four cycle engine, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution. The visiting replica engine was built by Bill Hazzard of King of Prussia, PA. It is normally only seen by the public at shows held a few times a year at the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Kinzers, PA.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF INDUSTRIAL HISTORY
A Smithsonian Institution-affiliate, the National Museum of Industrial History is dedicated to preserving America’s rich industrial heritage. Housed in an 18,000-square-foot, 100-year-old former Bethlehem Steel facility on the largest private brownfield in America, the Museum is home to exciting exhibits, engaging programs and amazing history. Learn more at nmih.org.
Megan Pildis, VP of Business Development, [email protected] 610-428-3053 (cell)